Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Tied Up With Tinsel # 3


The Christian legend of the origins of tinsel concerns a poor widow who was left alone to care for her large family.
It was the first Christmas since the death of her husband and she was determined to make Christmas as special as she could possibly could for her children.
The poor widow worked every hour god sent her washing, cleaning and baking for the town’s people.
She went to the nearby forest and cut a Christmas tree for the house but it was a struggle for them to survive on her meager income and they could afford no decorations for it.
Instead she and her children made decorations for the tree they made snowflakes from scraps of paper and garlands from strips of old cloth and for baubles they used pine cones.
Working together they trimmed it as beautifully as they could with what little they had.
Spiders invaded the tree as they slept and as they crawled from branch to branch they left their shimmering webs behind them.
A watching angel knowing the family would be devastated by what the spiders had done transformed the webs into shimmering strands of silver.
When they awoke next morning they could not believe their eyes and they did indeed have a very special Christmas.


People have different perceptions as to the custom of The exchanging of Christmas presents some say it can be traced back to an ancient Roman custom of gift-giving which was practiced at the festival of Saturnalia.
It would certainly appear easy to make the transition from making an offering to a pagan deity to giving a gift.
Others believe that when the custom was Christianized the reason for gift-giving was attributed to represent the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Magi brought from the East when they sought out the newborn Jesus Christ.
But the most popular belief by far is that the custom is derived from the greatest gift-giver of all St Nicholas.


One Christmas legend tells that as a child Jesus Christ was decorating a tree helped by a chorus of angels.
One of the angels got their hair caught on the branches of the tree as they were leaving and it instantly transformed into fine strands of silver tinsel.


A Christmas superstition In Ireland holds that the gates of Heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve and all those who die on Christmas Day will go straight to Heaven.


The hanging of greens, such as Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era.
Greenery was used to lift people’s spirits during the long winter and remind them that spring was not far away.
Although holly is the only traditional decorative green which remains of the once famous duo of Holly and Ivy both have an ancient association with the winter festivities.
The Romans used holly during their Solstice celebration, known as Saturnalia and it had a close association with the God Dionysus.
Holly boughs were given as gifts during Saturnalia as it was believed to protect against lightning strikes and ward off evil spirits.
The Druids also held holly in very high esteem as a plant of death and regeneration.
The ancient custom was to decorate the doorway with intertwined garlands of holly and ivy which represented unity between the dual halves of divinity the Holly with its red berries representing the color of life and life’s blood was the Goddess and female while Ivy was the eternal representation of consort to the goddess and therefore was masculine in nature.
The Tradition stands that the first in the household whether male or female to bring Holly into the house would rule the roost for the coming year.
When Christianity spread across Europe, holly became synonymous with the word "holy."
It invoked great symbolism, its prickly leaves represented the crown of thorns worn by Jesus and the bright red berries represent the drops of blood He shed on the cross.
Legend tells that the berries of the holly plant were once yellow in color but were stained red by the blood of Christ.
Holly as with all the evergreen’s holly symbolizes eternal life.


Princess Alexandra was born on Christmas day 1936 at 3, Belgrave Square in London.
Conrad Hilton the founder of the hotel chain was born 1887
Dorothy Wordsworth the English prose writer and younger sister of poet William Wordsworth was born in 1771 in Cockermouth Cumbria.
Sir Isaac Newton the renowned scientist was born near Grantham in Lincolnshire, on December 25, 1642
And Humphrey Deforest Bogart was born on Christmas day in 1899 in New York.


The hanging of greens, such as Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era.
Greenery was used to lift people’s spirits during the long winter and remind them that spring was not far away.
The original Garlands were made by intertwining Holly and Ivy into thick vines of greenery and used in the ancient custom to decorate doorways.
The Holly and Ivy represented the unity between the dual halves of divinity the Holly was the Goddess and was feminine while the Ivy was the eternal consort to the goddess and therefore was masculine in nature.
The modern Garlands are very colorful but they are artificial and have no other purpose than to look nice.


It was in Germany that tinsel was first invented and it was made from real silver.
A crude machine was used to shred the silver into thin strips which were then twisted onto a central wire.
This was indeed a luxury product although and obviously only available to the privileged classes.
However the silver tinsel did not last forever as Silver would tarnish and lose its shine in time.
Despite its lack of longevity however it remained in use by those who could afford it until a cheaper artificial alternative was invented.


