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boxing day

by Super User
Boxing Day - the Day after Christmas! Boxing Day takes place on December 26th and is only celebrated in a few countries; mainly ones historically connected to the UK (such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) and in many European countries. In Germany it is known as "Zweite Feiertag” (which means 'second celebration') and also “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag” which translates as Boxing Day (although it doesn’t literally mean that)! It was started in the UK about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day. It might have been the Romans that first brought this type of collecting box to the UK, but they used them to collect money for the betting games which they played during their winter celebrations! In Holland, some collection boxes were made out of a rough pottery called 'earthenware' and were shaped like pigs. Perhaps this is where we get the term 'Piggy Bank'! It was also traditional that servants got the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families on Boxing Day. Before World War II, it was common for working people (such as milkmen and butchers) to travel round their delivery places and collect their Christmas box or tip. This tradition has now mostly stopped and any Christmas tips, given to people such as postal workers and newspaper delivery children, are not normally given or collected on Boxing Day. Boxing Day has now become another public holiday in countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is also the traditional day that Pantomimes started to play. There are also often sports played on Boxing Day in the UK, especially horse racing and football matches! It's also when shops traditionally had big sales after Christmas in the UK (like Black Friday in the USA). The 26th December is also St. Stephen's Day. Just to confuse things, there are two St. Stephens in history! The first St. Stephen is believed to have been a very early follower of Jesus and he is said to have been the first Christian Martyr (a person who dies for their religious beliefs). The Bible says that Stephen (who was a Jew) was stoned to death by some other Jews (who didn't believe in Jesus). The second St. Stephen was a Missionary, in Sweden, in the 800s. He loved all animals but particularly horses (perhaps why there is traditionally horse racing on boxing day). He was also a martyr and was killed by pagans in Sweden. In Germany there was a tradition that horses would be ridden around the inside of the church during the St. Stephen's Day service! St. Stephen's Day (or 'the feast of Stephen') is when the Carol 'Good King Wenceslas' is set. It's about helping the poor - so it has a strong connection to Boxing Day.

How to spot Santa’s sleigh in the sky on Christmas Eve

by Super User
If you’re looking for a pretty cute way to build some excitement before Christmas Eve then looking for the International Space Station and pretending its Santa’s sleigh is a great way of doing it. The space station, which almost looks like a moving star as it reflects the sun’s light, takes a few minutes to pass across the sky and if you know where to look you can track it easily. In the last few years the ISS, which at 357 feet is the largest man made object in the sky, has been visible in the UK on December 24 so all it required was a cloudless night and tracking it was possible. However, sadly in 2016 its trajectory isn’t perfect during darkness, meaning it will not be visible between December 22 and December 27. It does actually pass over the UK every day and orbits the earth 15 times a day but some of those passes are during daylight. In future years the best way of checking out whether it is will pass near you is by going on NASA’s official tracking website and following the ‘how to’ guide below. How to spot the ISS when it passes over the sky near you The ISS will be powered by about 4000 square metres of solar power panels (brown). The mass of the ISS will be about 450, 000 kilogrammes. The inhabitable, pressurised modules (towards centre) will have a total volume roughly equal to the space inside 2 airliners. The 6 crew members will perform experi- ments such as studies of the effects of near- weightless (microgravity) conditions on materials & biological tissues. The space shuttle may supply the ISS with new crew members, provisions & equipment. The ISS is due to be completed in 2003. The ISS orbits the earth 15 times a day but is only visible at night (Picture: Getty) When you use the International space station website it will give a set of confusing parameters to use when looking for the satellite. You should see the time it first appears, how long it will be visible for, its max height in degrees based on your location, where it first appears on the skyline e.g. South West and where it will disappear e.g. north west, to give you an idea of its path. Most of those instructions are quite self explanatory. The best way to work out degrees is to think looking up is 90 and the horizon is zero, 45 degrees will therefore be somewhere between the two. Nasa explain: ‘If you hold your fist at arm’s length and place your fist resting on the horizon, the top will be about 10 degrees.’ It can be hard to spot as it travels at 17,500mph but that will distinguish it from much slower planes (600mph). Another way to distinguish it will be based on the fact it’s light is bold rather than flashing. There are actually a few apps you can download to help you pick it up easily. PC Advisor recommends such as GoISSWatch for iOS or ISS Finder or ISS Detector Satellite Tracker for Android.

Traditions of Christmas Bells

by Super User
Traditions of Christmas Bells Bells, especially Church Bells, have traditionally been associated with Christmas for a long time. In the Anglican and Catholic churches, the church day starts at sunset, so any service after that is the first service of the day. So a service on Christmas Eve after sunset is traditionally the first service of Christmas day! In churches that have a Bell or Bells, They are often rung to signal the start of this service. In some churches in the UK, it is traditional that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. In the Catholic Church, Christmas and Easter are the only times that Mass is allowed to be held at Midnight. It's traditional that at both midnight Masses, the church and altar bells too in many cases are rung while the Priest says the "Gloria" (Gloria in excelsis Deo). Having a Mass at Midnight at Christmas dates back to the early church, when it was believed that Jesus was born at midnight, although there has never been any proof of this! A lot of Churches have midnight services on Christmas Eve, although not every church will have a mass or communion as part of the service. In many Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy, the midnight mass service is very important and everyone tries to go to a service. In Victorian times, it was very fashionable to go carol singing with small handbells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there would only be the bells and no singing! Handbell ringing is still popular today.

christmas or xmas

by Super User
Christmas is also sometimes known as Xmas. Some people don't think it's correct to call Christmas 'Xmas' as that takes the 'Christ' (Jesus) out of Christmas. (As Christmas comes from Christ-Mass, the Church service that celebrated the birth of Jesus.) But that is not quite right! In the Greek language and alphabet, the letter that looks like an X is the Greek letter chi / Χ (pronounced 'kye' - it rhymes with 'eye') which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos. The early church used the first two letters of Christos in the Greek alphabet 'chi' and 'rho' to create a monogram (symbol) to represent the name of Jesus. This looks like an X with a small p on the top: ☧ The symbol of a fish is sometimes used by Christians (you might see a fish sticker on a car or someone wearing a little fish badge). This comes from the time when the first Christians had to meet in secret, as the Romans wanted to kill them (before Emperor Constantine became a Christian). Jesus had said that he wanted to make his followers 'Fishers of Men', so people started to use that symbol. When two Christians met, one person drew half a basic fish shape (often using their foot in the dust on the ground) and the other person drew the other half of the fish. The Greek word for fish is 'Ikthus' or 'Ichthys'. There are five Greek letters in the word. It can also make up a sentence of Christian beliefs 'Ie-sous Christos Theou Huios So-te-r' which in English means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour". The second letter of these five letter is X or Christos! So Xmas can also mean Christmas; but it should also be pronounced 'Christmas' rather than 'ex-mas'!

Epiphany

by Super User
Epiphany, the Feast of The Three Kings The Adoration of the Magi by Giotto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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the 12 days of christmas

by Super User
The 12 Days of Christmas The 12 Days of Christmas are now most famous as a song about someone receiving lots of presents from their 'true love'. However, to get to the song there had to be the days to start with!
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