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christmas eve

by Super User
Christmas Eve has many of its own customs and traditions. The most widely practised one that still exists today is going to a Midnight Mass Church Service. In many countries, especially Catholic ones such as Spain, Mexico, Poland and Italy, this is the most important Church service of the Christmas season. People might fast during Christmas Eve (not eat any meat or fish usually) and then the main Christmas meal is often eaten after the Midnight Mass Service in these countries. In some other countries, such as Belgium, Finland, Lithuania and Denmark the meal is eaten in the evening and you might go to a Midnight Service afterwards! The Midnight Mass Communion Service (or 'Christ-Mas') was a very special one as it was the only one that was allowed to start after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so it was held at Midnight! Christmas Eve is also the day when people in some countries, like Germany, Sweden and Portugal exchange their presents. I think Santa must have those countries on his extra early list! Christmas Eve is also Santa's busiest day of the year when he has to travel over 220 million miles (355 million km) to get to every house on earth! You can see where Santa's got to on www.santaupdate.com In many European countries including Germany, Serbia and Slovakia, Christmas Eve is the day when the Christmas Tree is brought into the house and decorated. It was also traditional to bring the Yule Log into the house and light it on Christmas Eve. It was lit using a piece of the previous years log and then would burnt non-stop until Twelfth Night (night of the 5th January/Day of 6th January). Tradition also said that any greenery such as Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe should only be taken into the house on Christmas Eve. It's also the time that the wonderful book 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens is set and that going out Carol singing was and still is very popular. In the past, if you weren't carol singing, in parts of the UK, you might go out wassailing or mumming. There were lots of superstitions in the UK that said girls could find out the initials, or even have visions, of the person they would marry on Christmas Eve! This was often done by cooking a special cake called a 'dumb cake'. You were supposed to make the cake in silence and prick your initials into the top. When you went to bed, you left the cake by the fire hearth and your true love was supposed to coming in at midnight and prick his initials next to yours! Other Christmas Eve superstitions included that farm and wild animals would kneel at midnight in honor of Jesus being born or that they could even talk!

christmas cards

by Super User
The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who had helped set-up the new 'Public Record Office' (now called the Post Office), where he was an Assistant Keeper, and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people. "Firstchristmascard". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist. They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. (That is only 5p or 8 cents today(!), but in those days it was worth much much more.) The card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the center panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner! Some people didn't like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine! About 1000 (or it might have been less!) were printed and sold. They are now very rare and cost thousands of Pounds or Dollars to buy now! The first postal service that ordinary people could use was started in 1840 when the first 'Penny Post' public postal deliveries began (Sit Henry Cole helped to introduce the Penny Post). Before that, only very rich people could afford to send anything in the post. The new Post Office was able to offer a Penny stamp because new railways were being built. These could carry much more post than the horse and carriage that had been used before. Also, trains could go a lot faster. Cards became even more popular in the UK when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny - half the price of an ordinary letter. As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards. An engraved card by the artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens's books, is on display in the British Museum. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and had become especially popular in Germany. The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular. In those times the postmen were nicknamed 'Robin Postmen' because of the red uniforms they wore. Snow-scenes were popular because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in the UK in 1836. Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn't afford them. It 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from German but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them. Mr Prang's first cards featured flowers, plants, and children. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today! In the 1910s and 1920s, home made cards became popular. They were often unusual shapes and had things such as foil and ribbon on them. These were usually too delicate to send through the post and were given by hand. Nowadays, cards have all sorts of pictures on them: jokes, winter pictures, Santa Claus or romantic scenes of life in past times. Charities often sell their own Christmas Cards as a way raising money at Christmas. Charities also make money from seals or stickers used to seal the card envelopes. This custom started in Denmark in the early 1900s by a postal worker who thought it would be a good way for charities to raise money, as well as making the cards more decorative. It was a great success: over four million were sold in the first year! Soon Sweden and Norway adopted the custom and then it spread all over Europe and to America. Christmas Card Infographic An infographic has been created by printing company moo.com and they used some of the information from this page to make it! If you want to see a bigger version, click on the graphic.

history of christmas carols

by Super User
Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles (The word carol originally meant to dance to something). The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived. Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called "Angel's Hymn" should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write 'Christmas carols'. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn't understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether. This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or 'canticles' that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Traveling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is 'I Saw Three Ships'. When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England. Before carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called 'Waits'. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!). They were called 'Waits' because they only sang on Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as 'watchnight' or 'waitnight' because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), when the Christmas celebrations began. Also, at this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular. Many new carols, such as 'Good King Wenceslas', were also written in the Victorian period. #81080020 / gettyimages.com New carols services were created and became popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is only lit by candlelight and it feels very Christmassy! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world. The most famous type of Carol Service might be a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, where carols and Bible readings tell the Christmas Story.

