25 Days of Christmas: Day 25 ~ Christmas Around the World, Part V

Christmas in the Middle East

Although much of the Middle East is devoted to Islam – or, in Israel, to Judaism – every year thousands of Christians from around the world make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, especially Bethlehem. They come to visit the place where, according to the Gospels, it all began. Not surprisingly, this is the time of the year when Bethlehem is most popular, although the scope of the celebrations often depend on the political climate at the time.

The festivities in the “little town” center on the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Fields. The Church of the Nativity is believed to stand on the place where Christ was born; under the church, within a small cave, a star on the floor marks the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus. The Shepherds’ Fields is said to represent the fields where the angels announced the arrival of Christ.

There are three Christian groups in Bethlehem. The Roman Catholics celebrate Christmas on December 25, the Greek Orthodox on January 6, and the Armenian Christians on January 18. Representatives protecting the interests of these three groups sit on a board that governs the Church of the Nativity, so that no group will be favored or slighted. No services are held within the church itself, but rather in an adjoining building. Services on Christmas Eve are by invitation only, but are televised to the crowds outside. Afterwards, most venture to the Shepherd’s’ Fields, which are also divided into three sections.

Christmas is also celebrated quite widely in Lebanon, with lights, carols, and midnight church services.  Papa Noel brings presents to children, and the meal often includes a cake that’s designed to resemble a Yule log.

Some of the more predominantly Muslim countries do have Christian sections, and in those sections Christmas is observed, although the observance is usually more strictly religious, as in Africa. Some countries, however, have Christian populations that have been celebrating Christmas for centuries.

In Armenia, it is believed that Christmas should be celebrated on the day of Christ’s baptism, which is January 6 in most church calendars. However, the Armenian Church follows the old Julian calendar, which marks this date as January 18. One week before Christmas there is a fast, during which no meat, eggs, cheese, or milk may be consumed. Religious services are held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Afterward, children go onto the roofs with handkerchiefs and sing carols; often the handkerchiefs are later filled with fruit, grain or money.

Christmas in the Far East

In the Far East, Christianity exists alongside such other faiths or ideologies as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism. While Christians celebrate the holidays for its traditional meanings, many of the other aspects, such as decorating and gift giving, have been adopted more widely.

China

China was only opened to the West 400 years ago, so – relatively speaking – Christians and Christmas have not been around for long. A very small portion of the Christian ChinaChristmaspopulation celebrates Christmas that’s referred to as Sheng Dan Jieh, or the Holy Birth Festival. Christmas trees are called “trees of light,” and paper lanterns are intermingled with holly for decorations. Stocking are hung, and there are versions of Santa known as Lam Khoong-Khoong (nice old father) and Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas old man). Gift given has some formal rules: Jewelry and other more-valuable gifts are only given to the immediate family; other gifts are given to relatives and friends.

More important to the majority of Chinese is the New Year, referred to as the Spring Festival, which is celebrated in late January. New toys and clothes are given and feasts are held. The spiritual aspects concern ancestor worship, and portraits of ancestors are displayed on New Year’s Eve. This is not, strictly speaking, a Christmas celebration, but it is a festive and popular seasonal undertaking.

Christmas in Other Parts of the World

Canada

CanadaChristmas1Christmas is celebrated in many different ways in Canada, a result of the way that cultural and religious groups from many parts of the world have found a home there. Many Canadians of Ukrainian descent, for example, follow the Orthodox church’s calendar, and celebrated Christmas on January 6. In French-speaking areas such as the providence of Quebec, the Roman Catholic traditions of displaying creches, or Nativity scenes, as decorations remain very strong, as does attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a hearty meal that includes tourtiere (a meat pie) and present opening.

The annual Santa Claus Parade in downtown Toronto began in 1905 as a way to celebrate the arrival of Santa at the Eaton’s department store. The first parade featured Santa arriving at the train station and walking to the store. Today, the parade – with bands, clowns, and intricately decorated floats – features almost 2,000 participants and stretches for more than three miles.

Along with the widespread North American traditions of decorating the home inside CanadaChristmasand out with lights, visiting Santa at local stores and malls to offer him a wish list, and decorating Christmas trees with ornaments and lights, many Canadians Christmas traditions depend on geography.

