History of the Christmas Star: Natural or supernatural?

Christmas Star

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR: NATURAL OR SUPERNATURAL? 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,…

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History of the Christmas Creche: Origin of the Manger scene

Creche

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS CRECHE: ORIGIN OF THE MANGER SCENE One of the most enduring Christmas traditions is setting up a creche during the Advent season. A creche is a model of the scene of the Manger on the first Christmas at Bethlehem. A creche can be a small model set up in the home…

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History of Mistletoe: Why is it the Kissing plant?

Mistletoe

HISTORY OF MISTLETOE We’ve mentioned elsewhere 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 or…

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History of the 12 Days of Christmas: They’re after Christmas?

Partridge

THE HISTORY OF THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: THEY’RE AFTER CHRISTMAS? The 12 Days of Christmas are the dozen days in the liturgical (ecclesiastical) calendar of the Western Church between the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child (Christmas Day, December 25) and the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to visit at his house…

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History of A Charlie Brown Christmas

HISTORY OF A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS On December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS TV as a 30-minute animated Christmas special written by Charles M. Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. The comic was hugely popular at the time when the TV special debuted. Though this was not Schulz’s first TV…

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History of the Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE December 8 is National Christmas Tree Day. It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin, dating from the time of St. Boniface, an English missionary to Germany in the 8th century. He replaced the sacrifices to the Norse god Odin’s sacred oak — some say…

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History of Chanukah: The Festival of Lights

Menorah

HISTORY OF CHANUKAH Today, at sundown, December 7th begins Chanukah. It is more commonly spelled Hanukkah; both are a transliteration of the Hebrew word חֲנֻכָּה‎ , meaning “dedication.” This Jewish holiday traces its roots back more than 2,000 years.   Events Leading Up to Chanukah At that time, the Jewish people were living under the…

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History of Christmas: Nativity Season — Snow in Bethlehem?

Nativity

HISTORY OF THE NATIVITY SEASON You’ve seen those greeting cards showing Joseph and Mary on the back of a donkey making their way to Bethlehem in the wintry snow. Have you ever wondered if Jesus could have been born during the year’s close, perhaps even with snow on the ground?   Nativity Weather Snow is…

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5 Christmas Myths, Not Found in the Nativity Story

5 Christmas Myths

5 CHRISTMAS MYTHS: NOT FOUND IN THE NATIVITY STORY I’m often asked to explain the history behind a holiday: is it based on history, tradition, or legend? The best historical sources on the birth of Jesus are found in two Gospel accounts in the New Testament: St. Matthew and St. Luke. St. Matthew was a…

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History of a Sacred Oratorio: Considered Scandalous?

covert garden theatre 300x221

HISTORY OF A SACRED ORATORIO The genteel reception accorded the original debut performance stood in marked contrast to the savage hostility that greeted the work less than a year later in the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London. The English aristocracy and churchmen began an unrelenting campaign against the work and its creator. They…

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History of Christmas Music: More than just Carols

Christmas Carols

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 deemed too theological for popular use. Under Francis of Assisi‘s influence in the 13th century, we began to see the rise of the carol written in the vernacular. The word carol comes…

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