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Archive for December 2005

History of the Twelve Days of Christmas

THE HISTORY OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS The “Twelve Days of Christmas” are the dozen days in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church between the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi to visit at his house in Bethlehem (Epiphany, January 6). The…

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History of Chanukah

HISTORY OF CHANUKAH Also spelled hanukkah, means “dedication”. This Jewish holiday traces its roots back more than 2,000 years. At that time the Jewish people were living under the oppressive government of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, (a rather ironic name) who was a descendant of Seleucus, the general of Alexander the Great. During…

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History of Augustus

HISTORY OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS Perhaps it is fitting that our last article on the History behind Christmas should be about the first person mentioned in St. Luke’s story of the first Christmas. He was neither Palestinian, nor Jew, nor shepherd, nor wise man. He was in fact, 1500 miles away, the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.…

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History of A Christmas Carol

HISTORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL This week in 1843 saw the publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No other book or story by Dickens or anyone else (save the Bible) has been more enjoyed, criticized, referred to, or more frequently adapted to other media. None of his other works is more widely recognized or,…

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History of the Star

HISTORY OF THE STAR The star of Bethlehem has puzzled scholars for centuries. Some have skeptically dismissed the phenomenon as a myth, a mere literary device to call attention to the importance of the Nativity. Others have argued that the star was miraculously placed there to guide the Magi and is therefore beyond all natural…

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Science of the Solstice

SCIENCE OF THE SOLSTICE As we’ve mentioned before, the Romans celebrated a holiday know as the Saturnalia beginning on the Winter Solstice. The word Solstice comes from the Latin “solstitium” meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year it will occur on December 21 at 18:35 UT (Greenwich Universal Time.) Earth enjoys different seasons because the planet is…

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History of Santa Lucia

HISTORY OF LUCIADAGEN In Sweden, December 13 is Luciadagen, or St. Lucia’s Day, or in English, St. Lucy. It is the beginning of their holiday season. The Lutheran Danes and Norwegans also celebrate this day. St. Lucia was a young woman who lived in first century Rome. She was a Christian who would not give…

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History of the Christmas Tree

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin dating from Boniface, English missionary to Germany in the 8th century, who replaced the sacrifices to Odin’s sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child. The legend is told that Boniface found…

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History of Santa Claus

HISTORY OF SANTA CLAUS One of the traditions of Christmas is Santa Claus, a contraction for Saint Nicholas, who was born in the 3rd century, perhaps in A.D. 270. He became a bishop in Greece and gained distinction in the councils of the church, being especially famed for unexpected gifts, and later associated with the…

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