In the north, for example, the winter season was often celebrated before the arrival of Christmas with feasts, games, dogsled races, and gift exchanges. Known as Quviasuvvik, or the Happy Time, many of these traditions have now been wrapped into the church services and charitable causes that are part of Canadian customs throughout the country.

In Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, the Carol Ships are an annual traditional, as boats decorated with sparkling lights to take the harbor in a nightly parade throughout December.

Australia

AustraliaChristmas1As in South Africa, Christmas falls during summer vacation down under. Because of the climate, flowers are the most important Christmas decoration, particularly the Christmas Bush and the Christmas Bell. Father Christmas and Santa exist side by side – like siblings, which they certainly are. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning before attending church. Typically, the afternoon is spent at the beach or engaging in sports.

AustraliaChristmasAustralia is also the home of “Carols by Candlelight,” a tradition stated by radio announcer Norman Banks in 1937. After Banks saw a woman listening to carols alone by candlelight, he decided to do something to relieve the loneliness and isolation some feel during the holidays. He announced a community carol sing for anyone who wanted to join in. The concept has grown in popularity over the years, and the recorded program is now broadcast over the world.

 (Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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Regardless of where you live or how you celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. From our home to yours, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Year’s.

 

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25 Days of Christmas: Day 19 ~ A Century of American Christmases, Part III (1960-1980)

Christmas in the 1960s

1960 tape recorderA pivotal decade, the 1960s were marked by the Civil Rights movement, the rise of the hippies, the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam War, and the race to be the first nation to reach the moon. Postwar baby boomers began to transition from teenagers to adults against a background of toys that included Easy Bake Ovens, the Etch-a-Sketch, and GI Joe.

1960s Christmas Budget

Kitchen convenience was offered in style in the 1960s – never mind the refrigerator, check out the lazy Susans and the electric can openers!

  • Lazy Susan – $4.76
  • Electric can opener – $7.77
  • Ladies’ stretch slacks – $3.97
  • Aluminum Christmas tree and stand – $2.99
  • “Your kiddie’s Polaroid picture taken with Santa himself” – $0.49
  • Viewmaster stereo viewer in “rugged, shock-resistant plastic” – $1.75

 Christmas in the 1970s

1970sProtest against the Vietnam War increased as the decade opened; it would close with the capture of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, after seeing the end of the war and the resignation of a president, North America families took to the highways in station wagons, sporting mood rings and playing with Rubik’s Cubes, skate-boards, and Matchbox cars.

1970s Christmas Budget

  • Stereo set with turntable and 8-track player – $199.95
  • AM radio mounted in headphones – $14.95
  • Lava lamp – $45.00
  • “25-function” calculator – $49.95
  • CB radio – $89.95
  • Bionic Man action figure – $6.65
  • Baby Thataway – $8.88
  • Ten-speed bike – $99.50
  • Evel Knievel stunt cycle – $9.95

Christmas in the 1980s

1980sThe beginning of the end for the Cold War marked the close of this decade, as the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. Here at home, the drive toward space continued with the first reusable space vehicle, the Space Shuttle, in 1981. Computers arrived in homes and schools, while video games such as Nintendo and Pac Man gained huge followings. Shoppers flocked to stores in search of Cabbage Patch Dolls, while other hot toys included Trivial Pursuit and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

1980s Christmas Budget

  • Microwave oven – $227.00
  • Videocassette recorder (1980) – $1,395
  • Videocassette recorder (1989) – $299
  • Garfield telephone – $44.70
  • Space Invaders video game cassette – $24.88
  • Care Bear – $13.99
  • Castle Greyskull, from Masters of the Universe Collection – $23.99
  • Lazer tag game kit – $29.99
  • Rambo Rocket water launcher – $14.96

(Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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25 Days of Christmas: Day 9 ~ Christmas In America

American Christmas

Columbus’ 1492 voyage to the New World ended when he ran aground on Christmas Eve, and he and his men were rescued by native peoples. His was, of course, the first of many such expeditions to what would eventually be called the Americas. Later explorers found the inhabitants of these unfamiliar lands engaging in end-of-the-year festivals just as people did back in Europe. Peoples in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska had winter celebrations; a tribe in North Dakota hung gifts on cedar trees.

