Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Dec 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Tomorrow we will be celebrating Christmas again. I wish each of you a sincere Merry Christmas. I hope you get everything you need, all you deserve, and most of which you want.

Eight Other December 25 Events

December 25, 325 is the first date that Christmas was celebrated specifically on December 25.
December 25, 597 England adopted the Julian calendar, now used by most of the world.
December 25, 800 Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.
December 25, 1066 William the Conqueror is crowned King of England.
December 25, 1717 the great Christmas Flood ravaged the Netherlands and parts of Germany and Scandinavia.
December 25, 1776 - 11pm, General George Washington, along with 5,400 men, crossed the Delaware River, in order to surprise Hessian troops celebrating the Christmas Holiday.
December 25, 1914 the Christmas Truce. During the height of World War I, the Germans began to sing Christmas Carols, crossed the lines, and met with Allies and both shook hands. (The next day they resumed fighting.)
December 25, 2002 University of New Mexico junior place-kicker Katie Hnida attempts to kick an extra point in a game against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. She is first woman to play in Division I football.

Dec 25, 2015

Did You Know?

Christmas and the following New Year's Day (Jan 1) are always one week apart and fall on the same day. However, within any calendar year, Christmas and New Year’s Day always fall on different days.

Dec 18, 2015

Mark Twain Christmas Wish

In 1890 the editor of the New York World invited Mark Twain to offer a message of holiday goodwill to its readers. Twain sent this, "It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us - the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage - may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss - except the inventor of the telephone."

Klopfelnachte

(Literally Knocking Night or loosely, Knocking Day) In Germany on the four Thursdays before Christmas, children in rural parts of Southern Germany dress up in masks and go door to door chanting rhymes that always start with the word 'knock'. They make noises as the go from house to house, singing carols, cracking whips, clattering dishes, and ringing cowbells. This commotion is supposed to drive away evil spirits. Children offer or receive treats such as fruit, candy, or coins. Think of it as the opposite of Halloween trick or treat.

Dec 27, 2014

Merry and Happy Christmas 2014


Merry Christmas in any language sounds as sweet. Happy Christmas, Joyeaux Noel, Froehliche Weihnachten, Mele Kalikimaka, Blithe Yule, Nollaig Shona Dhuit, Buone Feste Natalizie, Buon Natale, Bon Natali, krismas mubarak, Feliz Navidad, Glædelig Jul,  Hyvää Joulua,  Meri Kirihimete, Maligayang Pasko, Linksmu Kaledu, Craciun fericit, Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva s Novim Godom, Schöni Wiehnachte, Z Rizdvom Khrystovym, Cestitamo Bozic, Vrolijk Kerstfeest.

Xmas vs. Christmas

Some people use Xmas as shorthand for Christmas, the abbreviation is not modern and was not invented for the purpose of being disrespectful to Christians. It is not supposed to eliminate the word “Christ” and the X is not meant to stand for anonymity. The X is actually considered to represent the letter Chi from the Greek alphabet, the first letter in the word Christos. The “-mas” part on the end of Christmas and Xmas comes from the Old English word for “mass”.

Xmas is sometimes pronounced xmas, but it and variants such as Xtemass, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation of Christmas. There is a common misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas', but its use dates back to the 16th century.

In the United States, in 1977 New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson sent out a press release saying that he wanted journalists to keep the 'Christ' in Christmas, and not call it Xmas, which he called a pagan spelling of Christmas. Many of those who dislike abbreviating the word are unfamiliar with a long history of Christians using X in place of 'Christ' for various purposes.

The word 'Christ' and its compounds, including 'Christmas', have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern "Xmas" was commonly used. Christ was often written as "Xρ" or "Xt" as far back as 1021. This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters χ (Ch) and ρ (R) used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for Christ), and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ. The two Greek letters shown as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches. Bottom Line; it was once positive to use xmas, but has now become bad form to use anything but Christmas.

The Yule Lads

Jolasveinar, or Yulemen, or Christmas boys are figures from Icelandic folklore who in modern times have become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. Their number has varied throughout the ages, but currently is thirteen. They put rewards or punishments into shoes placed by children on window sills during the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve. Every night, one Yuletide lad visits each child, leaving gifts for good children or rotting potatoes for bad children.

In 1932 the poem "Jólasveinarnir" was published as a part of the popular poetry book "Christmas Arrives" by Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum. The poem reintroduced Icelandic society to Icelandic Yuletide folklore and established what is now considered the thirteen Yule Lads, their personalities, and connection to other folkloric characters.

