How did the symbols of the Christmas holidayoriginate? Have you ever wondered what various Holiday Traditions mean?
Here is a quick guide that you can use when visiting family and friends.
Traditions can be as diverse as the culture and religious practices of each and every country in the world when it comes to the holiday season. These are just a few of the most common questions.
How did Santa Claus come to be? The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.
Why do we put up a Christmas Tree? In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religious play depicted the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. While coming home one December evening, the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir inspired him to recreate the effect by placing candles on the branches of a small fir tree inside his home.
Why do we hang a Christmas Stocking? The legend for this story starts with a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls’ plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman’s house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.
What do Poinsettia plants mean? One legend has it that a young Mexican boy, on his way to visit the village Nativity scene, realized he had no gift for the Christ child. He gathered pretty green branches from along the road and brought them to the church. Though the other children mocked him, when the leaves were laid at the manger, a beautiful star-shaped flower appeared on each branch.
What does the Candy cane represent? Recent explanations of the candy cane’s symbolism hold that the color white represents Christ’s purity, the red the blood he shed, and the presence of three red stripes the Holy Trinity. While factual evidence for these notions does not exist, they have become increasingly common and at times are even represented as fact.
Why do we send Christmas cards? A form of Christmas card began in England first when young boys practiced their writing skills by creating Christmas greetings for their parents, but it is Sir Henry Cole who is credited with creating the first real Christmas card.
What is Kwanazzaa? Doctor Maulana Karenga, a Professor at California State University in Long Beach, California, created Kwanzaa in 1966. It is a holiday celebrated by millions of African-Americans around the world, encouraging them to remember their African heritage and consider their current place in America today. Kwanzaa is celebrated fom December 26 to January 1 and involves seven principles called Nguzo Saba: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). In the Kwanzaa ritual, seven candles called Mishumaa Saba are placed in a Kinara, or candleholder, which is then set upon the Mikeka, a mat usually made of straw.
What is Hannuakah? Commencing on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the Syrians. A search of the temple produced a small vial of undefiled oil — enough for only one day. Miraculously, the Temple lights burned for eight days until a new supply of oil was brought. In remembrance of this miracle, one candle of the Menorah – an eight branched candelabra – is lit each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Hanukkah, which means dedication, is a Hebrew word when translated is commonly spelled Hanukah, Chanukah, and Hannukah due to different translations.
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