Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas

Christ-mas!

We all have our own history of Christmas; how we grew up celebrating this time of year.  Winter Solstice is celebrated Dec. 22, the longest night/shortest day of the whole year! 

Before Jesus, there was just the winter solstice and it was celebrated.  Even after Jesus died on the Cross, his birth was not celebrated yet.

What memories do you have of Christmas?  Which ones are you making now? 

I believe we need to give credit to those who write better than me and this is one.

So, if you have ever wondered what Christmas is all about, let's dig into this using The History of Christmas at http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/before_christ.htm

I will copy and paste it here. 
History of Christmas - Before Christ?
Winter holiday - before ChristThe middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight. In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.
The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.
In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.
Saturnalia - In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.
Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year. In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.



Birth of Jesus History
Birth of JesusIn the western world the birthday of Jesus Christ has been celebrated on December 25th since AD 354, partly to replace the pagan worship that was commonplace in those days. However, we can be fairly sure that Jesus wasn't actually born on that date.
The Bible tells us that shepherds were staying out in the fields overnight when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8), but in that part of the world it would have been far too cold at night to do so in December. What is more likely is that He was born in the Spring, perhaps between March and May. Whatever the time of year, it is virtually impossible to identify the actual date.
This situation is further complicated by the fact that the Christian scholar Dionysius Exiguus was asked by the Pope in AD 525 to calculate new cycles for fixing the date of Easter. However, he decided to base his calculations on the date of Jesus's birth. Unfortunately, it wasn't discovered until the 9th century that he got it badly wrong, by which time it was too late to change the calendar.
He fixed the birth in the year 1 BC or AD 1 (Historians apparently can't agree which.) and beganJesus birth counting from the latter. But both earlier and later scholars agreed that Jesus was born at an earlier date. Indeed, it was eventually established that Herod the Great died in Spring of 4 BC. If Jesus had been born at the start of AD 1, as we currently have it, then Jesus would have been born some 4 or 5 years after Herod died. There is no way of accurately establishing the actual date of his birth, but it is most likely to have been between 5 and 6 BC.
The important thing is that he was born, and his nominal birthdate of December 25th seems as good as any to celebrate his birth and his message. It also a wonderful catalyst for enjoying the precious and simple pleasures of being, if only for a brief time, close together in the warm familiarity of friends and family, renewing relationships and sharing memories.

Nativity History
A manger scene is the primary decoration in most southern European, Central American, andnativity South American nations. St. Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity in 1224 to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers.
Over two thousand years ago a young woman by the name of Mary lived in the small town of Nazareth. Mary was to be married to a carpenter named Joseph. She was unaware of the significance of her life until one day an angel sent from God appeared before her. The angel Gabriel had good news for Mary. She had been chosen by God to have a special baby. The baby was to be God’s son and she would name him Jesus. Mary told Gabriel she would do whatever God asked.
Not long after the angel’s visit, Mary and Joseph were married. Together they made a long journey to Bethlehem where Mary was to have her baby. When they arrived in Bethlehem they did not have a place to stay because the inn there was full. The kind innkeeper told them he had a stable where the animals lived that they could stay in for the night. Jesus, God’s Son, was born that night. Mary wrapped baby Jesus in a small cloth and placed him in a manger of hay.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, gathering their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel from God appeared before them in a bright light. They were afraid but the angel reassured them. He said he has brought them good news that will bring great joy to all people. He told them that the Son of God has been born today in the city of Bethlehem. The angel told them that they will recognize Him by this sign; he will be wrapped snugly in cloth, lying in a manger.
The shepherds hurried to go to see Baby Jesus. When they found him in the stable in Bethlehem, they were filled with great joy at the sight of God’s Son. They kneeled before the baby and worshipped him. After seeing the baby, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and that the angel appeared to them and told them that Jesus was God’s Son and to be Savior of the World.
The same night far away in the East, wise men were traveling on their camels when they noticed a very strange bright star in the sky. They knew that this star meant that the King of the Jews, the One who would save the world had been born.
During the time that Jesus was born, a very mean king by the name of Herod ruled the land. The three wise men decided to go to the king to learn where they could find this special baby: the King of the Jews. When King Herod heard this, he got very worried as he thought this new king might take his throne away. King Herod called a meeting with all of the other important people in the area and asked them to find this special child so that he too, could worship this special baby.
King Herod told the wise men to go and find this child. After they had spoken to the King, the wise men left to find the baby. They did not know where to find the baby, but at night they followed the star in the east. They followed the star until they found the very place the star hung over in Bethlehem. When they finally arrived, they were excited and happy. They found baby Jesus laying in Mary’s arms and they kneeled down and worshipped Him.
The wise men brought gifts for Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Mary thanked them for bringing the gifts for Jesus and the wise men left to find a place to sleep for the night. As they were sleeping, they each had the same dream . The wise men were warned by an angel not to go back to King Herod and tell him about where they found the Jesus as King Herod had intended on killing him.
The wise men returned to their country without going to see King Herod. Soon after, Joseph also had a dream where an angel told him to take Mary and the Baby Jesus to Egypt as King Herod was to order to have Jesus be killed. They left Bethlehem for Egypt immediately. When the wise men did not return to King Herod, he ordered that baby boys in Bethlehem be killed. They never found Jesus as he was safe.
History of Old Christmas Day
Until the time of Julius Caesar the Roman year was organized round the phases of the moon. For many reasons this was hopelessly inaccurate so, on the advice of his astronomers, Julius instituted a calendar centered round the sun. It was decreed that one year was to consist of three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter days, divided into twelve months; the month of Quirinus was renamed 'July' to commemorate the Julian reform. Unfortunately, despite the introduction of leap years, the Julian calendar overestimated the length of the year by eleven minutes fifteen seconds, which comes to one day every on hundred and twenty-eight years. By the sixteenth century the calendar was ten days out. In 1582 reforms instituted by Pope Gregory XIII lopped the eleven minutes fifteen seconds off the length of a year and deleted the spare ten days. This new Gregorian calendar was adopted throughout Catholic Europe.
 Protestant Europe was not going to be told what day it was by the Pope, so it kept to the old Julian calendar. This meant that London was a full ten days ahead of Paris. The English also kept the 25th of March as New Year's Day rather than the 1st of January. By the time England came round to adopting the Gregorian calendar, in the middle of the eighteenth century, England was eleven days ahead of the Continent.
A Calendar Act was passed in 1751 which stated that in order to bring England into line, the day following the 2nd of September 1752 was to be called the 14th, rather than the 3rd of September. Unfortunately, many people were not able to understand this simple maneuver and thought that the government had stolen eleven days of their lives. In some parts there were riots and shouts of 'give us back our eleven days!'
Before the calendar was reformed, England celebrated Christmas on the equivalent of the 6th of January by our modern, Gregorian reckoning. That is why in some parts of Great Britain people still call the 6th of January, Old Christmas Day.


