Dec 27, 2014

Happy Friday Christmas Thought

Christmas is the day to skip the past, skip the future, and enjoy the present, presents, and presence of family and friends.

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.

Santa Claus in Canada

Santa Claus has his own postcode in Canada: HOH OHO.

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.

Christmas and New Year Movies

Miracle on 34th Street - LINK 
Dinner for One
(traditionally shown in many countries on New Year's eve and one of my favorite short movies) LINK

Origin of Christmas Stockings

The tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have originated from the actions of a kind noble man named Nicholas, who was born in March, 270 AD, in Patara, at the time Greek, but now Turkey. While still young, his wealthy parents died in an epidemic. Nicholas became a Christian priest and used all his riches to help the poor, the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra (modern Turkey) at a young age and became known for his kindness and generosity. He traveled across the country helping people, giving gifts of money and other presents. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day - St Nicholas Day, December 6 in Western Christianity and 19 December in Eastern Christianity. He died December 6, 343 AD. Many still observe December 6 as a St. Nicholas holiday. I grew up enjoying the candy treats thrown on my porch the evening of December 6.

Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of Saint Nicholas' life and deeds. One popular account (with many variations) tells us of a poor peasant who lived happily in a small cottage in Saint Nicholas' hometown, with his wife and three daughters. The wife suddenly died of an illness, leaving the poor man and his three daughters in despair. All the burden of household chores now fell upon the daughters.

When the daughters reached a marriage age, the poor father became depressed for he knew he could in no way marry them off to good men. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value - a dowry, which he could not afford.

Saint Nicholas found out about peasant and his daughters and decided to help him. He went to the peasant's house the night before the eldest daughter came of age, with a bag of gold and waited for the family to go to bed. That night, after finishing their washing for the day, the daughters hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. As they turned off the lamps and fell asleep, St. Nicholas tiptoed to the cottage window and saw the daughters' stockings hanging close to his reach. He carefully put in his bag of gold in one of the stockings and went away.

When the father found the bag the next morning and opened it, he was delighted to find enough gold in the stocking to pay for the dowry of one daughter. The father was able to provide for his eldest daughter and saw that she got married to a nice groom.

Soon after, Saint Nicholas took another bag of gold, and threw it carefully into another stocking. The next morning the man opened the stocking and found enough gold to marry off his second daughter.

The father had grown eager to discover his mysterious benefactor, and each night he stayed awake. When Saint Nicholas came up with another bag of gold, the man recognized him. He fell on his knees and cried of gratitude and thanked him with all his heart.

This is how the tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have begun.

And below, my Christmas stockings.

Origin of Santa Claus

 It is believed that Santa Claus is actually an alteration of this same Saint Nicholas, Santa for Saint and Claus for Nicholas. The original Santa Claus (and many current European) outfits resemble a Bishop's clothing, hat, and staff. The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, whose name is a dialectal pronunciation of Saint Nicholas.

The 19th century was a time of cultural transition and many wanted to domesticate the Christmas holiday. Through the first half of the 19th century, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and others continued to regard December 25th as a day without religious significance.

In 1809, Washington Irving published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker's History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. This was not the saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe. Irving's work was regarded as the "First notable work of imagination in the New World."

In 1810, the New York Historical Society commissioned artist Alexander Anderson to create the first American image of Nicholas for St. Nicholas Day. Nicholas was shown in a gift-giving role with children's treats in stockings hanging at a fireplace.

During 1821, the first lithographed book in America, the Children's Friend described how "Sante (sic) Claus" arrived from the North in a sleigh with a flying reindeer. The anonymous poem and illustrations proved pivotal in shifting imagery away from a saintly bishop. Sante Claus rewarded good behavior and punished bad. Gifts were safe toys, "pretty doll . . . peg-top, or a ball; no crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets to blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother's ear, nor swords to make their sisters fear; but pretty books to store their mind with knowledge of each various kind." The sleigh had a bookshelf for the "pretty books." The book also marked Sante Claus' first appearance on Christmas Eve, rather than December 6th. The book may have actually been penned a few years earlier according to some accounts.

In 1823, a poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was penned. It is now better known as "The Night Before Christmas."

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. . . .

This is how St. Nicholas was transformed into Santa Claus.


Here is a thought as we ponder our place in the universe. "Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars." James Jeans