FESTIVE FACT # 24
In Germany, during the reformation carols were greatly disapproved of, so as a result many were converted into hymns.
FESTIVE FACT # 22
The first church to be built in New York or New Amsterdam as it was at the time was built by the Dutch.
When it was completed the Dutch named it in honor of the gift giving Saint - St Nicholas.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER
- CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT
The 1945 film “Christmas in Connecticut” tells the amusing story of a magazine writer, played by Barbara Stanwyck, famous for being an expert cook, mother and homemaker who has to entertain a war hero (Dennis Morgan) and her employer (Sydney Greenstreet) at her home on a Connecticut farm.
The only snag being that she can only write about homemaking, she isn’t a mother, she isn’t married and as for cooking she can’t even boil water and she lives in a small apartment in the city.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER
- IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
No Christmas would be complete with watching Frank Capra’s 1946 classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
It was not a success at the box office at the time but it is now one of the most popular and heartwarming films ever made.
A typical performance by the ever dependable James Stewart is supported by the beautiful Donna Reed and playing the grasping villain of the piece Lionel Barrymore.
The film is a slightly dark almost bittersweet tale of a savings and loan manager, and a bit an Earnest do-gooder George Bailey (James Stewart) who struggles against a greedy banker and his own self-doubting nature in a small town.
After suffering a financial catastrophe he see suicide as a possible solution to his predicament only to be rescued by a whimsical, endearing, trainee-angel named Clarence (Henry Travers).
Bailey after years of feeling trapped in a small town finally recognizes his life as wonderful and truly rich.
It’s definitely not the kind of film that would be made today as nobody writes happy endings anymore.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER
- MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
There have been two versions of Miracle on 34th Street and both are well worth watching.
The 1947 version starred Maureen O'Hara and John Payne with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle while in 1994 there parts were played by Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott and Richard Attenborough.
It’s the story of a child brought up by her mother not to believe in Santa Claus however the mother unknowingly employs Kris Kringle to be Santa Claus at Macy’s department store.
Eventually he has to go to trial to prove he is the real Santa.
Apart from being hugely enjoyable films they both have in common the fact that the child stole the show in each case.
Natalie Wood in the original and Mara Wilson in the remake, both were a delight.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER
- WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
The 1995 film 'While You Were Sleeping' is the story of a lonely young woman, Lucy Eleanor Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) who lives alone in an apartment in Chicago, with only her cat.
She works in the token booth at a subway station and fanaticizes about being rescued from her lot by a handsome stranger, Peter, who comes to her booth.
Then on Christmas day her world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger is mugged and pushed onto the tracks and she saves his life.
After a mix up at the hospital Lucy is introduced to Peter’s eccentric family as his fiancée.
This begins an amusing chain of events, during which Lucy finds the friendship and sense of belonging to a family which had been missing from her life and as a result she can’t bring herself to tell the family the truth.
Then she falls in love with Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman).
It’s a truly heartwarming love story not to be missed.
POINSETTIA THE FLOWER OF THE HOLY NIGHT
The Poinsettia is named after the USA's first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, who served from 1825-1829.
He saw and was greatly taken with the colorful indigenous plant which was the Mexican Christmas flower.
The Aztecs called Poinsettias "Cuetlaxochitle." And between the 14th and 16th centuries the sap was used to control fevers and the red leaves were used to make dye.
Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings was particularly fond of Poinsettias and had them brought especially to what is now Mexico City because the shrub could not be grown at high altitude.
Poinsett took some specimen plants with him on one of his trips back to America in 1828 and they flourished.
Despite an outstanding career as a United States Congressman and an ambassador he will always be remembered for introducing the Poinsettia into the United States.
the Mexicans believed the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem because of the star shapes created by the bright red leaves Thus the Poinsettia became associated with the Christmas season.
The Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night".
Since the early part of the 20th century a rumor has persisted that Poinsettias are poisonous.
For over eighty years this rumor has continued to circulate because of an alleged incident in 1919 when the two year old child of an Army office allegedly died after eating a Poinsettia leaf.
It was never proved by medicine or science and no other incidents have been reported but the rumor persists.
Even if they are not poisonous don’t eat them anyway not at Christmas on any other time.
THE PEASANT GIRL AND THE POINSETTIA ANGEL
A Mexican legend tells of the reason for the Poinsettia becoming the Christmas flower.
There was a poor peasant girl really wanted to take a gift to honor the Virgin Mary at the Christmas Eve service but she had nothing to give.
Although she was very upset and disappointed she knew she still had to go to the service and she decided that she would have to go with nothing.
On the way to the church she was met by an angel, who asked her why she was sad.
The peasant girl told the angel it was because she had no gift for the virgin.
The angel told the girl to pick some weeds.
The girl was a little unconvinced that weeds would be suitable but she did it anyway.
She turned back towards the angle to show her the bunch of weeds she had picked as saw that they had been transformed into the bright scarlet 'flowers'.
Ever since that miracle poinsettias have graced churches and homes during the Christmas festival.
A stuffed turkey still occupies pride of place on many a traditional Christmas table.
