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stories behind the Christmas traditions

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Ace Collins

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas

I heard this guy interviewed on the radio this morning. I am certain I have some of what he stated jumbled but I wanted to share this.

He said that people did not celebrate Christmas in the USA from the late 1700?s thru the early 1800?s. The reason was that Christmas was just a pagan celebration of winter solstice. And that people got drunk and woman and children were not safe on the streets during the wild celebrations. This was a worldwide problem and so the USA did not celebrate.

He said there were two things that changed how we celebrate Christmas. One was the publication of ?'twas the night before Christmas?? And something else maybe the King thing I will share in a minute, I forget.

Then, Christmas became about children.

He said Saint Nicolas was a monk (I think he said monk). One night, he visited the home of this very poor family. The family had beautiful daughters that would not be able to marry, as they were too poor for a dowry. So, St. Nicholas went by the home and tossed a gold coin in through the window. Well, their stockings were hanging by the fireplace to dry and behold the coin went into a stocking! The next night everyone in the village hung their stockings hoping for a miracle coin to appear in their sock!

Also, Good king Winslow (Winslat? Cannot find it on Google) anyway the guy in the song, (actually I think he was a king in Germany) he started to give gifts to children on Christmas which helped to change the tone from riotous living to one of kindness toward children.

OH OH OH OH Ohhhh! I recall! The second thing that really helped to change things was the Charles Dickens Book A Christmas Carol. The story was suppose to shed light on how the people of England would work hours on end with little pay and were sorely poor. But instead, it helped changed the attitude of Christmas from wild parties to one of "giving to others"

(Zixar, you know I am one of your fans as you are so smart ? Do you know where Winslow came from?)

Funny where this stuff comes from, isn't it?

Anybody else?


[This message was edited by Dot Matrix on December 10, 2003 at 16:11.]

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written by Sergio Caggìa with Paul Gwynne for © Nerone the Insider's Guide to Rome



The 6th December is the feast day of St. Nicholas. Regarded by historians as a purely legenday character, Nicholas is supposed to have lived in the fourth century AD. Born in Patara (Turky) from a welthy family Nicholas was made priest by his uncle the Archbishop of Myra. At the death of his parents Nicholas gaved all his havings to the poor and went to Palestine. Returning to Myra was made Bishop. According to legend the Archbishop of that seaport had just died and the local clergy had decided that the firs priest entering the chuech on the following morning would be made bishop. That was Nicholas who then became the Bishop of Myra.


Many are the stories around the figure of St. Nicholas, indeed made saint because of his generousity, modesty and miracles...


A famous story tells that visiting a certain inn Nicholas descovered that the innkeeper had the habit of stealing small children, kill them and serve them to his guests. Finally Nicholas found a case containing the bodies of three kids and on the sign of the cross rescued them back to life. In honour of this story Nicholas became the patron saint of small children.


The reason why Nicholas became patron saint of sailors and travellers is that on a voyage to the Holy Land the boat on which Nicholas was sailing was about to be wreck by the violent waves of a sea storm. Nicholas made the storm calm down, saving the boat.


But the most famous story is the one that generate the legend of Santa Claus! Having heard about a nobleman who had lost all his havings, Nicholas decided to provide a dowry for his three daughters. He secretly threw, through a window of the man house, a bag full of gold for each girl . Nicholas was descovered while throwing the third bag, but begged the nobleman not to reveal the thrut. For this story Nicholas became also the patron saint of girls without dowry.


Being St. Nicholas day on th 6th of December, close to Christmas day, his story was compared to the one of the Magi. Gradually Nicholas merged with the Christmas story and became familiar with the name of Santa Claus. Indeed is on his feast day that, in many countries, little presents and candies are given to children. In the Republic of Slovacchia for example on the night of the 5th Dec children polish their shoes to find filled of presents and candies on the following morning. Very symilar is the Italian tradition of the Epiphany, on 6th January... a kind old woman who flyes her brume and from chimney to chimney brings presents and candies to the children. Instead of the shoes in Italy we traditionally use sox.

On the 9 May In 1087, some Italian merchant steal the body of St. Nicholas in Myra and brought it to Bari, in Puglia (southern Italy) when on the 22 June 1197 a great Basilica was consecrated to the saint.

In Rome, in past times, there were 34 churches dedicated to St. Nicholas (the total number of churches is of nearly 400) of which only three survive today. The most ancient is the one of St. Nicola in Carcere (on Via del Mare), another is on Via dei Prefetti and a third on Largo Febo, near Piazza Navona with fine frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto (beginning of 18th century). Various is his iconography... always represented holding three bags or balls (recalling the story of the three girls) often is portrayed with children, a anchor or with a seaport on the background (again to recall his patronages). Saint Nicholas is also patron saint of loyers, traders, spice-dealers, perfumery-dealers and victims of judicial mistakes.

