Friday, December 23, 2005

The Christmas Story

In this festive season of Christmas, here is some gyaan on the spirit of Christmas.  Its pretty long but worth reading.

The Christmas holiday season is a special time when family and friends join together to celebrate and create memories that last a lifetime. It is a magical time that calls to mind happy recollections of Christmas's past, inspires eagerness and anticipation in children, and promises joy and good cheer to come.

There are many Christmas traditions that have evolved over the years. Christmas Carnivals invite you to learn more about where these holiday traditions began by exploring the Christmas Traditions. So whether it is Christmas tree, mistletoe or Santa Claus, this is the place to know about each of them and how they are rooted deep in our past.

The Christmas Tree

One of the most popular traditions associated with this celebration is the Christmas tree which is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought in the house or used in the open, decorated with lights and colorful ornaments during the days preceding and immediately following Christmas.

The tradition is most widely observed in the parts of the Northern Hemisphere, where Christmas falls at a time when days are short, and temperatures often below freezing, with snow covering the ground. This is a continuance of the ancient pagan idea that the evergreen tree represents a celebration of the renewal of life at a time of death, darkness and cold at the winter solstice. The Christmas tree began to appear in Germany as early as 700 AD. According to one legend the Christmas Tree symbolizes the Trinity and points upwards towards the God. While the light, gift and decorations on the Christmas tree mean heaven; love and charity respectively.

Even the decorations on the Christmas trees draw their root in traditional values. The crystal ball symbolizes the fruit of redemption, the electric light or the candles are ancient symbols that stand for the triumph of spring over the darkness of winter. The light also symbolizes the light that Jesus Christ cast upon the lives of the people. The Holy, when it flies down to earth, is believed to take the shape of a dove. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, while the bell symbolizes the joys of life.

The Star

The Christmas star has traditionally been associated with the spirit of the celebration. It symbolizes high hopes and high ideals - hope for good fortune and hope for reaching above oneself.

One wonders whether the star that shined that fateful night is any different from those of today. Astronomers continue to be at loss to explain the star that shone on the night of the birth of Jesus. It could not have been a meteor, for it lasted for only a few seconds, nor was it comets because astronomers found out that there were no comets visible to humans around the time of Christ's birth.

The magi (three wise men) from the east were also astrologers of their time. They had studied the Jewish rabbis and were well aware of the triangle shape that had already appeared before the birth of Moses. This was perhaps the reason why it was interpreted that a great man was to be born on the Jewish land. The star was indeed a strange star and people continue to believe that a miracle had occurred around the time of the birth of Christ.

The Festival of the Star is held in Poland. Right after the Christmas Eve meal, the village priest, acts as the "Star Man" and tests the children's knowledge of religion. In Alaska, boys and girls carry a star shaped figure from house to house and sing carols in hopes of receiving treats. In Hungary a star-shaped pattern is carved in a half of an apple and is suppose to bring good luck.

Many people still prefer to believe that the strange star did appear, and that it was simply a miracle and throughout the world today, the Christian holiday has usually begun with the appearance of the first star of Christmas Eve. For all human beings, regardless of religion, stars have special meaning for all share the heavens, no matter what barriers keep them apart on earth.

Santa Claus

HO! HO! HO! and there is Santa Claus. Bags loaded with gifts and a broad grin on the face that is what we call Santa. Santa is believed to come riding through the snow on the carriage pulled by reindeers, led by his favorite Rudolph-- the red nosed reindeer. And along with the reindeer and the sleigh came the jingle bells and Elvin, the elf, who looks after Santa's Rudolf.

Children believe that Santa Claus gets gifts for them. They leave stockings so that Santa can put their gifts in it, some little ones hang sack of pillows instead of stockings. Others even decorate their Christmas list and put it on the windowsill along with a little bit of sugar so that Father Christmas won't miss them. They also leave some pies or cookies and some kind of brandy or drinks as snacks for Santa.

And as the bright Christmas morning comes, the kids wake up early and hurry to check out what Santa has got for him. Santa Claus in his red baggy suit, flowing white beard is quite a craze among the kids and even for some adults.


True to the spirit, we can hardly think of a Christmas without Gifts. Christmas is a unique festival of merry making and gift-giving. And the tradition traces back to the birth of Christ.

The tradition of giving gifts in this season owes its origin to the Magi who came from the east of Jerusalem to greet the Babe in the manger with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Magi were wise men and their gifts were emblematic of tribute, worship and death - of Christ considered as King, God and the sacrificial Victim.

In America gift giving has come to be associated with the Christmas not long ago. It came in with the introduction of St. Nicholas in America by the early Dutch settlers. But, giving gifts at New Year was a common practice, especially among the English and the French settlers. But the combined German and Dutch influences in time caused all gift-giving to be carried out at Christmas.