The Icelandic Santas first appeared in the 17th century as the sons of two trolls. Gryla and Leppaludi are frightening creatures, and have a reputation for stealing and eating naughty children. Grýla is a dreadful character, described as part troll, part animal, and the mother of 13 precocious boys (the Yule Lads). Grýla lives in the mountains with her third husband, Leppaludi, her thirteen children, and a black cat. Every Christmas, Grýla and her sons come down from the mountains: Grýla in search of naughty children to boil in her cauldron and the boys in search of mischief. She can only capture children who misbehave, but those who repent must be released.

The first Jolasveinar arrives Dec 12 and leaves Dec 25, the second arrives Dec 13 and leaves Dec 26, etc. Below are the names and mischief they cause. They sound like a fun bunch.

Sheep-Cote Clod - Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.
Gully Gawk - Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.
Stubby, abnormally short - Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
Spoon-Licker - Steals spoons to lick and is extremely thin due to malnutrition.
Pot-Scraper - Steals leftovers from pots.
Bowl-Licker - Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their bowl, which he then steals.
Door-Slammer - Likes to slam doors, especially during the night.
Skyr-Gobbler - A Yule Lad who loves skyr (like yogurt).
Sausage-Swiper - Hides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked.
Window-Peeper - A voyeur who looks through windows in search of things to steal.
Doorway-Sniffer - Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate laufabrauð (Christmas bread).
Meat-Hook - Uses a hook to steal meat.
Candle-Stealer - Follows children in order to steal their candles, which are made of tallow and thus edible.

Dec 20, 2013

Advent Calendar

The origins of this Christmas tradition come from the German Lutherans, as early as the beginning of the 19th century. The calendar started off simple, a written way to count down the days until Christmas. Eventually, lighting 24 candles became popular.

Very early in the 20th century, Gerhard Lang was credited with printing the first Advent calendar. Several years later, he decided to add little doors that would open to reveal the date or a scripture. It wasn't’t until after WWII that the calendars began to be filled with candies and treats for the days before Christmas.

Wordology, Nativity

For many people, the word Nativity is only used this time of year as the birth of Christ and other religious connotations for Christmas. Lately the original definition is being used more often in statistical charting. According to a few online dictionaries, nativity means:

1. Birth, especially the place, conditions, or circumstances of being born.
2. Nativity
    a. The birth of Jesus.
    b. A representation, such as a painting, of Jesus just after birth.
    c. Christmas.

Notice that 'Nativity' as capitalized has a religious connotation, while 'nativity' as non-capitalized is the number one definition. Many population and other economic charts use nativity in conjunction with ethnicity. It is a distinction, for instance 'Hispanic' as natural born or foreign born, when showing statistical differences.

Bottom line, before you wonder, there is no conspiracy theory, there is no anti-religious effort put forth. Statisticians are using the word in its original definition to more specifically segment populations by origin of birth.

Christmas Wise Men

According to the bible - 1. Three in number (the number isn't mentioned at all).
2. Kings (they were “wise” men) – this probably comes from Psalm 71:11 (72:11 in protestant bibles): “And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him.”
3. Traveling on camels. Matthew 2:1–2 says: “When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the days of King Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” It says a little later that they offered Him gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – but that is about as specific as it gets. Now we are all wiser for knowing this.

Christmas Tradition, Caga tio

One of the more unusual bearers of Christmas presents, with a unique delivery method, is the Caga tió (pooping uncle or, pooping tree trunk). It is found in the Catalonia region and consists of a hollow log.

Beginning at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the family “feeds” the tio and covers him with a warm blanket each night. Then, at Christmas, the family gathers together, sings songs, puts the tio partly into the fire and beats it with sticks, until it excretes presents of candy, nuts or figs. When the tio is finished pooping, it signals this by dropping salted herring, a head of garlic, an onion, or by “urinating”, then the entire log is burned.

Mistletoe

 In many ancient religions the mistletoe was regarded as a sacred plant. For the Norsemen the mistletoe caused the death of Baldur, the shining god of youth. The Druids believed that a sprig of mistletoe fastened above a doorway would ward off many things, such as witchcraft, disease, bad luck, and fire. In addition, it would enhance the hospitality and fertility of the household. Hence the English Christmas custom of kissing under the mistletoe.  If you see me during the holidays, pretend I have mistletoe in my hair. I can always use another kiss and hug.

Dec 13, 2013

Holiday Wordology

As we are between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, thought I might add some words used often during the holidays, and their origins.

Mirth - Both mirth and merry come from an Old English word meaning “joy” or “pleasure.” These words are themselves derived from an older German root meaning “short-lasting.” Thus, something merry is short-lived—although the consequences may not be.