The Turkey was first brought to Europe from Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century.
It was very quickly domesticated in Spain, France and England and soon dislodged the goose as the traditional festive bird.
THE FESTIVAL OF SAN NICOLA
In Italy the big San Nicola festival commemorates the event of 1087 when the mortal remains of St. Nicholas where brought to Bari.
Many Christians were sufficiently concerned after the Turks occupied Myra they would no longer be permitted to visit the Saints tomb.
So a group of Italian sailors spirited them away to Bari where a huge was Cathedral was built in his honor.
At the festival every May, Nicola's statue is taken out to sea for a day and then Thousands welcome it back to Bari with a lighted procession winding from the harbor to a public square.
The mayor and other dignitaries greet the statue and address the crowds. The week-long celebration includes a solemn high mass in the basilica which is filled to over-flowing with devout worshipers.
FESTIVE FACT # 9
Rudolph, with the shiny red nose, was the ninth reindeer.
He was created in 1939 by an advertising writer for the Montgomery Ward agency.
The song of the classic children’s favorite wasn’t written until ten years later.
THE ROSE, THE CLOVE AND THE SAGE
As King Herod’s savage minions systematically scoured the countryside around Bethlehem, cutting the throats of any newborns they came across, Mary and Joseph fled across the mountains of Judea.
Seeing a village ahead, Joseph ran on to ask for hospitality but alas the people would not help.
While Mary was alone, seated by the roadside nursing the child Joseph took the donkey to drink from the well.
Then she heard shouts getting closer and the ground shook under the hooves of approaching horses. Then she realized it must be Herod’s soldiers.
She had to hide but she could see nowhere suitable no rocks or caves or even a tree.
The only thing Mary could see was a bush where a rose was beginning to bloom.
She walked to the bush and said "Rose, beautiful rose, please open out your petals and hide this child who they want to kill and his poor half-dead mother."
The rose replied, "Get on your way, young woman, and quickly in case the butchers brush by me and blemish my beautiful bloom. Go and see the clove over there. Tell her to shelter you. She has enough flowers to hide you."
She walked to the clove and said "Clove, pretty Clove, please open your branches and hide this child who they want to kill and his poor half-dead mother."
The clove replied,
"On your way, you wretched creature. I don’t have time to listen to you. I am too busy producing blooms all over. Go and see the sage plant over there. She has nothing better to do than dispense charity."
She walked to the bush and said "Sage, good Sage, please lift up your leaves and hide this child who they want to kill and his poor half-dead mother."
The sage plant then burst out in such abundant blossoms so as to cover all the earth and its velvety leaves made a canopy for the Christ child and His mother to shelter under
On the road, Herod's men passed by and saw nothing. At the sound of the soldiers passing, Mary shivered in terror but the baby smiled as he was caressed by the leaves. Then the soldiers were gone.
When Herod's men were gone, Mary and Jesus came out from their green refuge.
“Sage, holy sage, thank you. I bless you for your good deed which will always be remembered.”
Then Joseph found them, with the donkey which had been restored by a huge serving of barley which a kindly man had given him.
Mary remounted the donkey, and hugged her precious child.
When Michael, the Archangel of God, descended from the realms of Heaven to keep them company and show them the way to Egypt.
Since that time the rose has had thorns, the clove has foul smelling flowers and the sage plant is used to cure many ills.
FESTIVE FACT # 5
Many families in Finland visit cemeteries at Christmas time to place candles on the graves of friends and loved ones.
The Orthodox Christian families in Serbia and Montenegro all have their own patron saint.
Each family then celebrates the Saints feast day with a unique Serbian Orthodox religious tradition in the form of Thanksgiving.
This is done on the anniversary of when their ancestors were baptized because when Serbians accepted Christianity whole families, villages or tribes where baptized at the same time.
The same saint is passed down through the generations.
Sveti Nikola or St. Nicholas is the patron saint for more than half of all the Serbian families and as a result many people celebrate on the 6th of December, either with their own family or as a guest elsewhere.
This is the Krsna Slava.
Krsna Slava is not just feasting, singing, and festival, but more importantly it’s a time of spiritual renewal and rededication to the Orthodox faith and church.
The Slava is also a family reunion usually held in the home of the family's oldest living member to commemorate the patron saint.
An Icon of the family's patron saint is on display and a candle, for Christ the Light of the World is lit.
A boiled wheat dish, representing Christ's death and resurrection is served with Slava bread decorated with cross and seal, for Jesus Christ the Bread of Life.
Red wine, for the blood of Christ's washing away sin.
A priest blesses the home and all within and all offer the prayer of Thanksgiving before the icon.
Serbian Orthodox observes Krsna Slava wherever they are live, not just in Serbia.
It is a very important day for the Serbian Orthodox church.
Since the 1950s Santa Claus has, once the Christmas rush is over of course, happily sojourned at Napapiiri, near Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle.
While there he has always been more than happy to meet children and the young at heart.
His visits to Napapiiri had become such a regular occurrence that in 1985 he established his own Santa Claus Office there.
