History of Christmas: The Wise Men

HISTORY OF THE WISE MEN You’re familiar with the song that begins “We Three Kings of Orient Are…” but it is inaccurate in at least three ways. We don’t know how many there were, but we know they weren’t kings. They did not originate in the Orient, meaning the Far East. How could they have…

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History of the Christmas 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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History of the Poinsettia

HISTORY OF THE POINSETTIA I studied one summer in Cuernavaca, a little town south of Mexico City. There is a story told there that long ago the people flocked to church on Christmas Eve because they loved to fill the Christ child’s manger with flowers. A little boy named Jose was too poor to buy…

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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 the Norse god Odin’s sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child. The legend is told…

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History of Santa Claus

HISTORY OF SANTA CLAUS December 6 is "Saint Nicholas Day". Santa Claus, a contraction for Saint Nicholas, 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 giving of…

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History of Christmas Traditions

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS Many of the customs that we associate with Christmas come from largely pagan or pre-Christian backgrounds. The word Yule comes from an old Norse word for a twelve-day celebration. Mistletoe was prominent in the traditions of the Druids and the lore of northern Europe. The wassail bowl was first known in…

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History of Christmas Music

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC Music early became a marked feature of the Christmas season. But the first chants, litanies, and hymns were in Latin and too theological for popular use. The 13th century found the rise of the carol written in the vernacular under the influence of Francis of Assisi. The word carol comes from…

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History of A Sacred Oratorio

HISTORY OF A SACRED ORATORIO The genteel reception accorded the original debut performance stood in marked contrast to the savage hostility which greeted the work less than a year later in London. The English aristocracy and churchmen began an unrelenting campaign against the work and its creator. They labeled it "a profanation," scandalized at "the…

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History of Christmas: The Year

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS: THE YEAR It’s obvious that Jesus was born on December 25, A.D. 1 , right? Wrong. We do know that Herod the Great (who killed all the babies in Bethlehem younger than 2 years of age) died in the Spring of 4 B.C., and the king was quite alive during the visit…

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