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HISTORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Christmas season in 1843 saw the publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No other book or story by Dickens or anyone else (except the Bible) has been more enjoyed, criticized, referred to, or more frequently adapted to other media. One of my favorites was watching Patrick Stewart doing…

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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 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 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 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 It’s obvious that Jesus was born on December 25, A.D. 1 , right? Wrong. What we do know is 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. according to the Jewish historian Josephus, and…

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NATIVITY SEASON Greeting cards depict Joseph along with Mary on the back of a donkey making their way to Bethlehem in the wintry snow. But could Jesus have been born during that time of the year, perhaps with snow on the ground? While it is uncommon it does snow in this part of Palestine sometimes…

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS: ADVENT Here begins our series of articles on the History of Christmas. The Advent Season — Advent means the “coming” of the Christ Child — is marked by the four Sundays before Christmas and is celebrated in the church calendar as one the most festive seasons of the year. As we…

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HISTORY OF BLACK FRIDAY While it is difficult to connect this term to the start of the Christmas shopping sales season before its use in the mid-1960s in Philadelphia, the concept appears to go back to the 19th century when Christmas sales followed Thanksgiving Day parades. In 1939 President Franklin D Roosevelt set the date…

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