The story for the Christmas season
(Contributed by Bing Wei, Granny Betty's Story Time )
Most people know that the simple meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God in the Christian religion. The word Christmas originated from an old English phrase, "Cristes Masse", meaning the mass of Christ（基督弥撒）. The date, December 25, was established by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354 AD. He selected the date to mark the official time for celebrating Christ's birth. Before then, the birth of Jesus was observed on different days and even to this day no one is certain the exact date of Christ's birth.
Cultural celebrations of Christmas include glittering light displays, the ever-present jolly
old Santa Claus（圣诞老人）, group celebrations and singing called carolling（圣诞颂歌）, baked holiday cookies and cakes, decorationsofmistletoe（槲寄生，装饰性植物）and pine wreaths, lighted, ornamented Christmas trees with wrapped presents displayed underneath. The spirit of Christmas at its heart is a festival to celebrate family, love, gratitude to others and giving presents to show appreciation to friends and loved ones.
In Europe, typically, family and friends gather together on Christmas Eve, on Dec 24, for a big turkeydinner, completed with Christmas pudding (a rich cake with brandy source). Everyone shares their stories of the year or brings a newsletter to read out for what has happened during the past year. Games are played after the dinner. On Christmas day, Dec 25, abrunch（常用构词法：breakfast+lunch）with family is the norm, followed by some light sporting events, such as a countrywalk, to digest the heavy food.
Dec 26 is calledBoxing Day（节礼日，往往在这一日大家互赠礼物）in the UK, which means everyone opens their box of presents - the most joyful day for the children. In the US, having just celebrated Thanksgiving with turkey, Christmas Eve dinner is more likely to have ham on the menu with a heavy dessert. Dec 25, the Christmas Day is normally the day all the presents are opened.
Christmas trees & cards
The tradition of having a pine tree as a Christmas Tree is believed to come from Germany. Since the medieval time, lighting a candle on a tree is common to welcome guests. Such practice has evolved into the Christmas celebration.
The formal Christmas Tree was introduced to England about 100 years ago when Queen Victoria married German Albert. The evidence of Victoria's love for Albert is not only expressed through inheriting the German tradition of having a Christmas Tree but also through the goldAlbert Statuesthat Victoria had ordered built for Albert, standing in many places in London. In America, the Christmas Tree idea was brought by German immigrants too.
The custom of sending Christmas cards was initiated in England around 1850. The first cards were decorated with elaborate designs of flowers, birds and landscapes.
As for Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, the story goes back to the third century.
Legend has it, Saint Nicholas dedicated all his life to helping mankind, especially children. He died on December 6, which marks theSaint Nicholas Day in many European countries and that was when gifts were given to children. St. Nicholas bears many different names, such asFather Christmas in the UK, San Nicolass in the Netherlands, Le Pere Noel in France, and Kriss Kringle in Germany.
He also arrives on different dates to deliver presents to children in different countries, typically from chimneys.The chimney story was this: Santa flew over house tops in a sleigh, he dropped coins by accident and they landed in some stockings hanging next to the fireplace to dry. From then on, red stockings were hung by the chimney in hopes Santa would fill them with gifts.
Most countries use fabric stocking while in others, wood shoes are also placed on earth for Santa's gift-dropping. In America, the image of Santa Claus was conceived by the famous poem "The Night Before Christmas", written by Clement Moor. Moor transformed the Santa character from a saint in a long robe to a chubby, rosy-cheeked elderly man in a red suit, riding on a sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer.
The tradition of carol singing originated from the carolling practised by the Waits in the fourteenth century. Waits were royal singers who were sent by the court to perform in selected homes for treats, pennies and/or fun. "Carol" means a circle dance accompanied by a song. Most Christmas carols we sing now were composed around 1400-1600's.
The Jewish community celebrates Chanukah（光明节，为纪念公元前165年犹太人战胜希腊的叙利亚侵略者并夺回圣殿） instead of Christmas in December. Chanukah (Hanukkah) is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar, usually falling somewhere in December on the Gregorian calendar.
Chanukah commemorates the cleansing of the Temple after the Jews defeated their occupation by the Syrian Greeks and is observed by lighting the candles of the menorah for eight days, one on the first, two the second and so on so forth.