King Herod
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, thereKing Herod came wise men form the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born Kind of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, "In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.’"
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced and exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense , and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream saying, ""rise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt
Christmas history in America : see also Santa Claus in America
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebratedearly american christmas - winter holiday in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday. 
The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
An outlaw ChristmasAfter the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Washington Irving reinvents Christmas It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status.
Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended—in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.
Before the Civil War
The North and South were divided on the issue of Christmas, as well as on the question of slavery. Many Northerners saw sin in the celebration of Christmas; to these people the celebration of Thanksgiving was more appropriate. But in the South, Christmas was an important part of the social season. Not surprisingly, the first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were in the South: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.Early Christmas & Santa engraving

In the years after the Civil War, Christmas traditions spread across the country. Children's books played an important role in spreading the customs of celebrating Christmas, especially the tradition of trimmed trees and gifts delivered by Santa Claus. Sunday school classes encouraged the celebration of Christmas. Women's magazines were also very important in suggesting ways to decorate for the holidays, as well as how to make these decorations.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, and shopped for the Christmas season. Since that time, materialism, media, advertising, and mass marketing has made Christmas what it is today. The traditions that we enjoy at Christmas today were invented by blending together customs from many different countries into what is considered by many to be our national holiday.
An overview:
1600's: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas' name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.
17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas.
1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.
1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas.
1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book "A History of New York." Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse.
1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.
1821: William Gilley printed a poem about "Santeclaus" who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.
1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas," which became better known as "The Night before Christmas." Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.
1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a "Criscringle" outfit and climb the chimney of his store.
1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper's Magazine. These continued through the 1890's.
1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army -- an early example of psychological warfare.
1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter. 4
1920's: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim. 5
1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.
1939 Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May had been "often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight." He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through deliveries when the visibility started to degenerate. Santa added Rudolph to his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path. A copy of the poem was given free to Montgomery Ward customers. 6
1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn't let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to "White Christmas" it is the most popular song of all time.
1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never happened.
1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window of the New York's Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important personality at Christmas time. 7


References:
Barbara G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets." Harper & Row, (1983) Pages 725 to 726.
"St. Nicholas of Myra," The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: www.newadvent.org/cathen/11063b.htm
"Father Frost," at: www.bobandbabs.com/
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," at: www.stormfax.com/virginia.htm
"The Claus that Refreshes," at: www.snopes.com/cokelore/santa.htm
"Rudolph," at: www.snopes.com/holidays/xmas/
"R Cendella Gallery - Theme: Commentary," at www.rcenedellagallery.com
"St. Nicholas of Bari (Fourth Century)," Catholic Information Network, at: www.cin.org/nichbari.html
History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is November-December on the Gregorian calendar). In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication."
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' 165 B.C.E. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C.E. the Jews' holy Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus. Some Jews were afraid of the Greek soldiers and obeyed them, but most were angry and decided to fight back.
The fighting began in Modiin, a village not far from Jerusalem. A Greek officer and soldiers assembled the villagers, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, activities forbidden to Jews. The officer asked Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to take part in the ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattathias became outraged, took out his sword and killed the man, then killed the officer. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked and killed the soldiers. Mattathias' family went into hiding in the nearby mountains, where many other Jews who wanted to fight the Greeks joined them. They attacked the Greek soldiers whenever possible.
About a year after the rebellion started, Mattathias died. Before his death, he put his brave son Judah Maccabee in charge of the growing army. After three years of fighting, the Jews defeated the Greek army, despite having fewer men and weapons.
Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken, including the golden menorah. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found a small flask that contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle
 
Christmas festivities from around the world have varied greatly over the centuries with  everyChristmas traditions around the world country, region and ethnic group establishing their own diverse set of customs and traditions.
*Danes eat Christmas dinner at Midnight on Christmas Eve
*Brazilians leave their shoes outside their doors (not because they smell)
*Australians go to the beach!
*Ukrainians eat a 12 course meal!
*In France Christmas is called 'Noel'
*Many Finns visit the sauna on Christmas Eve.
*Knecht Rupprecht, Pelznickle and Ru-Klas may visit Germans.
*Sinterklaas, St. Nicholas - rides a white horse in Holland.

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