In the 17th century, the word “merry” could include decidedly earthier connotations, such as a merry-bout of sexual intercourse. Sometimes a merry-bout resulted in a “merry-begot,” an illegitimate child.

Merry - The word merry also gave us the merrythought, which we now call the wishbone. The custom of pulling apart the wishbone dates back at least to Roman times and may have evolved from the Etruscan practice of alectryomancy, the practice of divining the future using rooster clavicles. According to Roman legend, the Etruscans selected the wishbone because its “V” shape resembled a human groin, the repository of life. Thus, the wishbone was seen as an appropriate way to unravel life’s mysteries.

In the 17th century, it was sometimes thought that whoever ended up with the longer piece of the merrythought would marry first. Some believed the person with the longer piece would get whatever wish he chose. English settlers brought the practice with them to the New World, and we still pull the wishbone apart today.  The proper term for the bone we pull apart is “furcula.” It comes from the Latin furca, meaning “pitchfork.”

Fork - It is not particularly a holiday word, but used more often during the holidays. Before becoming the word for what was then a two-pronged utensil, the term was used in England to refer to a forked instrument used by torturers. Although the fork seems like an obvious tool, it was not used for eating until the eighth or ninth century, and then only by the nobility in parts of what is now the Middle East. Popular legend has it that Catherine dei Medici brought the fork to France from Italy when she married King Henry I of France in the 16th century. However, the use of the word to mean a table fork came a hundred years earlier.

Beer and Ale -  The word “beer,” stems from Latin bibere, meaning “to drink.” The Germanic word for beer was aluth, from which we get our English word “ale.” Ale also gave us the English word “bridal,” because in the Middle Ages, ale was a noun that meant a feast. A bride ale was literally a feast in honor of a marriage.

Sage -  The herb sage is associated with Thanksgiving, but historically, sage’s primary use has been medicinal. This is reflected in its botanical name, Salvia officinalis. In Latin, salvus meant “healthy,” a word that also gave us the English “safe.” Sage has been used to treat inflamed gums, excessive perspiration, memory loss, depression, sore throat, swollen sinuses, acne, toenail fungus, hot flashes, and painful menstruation, among others. Because sage is also used to combat diarrhea, gas, and bloating, it is the perfect herb for a holiday that often results in overindulgence.

Tofurky - This relatively new holiday word makes many cringe. It is a turkey substitute created in 2000 by Turtle Island Foods. Tofurky is made from tofu, wheat gluten, oil, and “natural flavors,” which include certain yeasts that lend Tofurky a “meaty” taste. Tofu is fermented soy bean curd valued for its high protein content, as well as its ability to absorb flavors from other foods. Tofu is probably best enjoyed without thinking of the origins of the word, literally “rotten beans,” which come from Chinese dou (“beans”) and fu (“rotten”).

Christmas - This word comes from the Old English words Cristes moesse, 'the mass or festival of Christ'. The first celebration took place in Rome about the middle of the fourth century. The exact date of the Nativity is not known, but even in pre-Christian times the period from December 25 to January 6, now known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was considered a special time of year. The abbreviation Xmas, thought as sacrilegious by some, is entirely appropriate. The letter X (chi) is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.

Reindeer - Did you know this word is actually redundant. Rein is Scandinavian for 'reindeer', so reindeer translates to 'reindeer deer'. It came to English from Old Norse hreindyri.

Mistletoe is thought to be based on a German word for bird excrement (mix) from the fact that the plant is propagated in it. Some think it is derived from another German word (mash) which refers to the stickiness of the berries. It is combined with an Old English word (toe) meaning 'twig'. This shrub usually grows on broad-leaved trees like apple, lime, and poplar.

Christmas Carol is a term which originally referred to a non-religious ring dance accompanied by singing. Eventually it came to mean a merry song with a tune that could be danced to. The Italian friars who lived with St. Francis of Assisi were the first to compose these songs in the early 1400s. Since the nineteenth century, carols have been sung in place of hymns in many churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Saint Nicholas was not only wealthy but modest, and he liked to help people in need without drawing attention to himself. Poor families would often find a gold piece or well-filled purse without knowing where it had come from. His American successor, Santa Claus, carried on the tradition.

Poinsettias have been a symbol of Christmas in the United States since the 1820s when it was first shipped to North America by Joel Poinsett, the American minister to Mexico.

Wassail - It comes from the Middle English waes haeil, which means 'be in good health' or 'be fortunate'. Wassailing was the Old English custom of toasting the holiday and each other's health. Wassail is also the name of the spiced apple beverage used in such toasting and has been drunk since around 1300.

