A Virtual Cornucopia Of Christmas Knowledge

A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7 - Source

As many people would have traveled to Bethlehem for the census, all the houses, or certainly upper levels were full. Many people think that Jesus was probably born in September or October during Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, rather than during December. During the festival, Jews live outside in temporary shelters (the word 'tabernacle' come from a latin word meaning 'booth' or 'hut').

So Joseph and Mary probably had to sleep with the animals on the low level (where it’s common to have a manger cut into a wall where you put the animal food) or possibly (but unlikely) out in a stable, cave or even a covered market stall that sold animals (these stalls could be rented during tabernacles).

It was the custom in those times to wrap a new born baby very tightly in long bandages called swaddling clothes. The arms and legs of the baby were also wrapped, so they couldn't move. This was done because they thought it helped the baby to grow strong, straight limbs! And as no proper crib was available, the new baby boy was placed in a manger, or feeding trough.

This must have been an amazing scene, but was exactly how the angels had described things to the shepherds up on the hills surrounding Bethlehem!

The birth of Jesus probably didn't happen in the year 0AD but slightly earlier, in about 5, 6 or 7BC. The dates that we use now were set by Monks and religious leaders in the Middle Ages and before. It's also quite likely that Jesus was actually born in the autumn (during Tabernacles), not in the winter! It can get very cold in the winter in Israel and it is thought that the census would have most likely taken place during the spring or autumn, at a when many pilgrims, from all over the country, came to visit Jerusalem (which is about six miles from Bethlehem). Also during the winter, it's less likely that the shepherds would have been keeping sheep out on the hills (as those hills can get quite a lot of snow during winter sometimes!). - Source

The Christmas Truce

Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols. At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. In 1915, the bloody conflict of World War I erupted in all its technological fury, and the concept of another Christmas Truce became unthinkable. - Source

The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerstmis, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil. The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning "wheel". The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." - Calvin Coolidge

"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." - Dale Evans

"The two most joyous times of the year are Christmas morning and the end of school." - Alice Cooper

"The thing about Christmas is that it almost doesn't matter what mood you're in or what kind of a year you've had - it's a fresh start." - Kelly Clarkson

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!" - Charles Dickens

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph." - Shirley Temple

"Faith is salted and peppered through everything at Christmas. And I love at least one night by the Christmas tree to sing and feel the quiet holiness of that time that's set apart to celebrate love, friendship, and God's gift of the Christ child." - Amy Grant

"I don't think Christmas is necessarily about things. It's about being good to one another, it's about the Christian ethic, it's about kindness." - Carrie Fisher

"At Christmas, I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child." - Queen Elizabeth II

"I remember a great America where we made everything. There was a time when the only thing you got from Japan was a really bad cheap transistor radio that some aunt gave you for Christmas." - Cher

"On Christmas morning, before we could open our Christmas presents, we would go to this stranger's home and bring them presents. I remember helping clean the house up and putting up a tree. My father believed that you have a responsibility to look after everyone else." - George Clooney

"I throw a Christmas party at my house. It's not really a Christmas party, because I don't want to call it a Christmas party. But let's just say I put a lot of Christmas trees around the house, so it smells good." - Bill Murray

"I just want to express how truly happy I am today. All the birthday messages from all of you really touched my heart. It just proves how blessed I really am. Even though I didn't get a chance to thank each of you personally I want to take this time to let you know how much I love and appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you for bringing a smile to my heart today. Bless you all." - Ken Hulsey (Intergalactic Knucklehead)

1776 - Washington crosses the Delaware

During the American Revolution, Patriot General George Washington crosses the Delaware River with 5,400 troops, hoping to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, New Jersey. The unconventional attack came after several months of substantial defeats for Washington’s army that had resulted in the loss of New York City and other strategic points in the region.

At about 11 p.m. on Christmas, Washington’s army commenced its crossing of the half-frozen river at three locations. The 2,400 soldiers led by Washington successfully braved the icy and freezing river and reached the New Jersey side of the Delaware just before dawn. The other two divisions, made up of some 3,000 men and crucial artillery, failed to reach the meeting point at the appointed time. - Source

1941 - Bing Crosby introduces “White Christmas” to the world

“White Christmas,” written by the formidable composer and lyricist Irving Berlin receives its world premiere on this day in 1941 on Bing Crosby’s weekly NBC radio program, The Kraft Music Hall. It went on to become one of the most commercially successful singles of all time, and the top-selling single ever until being surpassed by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.”

“White Christmas” took its first steps toward becoming a bedrock standard in the American songbook when Crosby first performed it publicly on Christmas Day, 1941. The song’s success couldn’t have surprised Berlin, who despite having already written such songs as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Cheek To Cheek” and “God Bless America,” had raced into his Manhattan office in January 1940 and asked his musical secretary to transcribe “The best song I ever wrote…the best song anybody ever wrote.” It was nearly two years later, however, that Crosby finally premiered the song on live radio, and a year after that that Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas” became a smash pop hit. - Source

Although most Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, few in the first two Christian centuries claimed any knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born. The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that tells of a Christ’s Nativity festival led by the church of Rome in 336 A.D. The precise reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains obscure, but most researchers believe that Christmas originated as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

To early Christians (and to many Christians today), the most important holiday on the Christian calendar was Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, as Christianity began to take hold in the Roman world, in the early fourth century, church leaders had to contend with a popular Roman pagan holiday commemorating the “birthday of the unconquered sun” (natalis solis invicti)–the Roman name for the winter solstice. - Source


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