On Christmas morning since medieval times Church bells are rung on Christmas morning to announce to the world the birth of Jesus Christ.
A legend has it that the bells were rung for an hour before midnight on the first Christmas Eve to warm the forces of darkness of the imminent arrival of the Savior and at the stroke of midnight the pitch of the bells changed into a joyous peal.
The sounding of the bells had another purpose namely to announce the death of the Devil which would come to pass upon by the coming of Jesus Christ.
This is why the church bell is also known as 'the Old Lad's Passing bell', 'Old Lad' being a euphemism for Satan.
The pealing bells also chase away evil spirits which easy repelled by any joyous sound.
The bells also have more frivolous uses than announcing the Savior on Christmas morning.
The bells are often used as Christmas tree decorations and also they adorn Christmas cards.
Traditionally Wassailers would use bells to announce their presence by ringing them and Father Christmas has jingling bells accompanying the progress of his sleigh.


Serving a roasted boar's head was for many years associated with Christmas feasting in England.
It probably harks back to the Norse custom of sacrificing a boar at Yuletide in honor of the Norse god Freyr.
A more amusing telling of the story relates to a student at Oxford's Queen’s College who was attacked one Christmas Day by a wild boar.
As the Boar charged the poor student was armed with nothing more lethal than a copy of Aristotle, so with all his strength he thrust the book down the boar's throat killing it in its tracks.
The student however wanted his book back so he cut off the animal's head which he took back to the college where it was served for Christmas dinner amidst much pomp and ceremony.


The custom of singing carols at Christmas is of English origin which began in the middle ages.
In the beginning the singing of Christmas carols was known as 'wassailing'.
But this soon changed and the singers became known as carolers when groups of serenaders called "waits" would travel around from house to house singing ancient carols and spreading the holiday spirit.
The word "carol" means "song of joy."
The reason Christmas carols became so popular was that the angels sang when they appeared to the shepherds at Bethlehem to announce the birth of Jesus Christ's.
The original meaning of a carol is quite different to what we imagine it to be today for a carol was once a secular dance which was performed at any time of the year.
People danced around in a circle holding hands and singing songs.
The dance reminded onlookers of a coronet so they called it a 'carol'. The name was transferred later on from the dance to the song itself. Carols
By the 16th century carols were sung only at Christmas time and at one time only Bishops and clergy were permitted to sing carols in church.
But carols became too popular amongst the public to be confined to church and were soon sung in the streets.
A true Carol tells the story in song of the birth of Christ and is sung during period leading up to Christmas.


It was in the 4th century when The Catholic Church decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25th.
The idea behind it was a simple enough one in that they wanted to eclipse the festivities of a rival pagan religion that threatened Christianity's existence.
At that time of the year The Romans celebrated the birthday of their sun god, Mithras.
Church leaders decided that in order to compete with the pagan’s they needed a festival of their own at the same time so they chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
And it worked.


The hanging of greens, such as Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era.
Greenery was used to lift people’s spirits during the long winter and remind them that spring was not far away.
The holly wreath with its red berries and other decorations dates back to the 17th century.
The roundness of the Wreath and the sharpness of its pointed Holly leaves symbolized Christ's crown-of-thorns and its Red berries the drops of Christ's blood.
The wreath was intertwined with red ribbons to express the festive spirit and the evergreen leaves stood for everlasting life and promised faithfulness to the Lord.
The Wreath which is traditionally displayed on the front door of a home during the weeks of Advent and the Christmas season once was a multiple role.
Harking back to its pagan origins the wreath was believed to protect a home from evil spirits and during the Middle Ages the red Holly berries were thought to keep witches at bay.
A wreath on the door at Christmas signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.


On the morning of Christmas Eve in 1818, an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr, was told that the church organ was broken and would not be repaired in time for the Christmas Eve service.
He was so saddened at the prospect of Christmas without music that he decided he would try to write a carol that could be sung by the choir and be accompanied by guitar music.
So Joseph sat down and wrote three stanzas and later that night the people in the little Austrian Church in Oberndorff sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.


W.C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield) died December 25, 1946 aged 66 in Pasadena.
Paul Bourget the French novelist and critic died 1935.
The comic film star Charles Spencer Chaplin died at his home in Switzerland in 1977 aged 88.
And in 1995 entertainer Dean Martin died at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 78.


The first commercial Christmas card caused something of a controversy when they first appeared in 1846.
The cards featured a drawing depicting a group of family members happily toasting each other with glasses of wine.
This was considered to be a shockingly decadent portrait and was immediately condemned by temperance advocates.


On Christmas day 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned King of England.


If, on Christmas Eve, in the county of Devon, a girl knocks on the henhouse door and a rooster crows, she will be married within the year.


