Christmas 1, December 30th 2018
I bring to you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10 – 11
Gracious God, Creator and mother of the universe, be born in us again, as you were born long ago. Be born in us as you continue to be born again and again in the words and deeds of faithful people. Be born in us, as is light, as in Joy, as in Peace, as in Justice. Be born in us so that we may be the body of Christ in this time and this place. Amen.
Isaiah 62:6 – 12
Titus 3:4 – 6 a
Luke 2:1 – 20
Top Christmas traditions and their origins
by Jeremy Dixon and Stacey Conradt
The Christmas tree
Before Christianity was even conceived of, people in Europe used evergreen boughs to decorate their homes during the winter. The greenery reminded them that plants would return in abundance soon. As Christianity became more popular in Europe, and Germany in particular, the tradition was absorbed into it.
Technically, Advent, a religious event that has been celebrated since the 4th century, the four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the November 30 feast day of St Andrew the apostle. Traditionally, it marked the period to prepare for Christmas as well as His 2nd coming. These days, it is mostly used as a countdown to Christmas for the religious and the nonreligious of life.
Early mince pies were made of meat, fruit and spice and inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine brought back by the Crusaders. They commonly had 13 ingredients representing Christ and the apostles and reform into a large oval shaped to represent the manger. Meat disappeared from the recipe by Victorian times.
Leaving stockings at Christmas goes back to the legend of St Nicholas. Known as the gift giver, there were is an old tradition of leaving out cheese with hay inside them on December 5, the eve of St Nicholas’s feast day. Lucky children would discover that the hay they left had been replaced with treats or coins when they woke up the next morning. The Dutch later referred to St Nicholas as Sinterklaas and eventually, by English speakers as Santa Claus.
London sweet maker Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers the late 1840s. Inspired by traditional, paper wrapped French bonbons. Even though he included mottos or riddles inside each, it was not until he found a way to make them “crack” when pulled apart they took off. His sons Tom, Walter and Henry later added hats and novelty gifts.
Also known as plum or figgy pudding, this Christmas staple possibly has its roots as far back as the Middle Ages in which base portage known as frumently. By the mid-17th century, it was thicker and had developed into a desert with the addition of eggs, dried fruit and alcohol. In Victorian times plum pudding was a Christmas favourite. It is traditionally made a week before Advent on what is known as “mixup Sunday”.
Hanging mistletoe in the homes is an ancient pagan practice adopted by early Christians. The word itself is Anglo-Saxon and the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originated in England. Each kiss required a berry to be plucked until none remained.
Carols were songs and dances of grace and joy. In time the practice of Carol singing carried over into the Christian era. Carols have been written through the centuries but the most familiar date from Victorian times. Today popular songs such as Bing Crosby’s white Christmas and Mariah Carey’s all the want for Christmas just as much part of Christmas as carols.
Having helped set up the public records office in London (now the post office) Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley created the first Christmas cards in 1843 as a way of encouraging people to use its services. The cardboard greeting showed a happy group of people participating in a toast, along with the printed sentiment, “a Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you.” A thousand of them were printed that first year, and because it cost just a penny to mail a holiday hello to friends and family (the card itself was a shilling, or 12 times as much), the cards sold like hot cakes and a new custom was born.