What you might not know about Christmas

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What did Saint Francis have to do with the Nativity scenes? Who sent the first Christmas card? What is important about these traditions is not the superficial aspects, but their inner meaning.

Christmas traditions are not only very beautiful, they also help create a festive atmosphere in families and communities, teaching aspects of the true meaning of Christmas.

1 THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Centuries ago, pagans used to display pine branches during winter as a reminder that spring would return. The Romans used them to adorn the temples of their god Saturn.

However, Christmas trees as such have a more recent origin. In the 12th century, representations (Paradispiel) took place in church squares before Christmas, illustrating original sin and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. Given the winter date of these representations, evergreen trees were used as substitutes for the tree of good and evil. Symbolic decorations were finally added. The tradition of trees settled inside as the performances died down.

The particular version of the Christmas tree that we know today comes from the German tradition. In the 19th century, Queen Victoria of England asked her husband Prince Albert (who was German) to install a tree inside the palace. As the news spread, this custom became popular in England, the United States and the rest of the world.

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2 SETTING UP A NURSERY OR NURSERY

We owe the tradition of nativity scenes to Saint Francis of Assisi and his disciples. Around the year 1223, they had the idea of ​​having a living Nativity so that people would see the humility with which Jesus came into the world.

They set up a stable and invited the townspeople to make a living reenactment, with animals included. It was so popular that it began to be reproduced all over Italy. Later, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the first figures of the Nativity began to be made in Naples.

TO EAT

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3 MIDNIGHT MASS

Pope Sixtus III introduced in Rome the custom of celebrating a midnight vigil at Christmas “mox ut gallus cantaverit” (immediately after the cock crows) to celebrate the arrival of Jesus into the world. In ancient times, the Romans considered the rooster crowing as the start of the day, at midnight. For this reason, in some Latin languages ​​the midnight mass on Christmas Eve is called the “rooster mass” – “Misa del Gallo” in Spanish, for example.

Christmas mass at midnight

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4 ADVENT CALENDARS

As you may have noticed, business calendars do not usually coincide with the Advent season; they often start their countdown on the first day of December.

Gerhard Lang of Germany is considered the inventor of the first printed Advent calendar. He created it in the early 1900s, inspired by the one his mother made for him with 24 color illustrations glued to a sheet of cardboard. Lang modified it by adding small doors or windows, and it became a hit in Germany.

In this country, Protestants marked Advent days with chalk on the doors and every day they gave children a pious picture or a verse or poem from the Bible to read.

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5 PRINTED CHRISTMAS CARDS

This tradition originated in England, when Henry Cole, a prominent educator and patron of the arts, struggled in 1843 to respond to all the letters the elite he worked for sent him, thanks to the new postal system.

Not answering was very rude, but doing one at a time was too ambitious a task, so he asked his illustrator friend JC Horsley to return a design he had in mind: a celebrating family in the center and two scenes of helping the poor on the sides with the message “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you”. He then had the illustration reproduced in a printing house in London.

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6 CHRISTMAS SONG

When Christians began to replace pagan winter holidays with Christmas, bishops across Europe called for songs to be composed for church services. However, although they were very beautiful, most were in Latin, so many could not sing or understand them.

So, inspired by folk songs, which people sang on all kinds of subjects, in the 5th century Christmas carols began to be composed to bring the Good News to villagers who could not read, using simple language and relevant.

Perhaps the most famous, Silent Night (“Stille Nacht”), was composed by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr and his church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. It was performed for the first time on December 24, 1818 in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf (Austria).

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7 CHRISTMAS SOCK

Interestingly, Saint Nicholas (the true saint) is the originator of this tradition of putting stockings on the fireplace. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas learned that a widower was very worried, because he believed that his daughters would never marry because they were poor and had no money for the dowry which was customary at the time.

One night the girls hung their stockings in the fireplace to dry them, and the next day they found them full of gold coins, courtesy of the saint.

CHRISTMAS SOCKS

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8 CANDY CANS

It is said that a candy maker in the United States wanted to make a candy in honor of Jesus at the turn of the 20th century. He made it in the shape of a cane to represent Jesus as our Shepherd; hard candy, to represent that he is our rock.

He also deliberately chooses the colors: white for its purity and red for the blood he shed for us; and he even wanted to make them with mint, reminiscent of the taste of hyssop, a plant present in the Old Testament and used for purification.

CHRISTMAS CANDIES

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9 ADVENT CROWN

One of the pre-Christian customs of the Germans was to make wreaths from green branches during the cold winter and to light fires as a sign of hope for the coming of spring.

But around the 16th century, German Catholics and Protestants adopted this custom, lighting candles in anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ (Light of the world). In addition, the crowns, due to their circular shape, perfectly represent eternal life and love, with no beginning or end.

Although some people use white or red candles, the tradition is to use three purple candles and a rose. However, the most important thing is the light.

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10 LIGHTS ON CHRISTMAS TREE

It is said that the idea to put lights on the Christmas tree came from Luther. He was walking in a forest at night and was moved by the way the stars lit up the trees, so he wanted to recreate this in his house. He put a tree in his living room and candles in its branches.

Much later, in 1882, Edward Hibberd Johnson, a friend and business partner of Thomas Edison, came up with the idea of ​​putting strips of light bulbs on the Christmas tree.

Christmas tree

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11 PANETTONE

Panettone is a sweet bread that is a Christmas staple in Italy and has been imported to other countries by Italian immigrants and by globalization. According to one of Italy’s most popular legends, this treat was invented on Christmas Eve in the 15th century by a cook named Toni, who served the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza (commonly known as “Il Moro”).

As the story goes, the cook was busy with all the other dishes and his Christmas pudding burned, so he rushed to find an alternative. He took the yeast dough he had saved for his Christmas bread and mixed it with flour, raisins, sugar, eggs and candied fruit. The Duke liked the new dessert so much that he decided to call it “pan di Toni”(“ Tony’s Bread ”).

However, this is only a legend, and the truth is that breads similar to sugar, spices and raisins date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

panettone

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12 UFS

Originally, British aristocrats created a hot and creamy drink made from eggs and brandy. But since its ingredients were too expensive for most, many people replaced brandy with rum.

Eggnog

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13 THE NUTCRACKER

Going to the theater to see this ballet is a Christmas staple for many families. With original music by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, it was performed for the first time in St. Petersburg (Russia) on December 18, 1892. The first time it was performed in another country, c ‘was in England in 1934 and, 10 years later, in the United States.

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14 POINSETTIA

Why are these flowers linked to Christmas? It’s not just because poinsettias are showy and red or don’t flower until December. In their country of origin, which is Mexico, there is a legend that says that a poor girl went to leave a bunch of weeds for the Baby Jesus in a manger because it was the only thing she had to give, and miraculously, they became in this beautiful flower.

The plant got its name from the fact that it was botanist and American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the plant to the United States in 1828.

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