As so many Christmas innovations artificial trees originated in Germany towards the end of the 1800’s.
The trees were formed from Metal wire and covered with feathers Goose, Turkey, Ostrich or Swan and the feathers would be died green to imitate pine needles.
Then In the 1930's, the Addis Brush Company in America created the first artificial-brush trees.
They used the same machinery as that used to make their toilet brushes.
It was in 1950 that The Addis 'Silver Pine' tree was patented.

The tree was designed to have a revolving light source under it which would shine through colored gels casting different shades of light as it revolved beneath the tree.
Not a million miles away from the fiber optic trees we have today.


Wassail, which was much liked by the English, accompanied hearty Christmas meals.
The word 'wassail' dates back to the pre-Christian times and practices and is derived from the Anglo Saxon phrase waes hael which meant "be thou well" or "good health.
Originally, wassail was a beverage made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs, and spices and it was served for the purpose of enhancing the general merriment of the season.
A toast was traditionally offered with a drink at regular intervals and normally with little or no reason.
It was important that after well-wishers had shared in the spirit of the toast and taken a sip that they top up the bowl.
The wassail bowl had to remain full from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night
And much care was taken to ensure that it did in order to ensure the continuity of good cheer throughout this festive season.
The wassail bowl would be carried from room to room often accompanied by the singing of festive songs which is perhaps why the early practice of carol singing was referred to as 'wassailing’.
Part of the Wassailing ritual was more concerned in seeing nature renew itself in the spring and the belief in its ability to magically bestow fertility on one and all.


The hanging of greens, such as holly, ivy and Mistletoe is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era.
Greenery was used to lift people’s spirits during the long winter and remind them that spring was not far away.
Ivy, the accepted symbol of friendship, like Holly and Mistletoe, has since pagan times been used as a decoration at festivals.
The ancient custom was to decorate the doorway with intertwined garlands of Holly and Ivy which represented unity between the dual halves of divinity the Holly was the Goddess and female while Ivy was the eternal representation of consort to the goddess and therefore was masculine in nature.
In pagan religions Ivy had been a symbol of eternal life while the Christians believe it stands for the new promise of eternal life.
The Romans used Ivy as part of celebrations related to the god Bacchus, whose worshippers were thought to have worn Ivy crowns.
We rarely decorate our houses with ivy anymore at Christmas but many homes have potted ivy plants in the home all year round.


The 1947 film “The Bishop's Wife” Tells the tale of An Episcopal Bishop, Henry Brougham played by David Niven, who has been working for months on the plans for a new cathedral paid for by a selfish and stubborn widow Mrs. Hamilton, Gladys Cooper.
As a result he begins to lose sight of his wife, Julia, Loretta Young and family and of why he joined the church in the first place.
So Dudley, an angel, Cary Grant, is sent to help him.
Dudley help’s everyone he meets, but not always in the way they would have chosen.
None the less everyone liked Dudley except Henry.
As Christmas approaches Henry begins to believe that Dudley is there to replace him, at work, and in his family’s affections.
A gem of a movie.


The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby's.


During the Reformation in Switzerland, all instrumental and choral music was banned from churches.


The humble candy cane has been around for nearly four hundred years.
It was during the seventeenth century when European Christians began the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations and they began making special edible decorations for their trees.
The first of these decorations were cookies and sugar-sticks.
It was very soon after the all-white candy canes were given out to children after a nativity service that sweet makers both professional and amateur began making the straight hard white sugar-sticks.
The custom of clergymen handing out candy canes after Christmas services spread throughout Europe and then later to America.
There is an historical reference that a choirmaster at cologne cathedral bent a candy stick into the shape of a shepherds crook as early as 1670.
The canes remained all white and straight but sometimes the confectioners would add sugar-roses to embellish the canes.
It was at the start of the 20th century that the canes acquired their familiar red stripes.
Great religious significance has been bestowed upon the humble candy cane for example the white indicates the purity of our lord, the three stripes represent the holy trinity the red is for the blood of Christ and the crook on its top is for the shepherds.
The hardness of the candy represents the church's foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament.
And last but by no means least if you turn the cane upside down you have a letter “j” which, yes you’ve guessed it is for Jesus.
There is no historical evidence to support these claims, quite the contrary, but they are lovely thoughts.
Around the same time as the stripe arrived so did the flavorings, Peppermint and wintergreen and they have remained unchanged ever since.
During the 1950’s a catholic priest called Gregory Keller is credited with invented a machine which automated candy cane production.

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