Chrismons and Chrismon Patterns

by Super User
Chrismons and Chrismon Patterns Chrismons are Christmas decorations with Christian symbols on them. They help Christians to remember that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus's birthday. They are often used on Christmas Trees in Churches and Christians homes. They were first made by Frances Kipps Spencer at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, USA. She also thought of the word, Chrismon, which is a combination of Christ and monogram (meaning symbol). The idea quickly spread to other churches. It is traditional that Christian groups can make their own Chrismons with their favorite symbols on. Each year a 20ft (6 metre) Christmas Tree is decorated in the Ascension Lutheran Church, as Mrs Spencer intended, and visitors come and the hear the story of Jesus explained through her original Chrismons and a few gifts from around the world. Chrismons are traditionally colored white and gold. White is the liturgical (or Church) color for Christmas and symbolises that Jesus was pure and perfect. Gold symbolises His Majesty and Glory. Chrismons can be made from nearly anything, but paper and embroidered ones are the most widely used. Below are some symbols that are common Chrismons and what they represent to Christians. Click on a Chrismon to open a larger version which you can use as a patten to make Chrismons. The Cross symbolises that Christians believe Jesus Christ died for everyone on a Cross. The Latin Cross, also sometimes called the Roman Cross. The base of the Cross has three steps that symbolise faith, hope, and love. The Irish or Celtic Cross is a normal cross with a circle in the middle to symbolise eternity. The Triumphant Cross represents the earth with the cross on top. It symbolises Jesus is triumphant over anything we can face in the world. The Jerusalem Cross was worn by the crusaders going to Jerusalem, in the middle ages. It can symbolise the Four Gospels in the Bible, the spread of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth or the five wounds of Jesus when he died on the cross. The Eastern Cross is used by many Eastern or Orthodox Churches. The Furca or Upsilon Cross comes from the Greek letter Y. It is also called The Thieves' Cross from the two robbers who were crucified on each side of Jesus. It also symbolises the choice between good and evil. The Anchor Cross reminds Christian's that Jesus is the anchor of their faith. IHS are the first three letters of 'Jesus' in Greek. I've added them on a Cross as it looks more interesting!. The Fish is one of the oldest Christian symbols. The letters, from the Greek word for fish (ichthus), stand for Jesus (I), Christ (X), God (Q), Son (Y), Savior (S). Some of Jesus' disciples were fishermen. Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. Used together, they are the symbolise that Christians believe Jesus is the beginning and end of all things. The Chi-Rho looks like a 'P' with an 'X' on top of it. These two letters are the first two letters of the Greek word 'Christos' which means Christ. The Star of David, sometimes called the Star of Creation, is a symbol that Jesus was a Jew and a descendant of King David. A Five Pointed Star represents the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. A Five Pointed Star represents the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. The Nativity Star is the symbol of the Star of Bethlehem or Epiphany, when the Wisemen visited Jesus. An Eight Pointed Star represents baptism and regeneration. The Crown is the symbol that Jesus in King. It shows that Christians believe Jesus is ruler over heaven and the earth. The Shepherd's Crook or Staff remembers that Jesus sometimes called himself a shepherd. It can also represent the shepherds who were the first people told about the birth of Jesus. Both of these symbols represent the Christian 'Trinity' of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Triquerta is made of three loops making a triangle representing the three parts of the trinity. The Trefoil (at the bottom) is three equal circles intertwined to form a whole. Hands in Prayer help Christians remember that they should pray to God. The Scroll represents the Bible. The Dove is the symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit. It is shown pointing down to represent the Holy Spirit that appeared as a Dove when Jesus was baptised. The Lamp and The Candle both represents that Christians believe Jesus in the Light of the World. The Shell is a symbol for baptism. It reminds Christians of the water that they are baptised in. It is also a sign of Pilgrimage, as Pilgrims to the Holy Land (Israel) would use a shell as a drinking vessel. The Keys are a symbol for the Church in all the world. Jesus told his friend Peter that "I will give you keys to heaven", so this means that Christians have to tell other people about Jesus. The Ship is also a symbol of the Church, sailing towards heaven. The Cup or Chalice is a symbol of the Mass, Eucharist or Communion. It also represents God's forgiveness. The Angel reminds Christians of the angels who told the shepherds about the birth of Jesus. It can also represent the second coming of Jesus, which the Bible says will start with an Angel blowing a trumpet. Babe / Manger represents Jesus as a baby at Christmas. The Lamb is a symbol for Jesus who is sometimes called 'The Lamb of God'. The Butterfly is a symbol for transformation and the immortal soul. The Heart is a symbol of love and reminds Christians that God is love. The Lion is a symbol for Jesus who is sometimes called 'The Lion of Judah'. Jesus is also represented as Aslan the Lion in the Chronicle of Narnia books by C S Lewis. The White Rose is a symbol for purity and can represent Mary.   You can download all these Chrismon Patterns in a pdf (1.2mb)   How to Make Chrismons Some great instructions for making a range of instructions including a shopping list! (on an external site)   Frequently Asked Chrismon Questions! The Ascension Lutheran Church has been kind enough to allow us to re-produce some of the answers to Chrismon FAQs: What materials can be used for making Chrismons? Mrs. Spencer was a huge fan of recycling. Any material can be used to make a Chrimsons Ornament. The only guideline is that they be made in gold and white. The most important aspect of a Chrismons Ornament is its ability to share Christ’s story. Can Chrismons Ornaments be hung on my home tree? Yes. Chrismons Ornaments can be used to decorate your home Christmas Tree. If you are decorating a Chrismons Tree only the colors of white and gold should be on the tree. Why do some ornaments have small amounts of color? One or two Chrismons Ornaments like “The Pelican in Her Piety” have one color other than white, gold, or clear in the design. The color is allowed for a specific purpose, deemed significant enough to telling Christ’s story. For example, when there is no food available, the Pelican will pick her own breast shedding her blood and giving her life for her children. The drops of blood on the breast in the ornament remind us of Christ’s shedding of blood for us on the cross. Are there guidelines for arranging the ornaments on the tree? Each church displaying a Chrismons Tree must decide the arrangement of their Chrismons Ornaments. Ascension Lutheran Church has several traditions that have developed over the years. First the Christian Year Series is the focal point for the front of our tree. There are one or two ornaments related to this collection that we hang on the tree in the middle of the larger circles, made by the infinity symbol. Our last supper ornament is hung beneath the Christian Year Series. Facing the tree to right, we have a number or international ornaments and gifts that have been given to the church. On the opposite left side, we have a collection of the Beatitudes ornaments, and a Children’s corner near the base of the tree.