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from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Wenceslaus

(Also Vaclav, Vaceslav.)

Duke, martyr, and patron of Bohemia, born probably 903; died at Alt-Bunzlau, 28 September, 935.

His parents were Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and Dragomir, a heathen. He received a good Christian education from his grandmother (St. Ludmilla) and at Budweis. After the death of Wratislaw, Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity, and Wenceslaus, being urged by the people, took the reins of government. He placed his duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests. Wenceslaus had taken the vow of virginity and was known for his virtues. The Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title. For religious and national motives, and at the instigation of Dragomir, Wenceslaus was murdered by his brother Boleslaw. The body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of murder, but three years later Boleslaw, having repented of his deed, ordered its translation to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague. The gathering of his relics is noted in the calendars on 27 June, their translation on 4 March; his feast is celebrated on 28 September.

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Dot heres sumore---

got me interested now!


"Good King Wenceslaus" of Christmas carol fame wasn't really a king, but he was saintly and good. Perhaps born around 903 near Prague, in what is today the Czech Republic, young Wenceslaus was the product of a mixed marriage. His father Ratislav(the Duke of Bohemia) was a Christian, while his mother Drahomira came from a non-Christian Slavic tribe.

Wenceslaus was raised a Christian by his grandmother Ludmilla. The grandmother (also a saint) had been the wife of the first Christian duke of Bohemia.

When Wenceslaus' father died, his mother took over Bohemia, and civil war broke out between the Christian and non-Christian factions. Grandmother Ludmilla began urging Wenceslaus to take over; hearing of the sedition, Drahomira promptly had Ludmilla murdered.

The resultant power struggle ended in 922 with the teenage Wenceslaus in charge of Bohemia, attempting to bring together the warring factions.

As ruler, Wenceslaus attempted to reduce the oppression of the peasants by the nobility. Opposition to Wenceslaus among some factions of the nobility intensified after he acknowledged Emperor Henry I (the Fowler) of Germany as his overlord.

Wenceslaus' younger brother Boleslaus joined the opposition in 929, after Wenceslaus had a son, thereby removing Boleslaus from the chain of succession.

Boleslaus invited his brother Wenceslaus to a religious festival, and while Wenceslaus was on his way to mass on the morning of September 28, Boleslaus and a group of followers attacked him and stabbed him to death. Wenceslaus' last words were "May God forgive you, brother."

Immediately venerated as a martyr, Wenceslaus by the end of the century was celebrated as the nation's patron saint.

Wenceslaus Square is the center of modern-day Prague, and became in 1989 the site of mass popular demonstrations that helped topple the Communist dictatorship.

Although there is no historical record of the story recounted in the Christmas carol, it is consistent with Wenceslaus' concern for the poor. In the carol, Wenceslaus and a page leave their castle to bring food and pine longs to a peasant on the feast of Saint Stephen (Dec. 26).

As the wind grows more intense and the night grows darker, the page fears that he may collapse in the snow. Wenceslaus tells the page to follow his steps, which, miraculously, warm the page's freezing feet. Saint and page complete the trip to the peasant's home safely.

The youthful page's understandable fear of the bitter weather parallel's, in a sense, what must have been the real Wenceslaus' fears of attempting, as a teenager, to unite a nation divided by religious and dynastic civil war.

Wenceslaus and the page both attempted to pass through their respective storms by walking in the footsteps of righteousness. That path led the page out of the storm, and Wenceslaus into grave danger, and then to sainthood.

-Dave Kopel


For more: Orthodox Family Magazine biography of Saints Ludmilla and Wenceslaus.

Electric Library Encyclopedia entry on Wenceslaus.

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okay--losts on the tree thing



King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition which traces back long before the first Christmas, says David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture with the Springfield Extension Center.

The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.

The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, adds Robson.

But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870, and sometimes expelled students who stayed home.

The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

Christmas tree farms sprang up during the depression. Nurserymen couldn't sell their evergreens for landscaping, so they cut them for Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferred because they have a more symmetrical shape then wild ones.

Six species account for about 90 percent of the nation's Christmas tree trade. Scotch pine ranks first, comprising about 40 percent of the market, followed by Douglas fir which accounts for about 35 percent. The other big sellers are noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce.

Premission was granted for Internet use by --- Written by: David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture; Springfield Extension Center

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"It is from Germany that we today get many of our customs, songs, images of Santa, pine trees and European hand blow glass ornaments.

