087 The Second Boxing Day Entry

This is the final part of the A - Z of Christmas, covering the backwaters region of the alphabet, S - Z, the toughest part of the project, I must say, but I did it, with a little help from a website which embarked on the same project. Presenting to you the final part of the A-Z of Christmas:

The A - Z of Christmas Part 3

Santa Claus – Santa Claus was not always the fat, jolly, bearded figure, wearing the red fur cap and coat. The legend of Santa Claus was a combination of the Nordic legend of Father Christmas, a man who left gifts in stockings, and the story of Saint Nicholas, a true 4th century saint who gave gifts to children on December 6. The Dutch (who called him Sinterklaas) brought the idea to America when they established New Amsterdam (New York). Thomas Nash, a Harper’s Weekly cartoonist combined with the depiction of Coca Cola illustrator, Haddon Sundblum, created the modern day version of Santa Claus, belt, beard, boots and all. One aspect did not change though all that, and it is the fact that Santa Claus gave gifts to children.

Tree – The Christmas tree, another endearing aspect of Christmas, is another tradition established during the Victorian era. Before Prince Albert brought the fir tree to England (see Queen Victoria), people in Europe have begun lighting candles and placing them on evergreen trees, such as fir and pine. Evergreens were meant to symbolize the eternal life of Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day and resurrected on Easter Sunday, and later rose to Heaven. Evergreens are an apt choice since they do not shed their leaves in winter, which gives the impression that the live through every season without a change.

Umble pie – Also known as humble pie, this dish is a traditional Christmas dish usually prepared and eaten by the lower classes during the Christmas dinner. This dish gave rise to the expression “to eat humble pie”, which means to acknowledge one’s place in the society’s hierarchy, as it is only eaten by those in the low pecking order. One could say that humble pie is to the English as ratatouille is to the French and aglio olio is to the Italians.

Visiting – Christmas are usually family events, where the whole family come together for a day to exchange gifts, and generally have a good time. Of course, for those who afford the cost would throw Christmas parties for the neighbours and even the extended family, providing a chance for them to visit especially if they have not been around the house for quite some time. After all, Christmas is the time of giving, and there is certainly nothing better than giving others and yourself a great time.

Wassail – The wassail is uncommon outside Europe and America, and Asian Christmas celebrations do not include this aspect. Wassail, which comes from the Norse word vas heill, which means, “be well, and be in good health”, is the traditional Christmas toast and also the name of the bowl the toast is contained in. It is akin to the “yum seng” of Chinese parties.

Xmas - First, I must say, thank God there is a word beginning with X associated to Christmas. Xmas, the common abbreviation of the word Christmas, has an origin that many are unaware of. It is derived from the Greek letter “chi”, which, when written in Roman lettering, becomes X. “Chi” is the first letter in the Greek version of the word “Christ”, and hence Xmas is a shorten form of the word “Christ”mas.

Yuletide – One of the few words synonymous with Christmas, Yule was derived from the Old English word “geol”, which in turn came from the Old Norse word “jol”. Yule was the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which falls just about the same time as Christmas. So, when many aspects of the winter celebration of the pagan celebration were converted into Christmas traditions, the word Yule naturally followed.

Zwarte Piet - Zwarte Piet is a black character from Dutch Christmas folklore, where he is St. Nicholas's helper. It is said that on December 5th, St Nicholas sails to the city of Amsterdam in a boat from Spain, accompanied by his servant, Zwarte Piet. Church bells ring as they come ashore. Dutch children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of what they do in a big book. Good children will be given presents, which Zwarte Piet brings down the chimney, getting very black in the process.