Can we listen to Christmas music now? When we start celebrating holidays

THE START OF HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS On November 1st a friend asked, partly in jest: “Halloween is over, can we listen to Christmas music now?”   And therein lies a conundrum. When do we begin the celebration of the Christmas holiday? There are two schools of thought: Celebrate each holiday in its own season: first Halloween,…

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History of Boxing Day: Feast of St. Stephen?

HISTORY OF BOXING DAY Boxing Day is a holiday unfamiliar to many Americans, but it it well known among the countries of the British Commonwealth. It is celebrated on December 26 as a public holiday in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand… as well as some parts of Europe and Africa. While some believe…

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History of Christmas: Caesar Augustus

HISTORY OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS Perhaps it is fitting that our last article on the History of 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 Mistletoe

HISTORY OF MISTLETOE We’ve mentioned previously that mistletoe was prominent in the traditions of the Druids and the lore of northern Europe. The Druids used the mistletoe of their sacred oak as part of their ritual five days after the new moon following the Winter Solstice. In the middle ages it was hung from ceilings…

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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 12 Days of Christmas: they follow 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 the Christmas Creche: the Manger scene

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS CRECHE One of the most beautiful Christmas traditions is setting up a creche during the Advent season. A creche is a model of the scene at the manger on the first Christmas in the stable at Bethlehem. A creche can be a small model, set up in the home or a…

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History of King Herod: Why was he called Great?

HISTORY OF HEROD THE KING When the wise men asked Herod the King “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” their question was not really spoken in a vacuum, for even the Roman author Suetonius wrote, “There had spread all over the East an old and established belief that it was fated…

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History of the Magi: 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 Santa Lucia

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

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History of A Christmas Carol: A ghost story of Christmas

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: some pre-Christian?

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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