085 The Second Christmas Entry

This is the fourth gift for Christmas, a rather large one I must say, because it requires quite a bit of effort and research to prepare this one. In fact, this gift is arriving in three parts, the first on Christmas night, and the second and third on Boxing Day. This would be the second last Christmas gift for this season. I have only planned to give five, and that would be it.

The fourth gift is a little different from the rest, instead of a short piece; this one would be a little longer. As I have said before, I do not have a wealth of riches to share, but I do have a wealth of knowledge. This article(s) is titled “The A – Z of Christmas”, an interesting fact about an aspect of Christmas, one for every letter of the alphabet.

The A – Z of Christmas Part One

Advent – Advent refers to the period encompassing the four Sundays before Christmas. Originally a period of penitence and fasting, like Lent, Advent, like many other Christmas traditions, has been modernised. It involves the lighting of four candles, one for every Sunday approaching Christmas, each candle signifying the approach, or advent, of the day of Jesus’ birth. Related to Advent, is the Advent calendar, a calendar with numbered windows that are opened one by one, usually by children, as a countdown to Christmas.

Boxing Day – Boxing Day, celebrated on the 26th of December, has got nothing to do with the sport of the same name. It was named after the boxes in with gifts to the poor were giving in after the actual Christmas day. It was an English tradition for the rich to be charitable to the needy on this day, and food, fruits and presents were given to the poor, in boxes, as a Christmas donation.

Christmas Cards – It may or may not come as surprise to people that the idea of greeting cards for every celebration actually first started from Christmas. The 19th century English were the first to send Christmas greeting cards, and this tradition caught on, as the cards became a must for every celebration. The first known card was created and sold in 1843, by John Horsley, and ever since that day, this commercialized aspect of Christmas has spread worldwide, encompassing every known celebration, from birthdays to Chinese New Year.

Dickens, Charles – This English author, well known for his classics such as “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations”, wrote “The Christmas Carol”, a story that made “Scrooge” synonymous with parsimony. Many do not know that this story actually defined Christmas for the entire world. The merry-making, turkey, singing (from the title, in fact, Dickens coined the term “Christmas carol”) and all the joyous aspect of the season was invented by Dickens, and it simply became tradition for all. What a difference a book can make to how we view a celebration.

Epiphany – Those familiar with the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”, may be mistaken in believing that the 12 days began with 13th December. The 12 days of Christmas begins on the 25th of December to the 5th of January. The 6th of January, known as the Epiphany, is the day the Magi visited Jesus, or the day Jesus was baptized, depending on who you ask.

Fir – Fir, along with other evergreens, have become an integral part of the Christmas tradition. Fir is used as the Christmas tree in some regions, and in others, a branch of fir is hung in the house. The first ornaments to be placed on the tree were recorded to be apples, and in another record, candles. A wrath of fir is used to hang and hold the Advent candles (see Advent).

Gifts - Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God's gift of Jesus to humankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends. This was one reason why Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance.

Holly – Holly is an ornamental plant that is used to decorate homes during Christmas, like the famous carol, “Deck the Halls”(…with boughs of holly). It is a tradition dating back to the Celtic tradition of hanging holly during the winter solstice. Holly is known to have healing properties and this could be one of the reasons why holly was chosen.

Icy – It is not overly surprising why Christmas is associated with snow and cold weather, and all that dreaming of white Christmases. This is, of course, a sign of Northern Hemisphere dominance, as people in the South, like Australians, celebrate Christmas in bikinis, swimming trunks and sunglasses. The date December 25th was set by approximation of the date of the winter solstice, by taking away three months from the established date of the spring equinox, March 25.

“Jingle Bells” – This is among the many famous Christmas carols sung during Christmas. James Pierpont wrote the song and the tune in 1857, for a church gathering. Strangely enough, this song was meant for a Thanksgiving celebration, rather than Christmas. It was so popular amongst the audience that he decided to sing the song for Christmas, and it became a Christmas carol since that day.