Dec 29, 2012

Candy Cane Myths and Facts

The myth is the white base color of the candy cane symbolizes Jesus’ purity; the red stripes symbolize Jesus’ blood when he died on the cross; and the J shape was chosen to represent the J in Jesus. These and all other religious connotations have been debunked or not able to be proven as fact.

The facts - Candy canes started as white sugar sticks with no hook as early as the 1600s. There is no reference to calling them candy "canes" until the mid to late 1600s. No fact as to why the sticks were changed into canes, although many believe it was so the candy could be hung on a Christmas tree.

The red stripe was not added until the early 1900s. No one knows who invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes.

The bottom line is that we do not know who started making them, why, or who added the hook, but most people love candy canes and that is a fact.

Strange Christmas Traditions

Had to finish the year with a few strange Christmas traditions from around the world.

On Christmas in Caracas they skate to mass on roller skates. Firecrackers pop to wake the citizens, who put on their skates for the pre-dawn trip to mass. Streets are closed in the mornings to allow the skating churchgoers to pass.

In Catalonia, the traditional nativity scene has an extra figure. El Caganer can be found somewhere on the periphery of the scene, crouched in the squatting position of a bowel movement. It is believed “The Defecator” in the nativity scene will fertilize the coming year with a good harvest of wealth and prosperity. The statue can be a monk, a shepherd, a popular sports star, or celebrity, but he is always wearing his signature red Catalan hat as he squats above a pile.

In Italy, the gift-bringer is a kind but hideous witch named La Befana. She missed seeing the Christ-child, because she was busy when the wise men told her to come. La Befana comes late, several days after Christmas Day, but leaves gifts at each house in case the holy infant is there.

In Ireland it is traditional to leave out mince pie and Guinness as snacks for Santa.

Norwegians legend says witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve to steal brooms and ride around causing mischief.

In the Ukraine, Christmas trees are adorned with silver and gold spider webs. This tradition came from the story of a poor woman without means to decorate for the holiday. As she slept, spiders spun webs of pure gold and silver to beautify her tree and bring her wealth.

Dec 23, 2012

Facts about Mistletoe

The name comes from the fact mistletoe starts from bird droppings made from the red or white berries. It is a parasitic plant and roots to the branches of trees. Thus “mistle” or “missel”, which meant “dung”, and “toe”, which came from the Anglo-Saxon “tan” meaning “twig.” There are over 900 species of mistletoe and it grows on a wide variety of trees.

Ancient Greeks considered the plant an aphrodisiac and believed it aided in fertility. Norseman believed mistletoe was a plant of peace and when enemies met under the mistletoe they were obliged to stop fighting for at least a day. Eventually, this spawned a tradition to hang mistletoe over the doorway for peace and good luck.

It became associated with Christmas from the tradition of hanging mistletoe in one’s home to bring good luck and peace to those within the house. It hung year round and was replaced each Christmas eve or at New Year.

During the 16th century in Britain, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe hung as a Christmas decoration. Couples standing under the mistletoe were to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” was drained out and it became bad luck to kiss beneath it.

Mistletoe leaves and young twigs are used by herbalists, and it is popular in Europe, especially in Germany, for treating circulatory and respiratory system problems.

Eight Other December 25 Events

December 25, 325 is the first date that Christmas was celebrated specifically on December 25.
December 25, 597 England adopted the Julian calendar, now used by most of the world.
December 25, 800 Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.
December 25, 1066 William the Conqueror is crowned King of England.
December 25, 1717 the great Christmas Flood ravaged the Netherlands and parts of Germany and Scandinavia.
December 25, 1776 - 11pm, General George Washington, along with 5,400 men, crossed the Delaware River, in order to surprise Hessian troops celebrating the Christmas Holiday.
December 25, 1914 the Christmas Truce. During the height of World War I, the Germans began to sing Christmas Carols, crossed the lines, and met with Allies and both shook hands. (The next day they resumed fighting.)
December 25, 2002 University of New Mexico junior place-kicker Katie Hnida attempts to kick an extra point in a game against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. She is first woman to play in Division I football.
December 25, 2012 - Merry Christmas!

Jan 6, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas

Today is officially the end of Christmastime and is the Epiphany, also Theophany, and the day that the three kings, Caspar (sometimes Gaspar), Melchior, and Balthazar showed up in Bethlehem after following the star. I find it interesting while searching my family genealogy, all three names are found, although not recently. OK, now get back to work.