He is available almost every day of the year to hear the children’s requests and to talk to children who have arrived from around the world.
A Village is now well established and it is now the location of Santa's main Post Office, which receives Christmas letters from children in every corner of the world.
THE LATVIAN WAY
The Latvians believe that the gift giver brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas starting on Christmas Eve and ending on epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6.
Usually the presents are put under the family Christmas tree.
What a lovely idea to spread Christmas magic out a little longer.
In 1925, a story was leaked to the international press claiming that due to a lack of grazing for the reindeer Santa Claus had to relocate from the North Pole.
The newspapers revelations when on to claim that Santa Claus had, in fact, moved his entire operation to Finnish Lapland.
There was a great deal of speculation about the validity of the claims until In 1927 "Uncle Markus" or Markus Rautio, who compared the popular "Children's hour" on Finnish public radio, revealed more information about the great secret for the first time.
He not only confirmed the newspaper reports of two years earlier that Santa Claus had moved to Lapland but even went on to name the place Korvatunturi translated as "Ear Fell" which is situated on Finland's eastern frontier.
On St. Nicholas Eve, The children in the Italian city of Molfetta, on the Adriatic coast, put a plate on the table with a letter asking for gifts and promising to be good in the coming year.
In Austria St. Nicholas, is honored throughout the land and It is said that as a reward for his generosity God allowed him to return to earth each year to bring gifts to all the good children of the world.
Christmas has inevitably become the time of year when every man and his dog decides to release a Christmas song.
Most of which would be instantly forgettable if it were not for the operators of supermarkets, department stores, shopping centers and hotels.
The insidious recordings of the Christmas wannaby’s are on a spooled tape which is played discriminately on shop floors, concourses, hotel lobbies and elevators inflicting customers and staff alike with the tortuous tones from October onwards.
The Celts used to bring a large log indoors as a tribute to the sun god this was called the Yule log.
Celts in Cornwall, during the Christmas reveling would chalk a symbol of a man on the Yule log in a cheery reference to the human sacrifices who used to be thrown on the bonfire.
FESTIVE FACT # 14
In 1649 the first American Christmas carol was written by a minister named John de Brebeur and was called "Jesus is born".
In Canada Japanese oranges have a special meaning to the people who live on the Canadian Prairies.
The arrival of a gift from the East, at the coldest time of the year has brightened many homes and Christmas feasts for over a hundred years.
It is believed by many that the festive season only really begins when Santa Claus welcomes the first shipment of Japanese mandarin oranges at the Port of Vancouver.
The shipment of fruit is accompanied by young Japanese girls dressed in tradition kimonos.
On Christmas morning the wonderful fruit is found in many a child's Christmas stocking.
THE NORWEGIAN TREE
The Christmas tree that stands in Trafalgar square every is the traditional Christmas gift to the people of Britain
Every year since 1947 the city of Oslo in Norway has presented the city of Westminster, London with a Christmas tree.
The first tree was a token of Norwegian appreciation of British friendship and support during the Second World War.
After the German forces invaded Norway in 1940, king Haakon vii was helped to escape Britain and a Norwegian government in exile was set up in London.
To the Norwegian people, London came to represent the spirit of freedom as during the dark days of occupation.
It was from London that the latest news was broadcast in Norwegian.
Also there were concealed messages for resistance groups were also broadcast at the same time.
The radio transmissions became a life line for the Norwegian people.
The tree is a powerful symbol of the close and warm relationship between the peoples of Britain and Norway.
The Norwegians are as proud to present their token of friendship as are the people of Britain to receive it.
The tree is a Norwegian spruce and is chosen from the forests surrounding Oslo with great care.
A particular tree can be earmarked for Trafalgar square for anything from several months to a couple of years in advance.
The tree is usually 70 ft. tall and in the region of 50 years old.
The Norwegian foresters responsible for its care describe it fondly as 'the queen of the forest'.
The tree is felled one day in November in the presence of the British ambassador to Norway and the mayors of Oslo and Westminster they even take active part in the felling.
As part of the ceremony local schoolchildren sing Christmas carols and 'forest coffee' and sandwiches are served.
The tree is then shipped across the North Sea to England and then by special transport to Trafalgar square.
The operation to erect the tree takes several hours a scaffolding tower is erected so the tree can be winched upright.
The base of the trees trunk is pushed four feet into the ground and it is then secured with a dozen’s of wooden wedges.
With no other form of support the tree stands unsupported again as it did in the forest.
The lighting ceremony takes place in the dusky early evening of the first Thursday in December.
A band play’s loudly and a choir sings Christmas carols as the mayor of Westminster arrives with other officials in his party.
Then after due ceremony and a flick of a switch the Christmas tree comes alive, in line with Norwegian tradition all the lights are white; the tree turns into a twinkling mass of white lights.
Carols are sung by the choir of nearby St martin-in-the-fields, and carol concerts are held in the square.
A crib is provided by the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-fields and it is placed on the west side of the square.
The passing public may stop on their way home from work and join the carol singers every night until Christmas.
FESTIVE FACT # 15
Christkind is an angelic messenger from Jesus a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.