Christmas holidays, customs, story, and traditions in Anglo speaking countries, an article that explains the origin and development of this great Christian feast, with some quotes and useful links.
Christmas it seems to me is a necessary festival; we require a season when we can regret all the flaws in our human relationships: it is the feast of failure, sad but consoling.
Christmas Eve is my favorite… I think the anticipation is more fun than anything else. I kind of lost that. The idea that something – food, traditions, an arbitrary date on the calendar – can be special because we decide it should be. We make it special. Not just for ourselves, but for others.
I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!
Ray Stannard Baker
I have always thought of Christmas-time… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.
Christmas is undoubtedly the most important festival of the year. It is the celebration of the birthday of Christ. Christmas means “mass”, or church service, for Christ. The abbreviation Xmas derives from the Greek letter X that was used as a symbol for Christ by early Christians. For most boys and girls these celebrations mean preparing the Christmas tree, singing carols, pantomime, the church service in the late evening, the sumptuous dinner at midday with the whole family and, of course, Santa Claus, the smiling old man with the beard who slides down the chimney during the night to bring presents for the children. These Christmas traditions are losing their religious and traditional aspect and are becoming more consumistic. This is happening in both the English-speaking countries and in the rest of the world.
To children Xmas means the season of joy, of family and of presents. Its festivities mark the magic moment of the whole year. The children of the English-speaking countries still feel Christmas this way, while the adults seem to have turned it into a festival of consumerism.
Children still delight in preparing the Christmas tree, a fir tree which is decorated with small, brightly-coloured lights and glass ornaments. Their feast still has a “Carol Service” consisting of Xmas hymns and readings from a Bible.
Xmas Eve is probably even nicer than Christmas itself. Before going to bed, children prepare the “old sock” at the foot of the bed in which Santa Claus will place the presents during the night.
On Christmas day, after the church service, the family gathers around the tree. They open the presents and then they sit down to the traditional dinner. Later, the children go and see a pantomime, a kind of comedy play with singing and dancing based on a well-known fairy story or folk story such as Cinderella, Robin Hood, etc.
This wonderful feast will last twelve days and nights up to the Epifany.
In Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, etc., in families without children, Xmas is constantly becoming less a feast of love and more and more a consumer festival. Maybe we should speak of a religion of consumerism.
Christmas trees have multiplied and have become bigger and more brightly lit. Around them are parcels of presents, lots of them.
Even Santa Claus – whose name derives from St Nicolaus or Nicholas – has changed. He is no longer the little old man coming from the North Pole on his sleigh, but a cheery, rosy-cheeked gentleman sitting at the entrance of department stores to attract customers. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, has therefore changed from children’s dream to buyers attraction.
Even Christmas dinner seems to have changed. The enormous turkey sitting on the table proves this as do also all the bottles of wine. Of Christmas – the one with traditions and family love – there seems to be left only the name.
Christmas in New York
New York is not only inhabited by rich people. The contrast between lights, warmth and wealth, represented by Santa Claus and his gifts, and the world of the poor and homeless is highlighted during the Christmas period.
New York shines with lights at Christmas. The brightest part of the city is the Rockefeller Center, with its enormous Christmas Tree and its ice rink where skaters may have fun in the chilly New York winter.
All towns are full of lights during Christmas-time and on New Year’s Day. But New York is brighter that any other city: the Catholic traditions of the Irish, the Polish and the Italians have mixed with the Orthodox traditions of Slays and Greeks, and with those of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, so that all Christians (and non-Christians as well) participate in the Holy Night.
St Nicholas Story They bring happiness
St Nicholas was the bishop of the Italian town Bari. He was a very good and generous man. He died in December and parents started giving gifts’ to their children on the anniversary of his death, in order to remind them of the saint’s generosity. At the end of the Roman Era and during the Middle Ages, Europe was far more united than we can imagine: pilgrims’ travelled to sanctuaries, scholars’ went from one university to another – and so St Nicholas, or Nicolaus , became known all over Europe. And in northern Europe Santa Claus, who brings gifts during the Christmas period, is still St Nicholas from Bari with his new northern name.
Yet, in the original Celtic tradition there were two other people who brought gifts during winter. Of course you know them. One is the Italian Befana, who is a good witch on her way back from the witches’ Sabbath. The others were the tiny’ gnomes from northern Europe, who lived in old trees in the forests. They also wore a big red hood’. A little girl who spoke to wolves’ and walked in the forest wearing a red hood and carrying gifts is no doubt known to you: Little Red Riding Hood.
CHRISTMAS DAY December 25th (Conversations)
It is 1.30 on Christmas Day and the Browns are eating their Christmas dinner. Mrs Brown’s father is carving the turkey and Mrs Brown is serving …
Mrs Brown: I hope the turkey’s cooked properly, Father.