New York has had through the years a close association with X'mas gift giving tradition. This tradition was more inspired by many writers and artists who've had glorified the gift-giving culture along with the Santa.

The gifts of today too, wrapped with flashy colored papers, bring along with them love and wishes from friends and family. Some of the common gifts of the season are porcelain birds, porcelain blossoms, brass menagerie, porcelain elephant, dolls and toys, jewelries and many more gifts of personal choice.

The Christmas Rose

Part of the color in celebration of the season is the blooming of Christmas roses. While a variety of plants over time have come to be called "Christmas Rose", they all are steeped in a legend that dates back centuries.

The Christmas Rose, according to legend, sprung from the frozen soil of Bethlehem in the midnight hush that attended the Nativity. Especially in Germany, the rose is an emblem of Christ. Legend has it that the one of the shepherd women, too poor to give a gift to the Christ child, was visited by an angel who caused the herb to appear and burst into bloom--the Christmas Rose. The woman then offered the rose to the infant Jesus.

The Christmas Rose (helleborus niger) is not actually a rose at all but a perennial herb with lobed leaves and a white five-petaled flower. Because it blooms in the middle of the winter, it is often called the Christmas Rose.

The Poinsettia

 Highly prized throughout Florida and widely beloved as a symbol of the Christmas season is the Poinsettia. No other flower can make such a brilliant show of bright red throughout the festive weeks of December and January.

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is a member of the spurge family, which includes common ornamentals like crown-of-thorns, copper-leaf, castorbean and Florida's colorful crotons.

The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.


 During the holidays, many folks love to drape their doorways and deck their halls with cheerful holly wreaths and garlands. These traditionalists may even sing wistfully of "The Holly and the Ivy" when they go out caroling.

As with most holiday symbols, this celebratory plant's original meaning has been buried under a myriad of cultural layers. The pagan Druids are believed to have been the first to take holly to heart. They viewed holly - with its cheerful propensity to remain green in winter - as a sacred plant, designed to keep the earth beautiful even as north winds howled and snow blanketed the landscape. They wore sprigs of holly in their hair when they went into the forest to watch their priests cut the sacred mistletoe.

The Romans, meanwhile, bequeathed the creation of holly to their god Saturn and used it in great abundance during their raucous Saturnalia festival. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and carried them about decorating images of Saturn with it.

Centuries later, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus. To avoid persecution, they decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, holly lost its pagan association and became a symbol of Christmas.

The plant has come to stand for peace and joy, people often settle arguments under a holly tree. Holly is believed to frighten off witches and protect the home from thunder and lightning. In West England it is said sprigs of holly around a young girl's bed on Christmas Eve are suppose to keep away mischievous little goblins. In Germany, a piece that has been used in church decorations is regarded as a charm against lightning. In England, British farmers put sprigs of holly on their beehives. On the first Christmas, they believed, the bees hummed in honor of the Christ Child. The English also mention the "he holly and the she holly" as being the determining factor in who will rule the household in the following year, the "she holly" having smooth leaves and the "he holly" having prickly ones. Other beliefs included putting a sprig of holly on the bedpost to bring sweet dreams and making a tonic from holly to cure a cough. All of these references give light to "decking the halls with boughs of holly."

The Candy cane

The symbol of the shepherd's crook is an ancient one, representing the humble shepherds who were first to worship the newborn Christ. Its counterpart is our candy cane so old as a symbol that we have nearly forgotten its origin.

The white color of the Christmas candy symbolizes the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid rock, the foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises made by God. The candies are made in a "J" shape to represent the name of Jesus and the shape of the staff of the "Good Shepherd". And the three red stripes on the candy represent the Trinity and the blood shed by Christ to let us have the promise of the eternal life.

Midnight mass or service

Midnight mass and day services are held in the Churches during the eve and the day of Christmas. The message and sermons of love and redemption are given out. Large numbers of people gather to pray and thank god for his sacrifices that are believed to have saved mankind.

Flavour of the season

No celebration is complete without a feast, and the Christmas feast is a special one too. Christmas also brings with it all the fun and lively parties in our homes. The snowman, the sounds of the bells, Santa with gifts, music, bands, the colorful procession with many custom wears etc. adds more fun and makes Christmas a very glamorous fest.

Enhancing the Christmas and fun spirit are some of the delicacies that include the Christmas pie, cookies, Christmas cakes, ginger bread, turkey meat, pudding, wine, and brandy. Some dishes that you can include in your menu this Christmas are almond baklava, apple squares, biscotti di vino, caramel popcorn, Turkish baklava, sour cherry bars, peanut clusters, nutmeg rolls and so on. As for drinks, try out the eggnog, Santa's punch, and hot cranberry punch along with the quintessential Wine.


Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a happy new year ...