Christmas Candy Canes

by Super User
The Christmas Candy Cane originated in Germany about 250 years ago. They started as straight white sugar sticks. A story says that a choirmaster, in 1670, was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a 'J' shape like a shepherds crook, to remind them of the shepherds that visited the baby Jesus at the first christmas. However, the earliest records of 'candy canes' comes from over 200 years later, so the story, although rather nice, probably isn't true! Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen. Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The 'J' can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible. Around 1920, Bob McCormack, from Georgia, USA, started making canes for his friends and family. They became more and more popular and he started his own business called Bob's Candies. Bob McCormack's brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, who was a Catholic priest, invented the Keller Machine that made turning straight candy sticks into curved candy canes automatic! In 2005, Bob's Candies was bought by Farley and Sathers but they still make candy canes!

christmas candles

by Super User
There are many different reasons why candles are associated with Christmas, although no one knows when they first became connected! They were used during ancient winter solstice celebrations a way of remembering that spring would soon come. One of the earliest records of candles being used at Christmas is from the middle ages, where a large candle was used to represent the star of Bethlehem. Jesus is sometimes called 'the Light of the World' by Christians. This might have started the custom of the Advent Crown and Advent Candles. Candles are also used during Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of light which is also celebrated during winter. During the eight nights of Hanukkah, a candle is lit in a special menorah (candelabra) called a 'hanukkiyah'. Candles are also used in the modern winter festival Kwanzaa, where a special candle holder called a kinara, that holds seven candles is used. Perhaps the most famous use of candles at Christmas are Carols by Candlelight Services. These are services when the church is only lit by candles. Candles were also originally used to decorate Christmas Trees, until safer electric lights were invented! In some parts of Ireland, it was traditional to have a Yule candle instead of a Yule Log. In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to celebrate Christmas. Christians in China use paper lanterns to decorate their Christmas trees. Candles are also used as part of the St. Lucia's or St. Lucy's day celebrations in Sweden.