How these traditions traveled to England is interesting. Queen Victoria often visited relatives in Germany in the town of Coburg and while there she fell in love with a young Prince Albert. After they got married they returned to England to raise their family.

The tree that Price Albert provided his family was admired by all in England. This tree was decorated in the finest of hand blown glass ornaments. Since everyone liked the Queen they copied her Christmas customs including the Christmas tree and ornaments.

A F.W. Woolworth brought the glass ornament tradition to the United States in 1890. From 1870's to 1930's, Germans made the finest molds for making ornaments with nearly 5,000 different molds at the time. At the turn of the century there were over one hundred small cottage glass blowing workshops in Europe. Today only two respected German factory teams are capable of producing ornaments to the precise specifications of the Christopher Radko collection.

During the hayday of turn of the century ornament making, almost all ornaments were made in Lauscha, a small town nested in the Thuringian mountains. After the war, however, glass ornament production declined. Many of the craftsmen left for West Germany. Quantity rather than quality, was the Communist management philosophy. Some old molds fell into disrepair and many others were left to collect dust or were lost.

In the 1960's it was fashionable to have an Aluminum tree and all the same shape and color ornaments. Many threw away the old ornaments from Germany.

It was in the 1980's that Christopher Radko brought back the old art of making the glass ornaments for all to enjoy."

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the Nativity

The Nativity

The Nativity brings together Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, the Shepherds, the Angels and, on Epiphany, the Wise Men. Representations of the birth of Christ proliferated from the IVth century, particularly in books like Psalters which were used during the liturgy.

There are two traditions of iconographic representation of the Nativity.

The Western tradition sees the conception and birth of Jesus as divine events: Mary is virginal and because she was not subject to the curse of the daughters of Eve, did not suffer during labour. This is why she is depicted seated, holding the Infant Jesus on her lap.

At the end of the XIVth century, under the influence of Italian artists, the Virgin is represented on her knees in a posture of adoration.

The Eastern tradition, on the other hand, emphasizes the reality of the incarnation of Jesus and his human birth: Mary, having just given birth, is pictured lying down.

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other religious images associated with the nativity

he shepherds as well as the Wise Men have occult powers and special links with the cosmos. The shepherds symbolize the humble; the Wise Men, power and riches.

The first representations of the Wise Men show oriental sages dressed in white pantaloons and Phrygian caps. Traditionally, the three Wise Men represent humanity, carry symbolic gifts and are followed by magnificent processions.

Gaspard is usually depicted in blue, holding a cup containing incense, and represents Africa; Balthazar, dressed in red and holding an urn full of gold, represents Asia; and Melchior, dressed in green, holds a casket of myrrh and represents Europe (or the black, Semitic and Aryan races).

Because of their emphasis on the miraculous, the other iconographic elements: the cave, the crèche, and the stable animals which appear in the apocryphal Gospels are not recognized in the Holy Scriptures.

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The only thing I can add to the mix is that the three bags of gold that St. Nicholas gave for the girls' doweries, somehow came to be used as the symbol for a pawn shop.

Traditionally (and I think there's still one or two in Seattle that do) pawnshops would always have a group of three spheres hanging from their sign. These spheres were supposedly to represent the three bags of gold of St. Nicholas.

Now can anybody tell me, What the hay does Santa Claus have to do with pawnshops? I haven't a clue, though I often wondered...


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Originally posted by George Aar:

Now can anybody tell me, What the hay does Santa Claus have to do with pawnshops? I haven't a clue, though I often wondered...


LMAO! Not only do many folks buy presents from pawn shops, but many folks pawn items to get the money for the presents.

The deeper question here, imo, is how did a gift of a dowry translate to a symbol for pawnshops...?!?!? I mean, is there part of this St Nick story that nobody's telling..?!?!? LMAO!


Now that I'm a full-blown practitioner of many things pagan, this time of year is so much fun and so full of meaning and power! Yay! icon_biggrin.gif:D-->


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Around 12/31 I find two events.

The conception (9 months before 9/11/03), and

The wisemen finding the baby.

So reveling is somewhat biblical, and so is gift giving.

I think the Lord enjoys the party time of the holidays. It's nice to get together with people you love (and learning to love) and having a nice time.

Also the gift giving -- It's great to see so many people thinking about other people and what would make them happy.

Our tradition for family:

We do three presents for each other:

icon_smile.gif:)--> Something you want

icon_smile.gif:)--> Something you need

icon_smile.gif:)--> Something you don't expect.

This is nice because it keeps the presents in bounds,and seeing the working of the heart is more important than the price tag.

Thankful for the soldiers working during this holiday season

icon_smile.gif:)-->," God

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