To understand modern Christmas traditions, however, you need to look toward Europe. The first wave of European settlers to the colonies came from English, Dutch, and Germanic backgrounds. These groups, representing a variety of churches and religious affiliations, organized communities according to the traditions and values of their heritage. Among other religious, cultural, and political differences during the colonial period, was the question of Christmas. In this case, there was scant middle ground; Some were completely for it, some completely opposed.

Outlawing Christmas in America

The celebration of Christmas in early America depended very much on where the settlers had come from in the Old World. Those with traditional English backgrounds tended to recognize the holiday, while the Separatist or Puritan pilgrims brought with them the sentiments of the Protestant Reformation in seventeenth century England: They believed that the day didn’t necessarily reflect Christ’s true birth date, and they disapproved of the excesses involved in its celebration. Excerpts from the diary of Governor Bradford of Plymouth Colony, for example, give a dismal description of Christmas in 1621, describing only work and the discouragement of celebration.

Not surprisingly, the traditions of the English grew even more unpopular after the American Revolution. Christmas had a long way to go in the new United States of America.

Christmas Comes Back

puritan-christmasThe Puritans were not the only group of settlers in early America, however. In Virginia, the Cavaliers (seventeenth-century English royalists) observed Christmas by ringing bells, decorating evergreens, and feasting. Dutch immigrants also arrived in the seventeenth century, along with their Christmas traditions, which included Sinter Klaas. And, of course, settlers from Germany also brought their strong holiday traditions with them.

This steady influx of moderates from overseas brought about the repeal of the anti-Christmas law in 1681, and the first Christmas services were held in Boston Town Hall in 1686. Still, even when it was no longer illegal, Christmas remained a workday in Boston. Although Alabama declared Christmas a legal holiday in 1836, the first state to do so, the same was not done in Boston until 1856, and children there were attending school on Christmas day until 1870.

In the nineteenth century, it seemed that wherever Germans settled in America, they brought Christmas cheer. In Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, and elsewhere they kept their love of Christmas alive. In some places they were surrounded by some of the holidays’ staunchest opponents, but they carried on anyway, and gradually gained converts to their merry ways. An infusion of Victorian Christmas spirit that began in the middle of the nineteenth century, coupled with the continued dedication to the holiday by German immigrants and their descendants, brought about the beginning of the Christmas that Americans recognize today.

Another important influence in bringing Christmas to America was author Washington Irving. He introduced St. Nicholas in his 1809 book A History of New York, and followed that up with The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819, in which his stories about an English manor house Christmas evoked traditional elements of the holiday, including a Lord of Misrule. In Irving’s Christmas writings, peach and generosity ruled, rather than the raucous partying that had so dismayed Puritan leaders and led to the holiday’s banning.

The American South led the way in returning Christmas, with Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas all declaring the day an official holiday in the 1830s. The federal government didn’t follow until 1870. In 1890, Oklahoma – the last contiguous state or territory that did not officially recognize Christmas as a holiday – also changed its mind. The country was now celebrating from sea to shining sea, gradually incorporating customs and traditions from all over the world.

(Jeffery, Yvonne, “The Everything Family Christmas Book”)

Garland1-1Festive Fact

Christmas was officially banned in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681, rolled in together with such frowned-upon activities as gambling. Those who disobeyed the law, and were found celebrating the holiday by feasting or drinking, for example, could be fined five shillings.

Holiday Helper

Hessian troops at Trenton, unwilling to forsake their customary celebrations during the Christmas season of 1776, were taken by surprise by General Washington in one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War. As it happens, Hessians, who came from central Germany, are believed to have been the first to set up a Christmas tree on American soil.

Happy Birthday

Wishing a dear someone a Happy 20th Anniversary of their 29th Birthday.

Now..GO FISHING!

Fishing

New Year, Adventures, and Memories

Happy New Year

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The time has arrive, we have crossed into the year of our Lord, TWO THOUSAND FOURTEEN.  I am ever so excited about what the new year holds for my family and I.  We are all looking forward to the adventures in store and the stories to be shared (blogged).

2014 will be a year of changes, additions, high expectations for us as The Boy graduates from high school in the summer and a couple of months after that, my fourth grandchild will make their arrival.  Sometime during the year I am hoping to get out to Seattle and visit with my oldest son and his family.

I hope you take time for adventures; making sure to include family and friends. From our home to yours, we wish you all a blessed, fulfilled, happy, and adventurous year!