Many of our modern Christmas customs are carried over from pre-Christian celebrations.
Hanging gifts on trees is purported to stem from the ancient Druids tree worship, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all things good.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION
After the French Revolution and the Monarchy was overthrown the new republican government banned Midnight Mass and as a result the people were denied access to the Church crèches.
Though I support of the revolution The people of Marseilles were not best please with this decision as they were particularly fond of the church Crèche and as the revolutionaries had denied them access to the church they created "public crèches" these were produced by individuals but displayed for all to see.
The original Crèches in Provence date back to the 17th century, when the few bas-reliefs evolved into carved wooden figures.
They were mainly restricted to aristocratic and middle class homes.
The family crèche became even more widespread and some of them contained up to 40 different characters.
Even before decorated Christmas trees became the custom, the crèche already had pride of place in French people’s homes.
Santons are clay figurines that depict the characters of the nativity and were used in church crèches and later in family crèches.
The name Santon comes from the Provencal word "santoùn" or little saint.
The first Santons were modelled in wax by religious orders.
Then later they were made of clay found in the region of Marseilles and Aubagne.
When the French settled on the American continent they took Santons with them and they are an integral part of Christmas in Canada and Louisiana.
The Christmas cactus, native to Brazil, is a popular winter-flowering houseplant.
It has no symbolic or religious connection to Christmas.
The come in a wide variety of colours from red and purple to pink and cream.
Its only reason for being called the Christmas cactus is that it is in flower over the Christmas period.
Eggnog is a tradition that arrived in America from Europe although not in its current form.
In Europe there were many milk and wine punches served at festive times however once in America Rum was used as a substitute for wine.
There seems to be a difference of opinion as to how the Colonial American Milk punch became known as Eggnog.
One theory is that as Rum was commonly known as "grog" and the punch contained Egg the name derived from the description of the drink, "egg-and-grog".
This would have been corrupted to egg'n'grog and then eventually to eggnog.
Another theory claims that the "nog" in eggnog stems from the word "noggin". A noggin being a crude small carved wooden mug often used in low taverns.
So if you have an egg drink in a noggin the drink becomes eggnog.
The final theory is a mixture of the previous two and so claims that eggnog was originally called "egg and grog in a noggin".
They all seem equally unconvincing but without a doubt the jury is still out on the last one I think.
Eggnog is still a popular drink during the holidays today and it’s hard to imagine a Christmas without a cup of the "Eggnog" to spice up a gathering and lend merriment and joy to the proceedings.
THE KISSING BOUGH
The kissing bough was made out of mistletoe, holly, ivy, and any other available evergreens.
It was shaped into a double hoop and had bright streamers flowing from the top and was decorated with apples, pears, ribbons, and lighted candles.
Anyone found under the bough, as with mistletoe, was to be kissed without delay.
The kissing bough was very popular in England but its heyday was before the arrival of the Christmas tree.
TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE
4 Large eggs
2 floz. Jamaica Rum
8 oz. Granulated Sugar
8 floz. Un skimmed Milk
8 floz. Single Cream
1 pint Whiskey
Separate the eggs and then beat the yolks and whites separately before pouring them into a bowl together.
Add other ingredients and mix well then pour into a suitable container for serving.
Keep Refrigerated until ready to serve and sprinkle with nutmeg.
THE MUMMERS AND THE LORD OF MISRULE
In medieval England the Lord of Misrule played a major part in the Christmas festivities.
He led the many holiday activities and wielded real power even over the King.
The Lord of Misrule was appointed by the King and his nobles to reign for the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The chosen man was usually had wisdom enough not to abuse his position of power when dealing with the nobility and when instructing the mummers, a traveling band of rowdy players, whom h controlled out on the streets.
Much of the custom surrounding the Lord of Misrule and the Mummers had parallels with the Roman Saturnalia, during which masters and slaves changed places, with general rowdiness abounding.
The Mummers were a rowdy traveling band of players who roamed the streets in costume performing plays, songs and generally doing as the Lord of Misrule bad them.
While mainly being restricted to the streets they would at times burst into churches and disrupt services and generally carouse around.
They would perform classic Mummer's plays and like carollers, would often perform in exchange for Christmas goodies.
When the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell came to power, they banned the Lord of Misrule and the Mummers.
Although the monarchy restored many of the Christmas traditions outlawed by Cromwell, the Lord of Misrule and the Mummers remained outlawed and never again enjoyed the freedom and popularity they had in medieval England.
December 8TH has been observed as a Roman Catholic feast in commemoration of the Immaculate Conception since1854.
It was in that year that Pope Pius IX made an official declaration that the term "Immaculate Conception" refers to neither the conception of Jesus nor to a virgin birth.
Pope Pius IX further decreed the term "Immaculate Conception" refers to a specific doctrine of Roman Catholicism decreeing that the Virgin Mary was preserved free from original sin by divine grace from the moment of her conception.