Father: It looks fine to me.
Mrs Brown: Will you have ham and sausages with your turkey, Barbara?
Barbara: Yes, please, Mum. Mrs Brown: And bread sauce?
Mrs Brown: And chestnut stuffing?
Barbara: Oh yes – I’ll have everything.
Mrs Brown: Here you are then.
Barbara: It looks delicious. Pass the gravy, please, David.
Mrs Brown: Don’t wait for us, Barbara. Start yours or it’ll get cold. Now, David, what’ll you
… And after the main course the Browns had Christmas pudding with brandy butter, mince pies with cream followed by nuts and fruit and coffee. Then they all pulled crackers. Inside each cracker there was a coloured paper hat, a joke and a small toy – a whistle or a doll perhaps.
After such a large meal – and a lot of washing-up they all settled down to watch the Queen on television. (A Christmas Day programme in which The Queen speaks to the Commonwealth.)
In the evening they went carol singing with the church choir and visited an old people’s home.
This is one of the carols they sang:
I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.
I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning.
And what was in those ships all three, / On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three, /On Christmas Day in the morning?
Our Saviour Christ and His lady,/ On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Our Saviour Christ and His lady, / On Christmas Day in the morning.
Write wish messages on some Christmas Cards. If you were invited to Christmas dinner with the Browns what would you like to eat? What would you say to Mrs Brown?
Christmas in Scotland
Mr Rogers is on the phone to a restaurant in Scotland.
– Hello. Mees restaurant.
– Hello. My name is Rogers. I’m spending a few days in Scotland for Christmas. Is it possible to reserve a table for Christmas dinner?
– Yes, Mr Rogers. How many of you are there going to be?
– Four. I’ve heard you serve traditional Scottish dinner. Do you?
– Of course. May I have your full name and… (fades)
The Jones are having their Christmas dinner.
– How did you like the pudding?
– It was great. Fantastic.
– Do you want some more, Mary?
– Well… yes, please. Just a little bit, though. – OK. Here you are.
– That’s enough, thank you.
– What about you, John? Would you like some more?
– Oh, no, thank you. It’s got more calories than… than a volcano!
Mary meets Joey the day before Christmas.
– Joey! Hi. Merry Christmas!
– Merry Christmas, Mary. How’s it going? I haven’t seen you around these days.
– I had a bout of flu!
– Oh, poor thing…
– But I’m all right now. Well, I’m in a bit of a hurry… Oh… Happy New Year!
– The same to you!
It’s New Year’s Day. John is walking the dog and he meets his friend Charles.
– Hello, Charles. Happy New Year.
– Happy New Year. Gosh, John: you look miserable. – I know. It’s a hangover. I had too much Italian wine last night.
– It always happens when one’s used to beer.
– But they think beer is
not good enough for New Year’s Eve. So the friends who invited us served wine. And we had brought some port as a present… and now I’m dying! – Come on! Tomorrow you’ll be OK. – I hope so…
The Christmas season, also called the festive season, the holiday season (mainly in the U.S. and Canada), or simply the holidays, is an annually recurring period recognized in many Western and Western-influenced countries that is generally considered to run from late November to early January. It is defined as incorporating at least Christmas, and usually New Year, and sometimes various other holidays and festivals. It also is associated with a period of shopping which comprises a peak season for the retail sector (the “Christmas (or holiday) shopping season”), and a period of sales at the end of the season (the “January sales”). Christmas window displays and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies when trees decorated with ornaments and light bulbs are illuminated, are traditions in many areas.
In the denominations of Western Christianity, the term “Christmas season” is considered synonymous with Christmastide, a term associated with Yuletide, which runs from December 25 (Christmas Day) to January 5 (Epiphany Eve), popularly known as the 12 Days of Christmas. However, as the economic impact involving the anticipatory lead-up to Christmas Day grew in America and Europe into the 19th and 20th centuries, the term “Christmas season” began to become synonymous instead with the traditional Christian Advent season, the period observed in Western Christianity from the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day until Christmas Day itself. The term “Advent calendar” survives in secular Western parlance as a term referring to a countdown to Christmas Day from the beginning of December.
And now enjoy some proverbs on Christmas:
If I could wish a wish for you, it would be for peace and happiness not only now, but for the whole year through!
Christmas is more than just presents, it’s love and harmony.
Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.
Helen Steiner Rice
Christmas can’t be bought from a store … Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.
Christmas comes but once a year.
At Christmas the day stretches out of a rooster’s step!
But when it comes it brings good cheer.
Read also our other posts on Christmas ;
Christmas tree origin and quotes ;
Traditional Christmas Carols ;
An Essasy on Christmas by Chesterton ;