All About the History of Christmas Cards

Home / Christmas / All About the History of Christmas Cards

Christmas is the time when even the laziest among the human species rouse themselves to send the mandatory Christmas card to friends and relations. A custom that has held its own in this age of electronic mail and instant messaging. Quite frankly, Christmas isn’t the same unless you send and receive cards that celebrate the happy season.

But, just when did the tradition of sending cards to friends and loved ones on Christmas originate?

The first ever Christmas card was created more than 150 years ago in England, and that, too, by pure chance. In the Christmas of 1843, Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, found himself too busy to send handwritten greetings to his many friends and well wishers. He hit upon a novel idea to make his task easier. He commissioned painter John Calcott Horsley to create a card which had a painting of the poor and needy being fed and clothed. A central panel was to depict a family enjoying the Christmas festivities. The card bore the words, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’. And, thus was born the world’s first ever Christmas card! Little did Cole and Horsley guess that this isolated instance would spawn one of the most honoured of all Christmas traditions down the centuries.

In the late 1800s and beginning of the 20th century, Christmas cards were often elaborate affairs, embellished with silk, lace and satin.

For about 30 years after England created the Christmas card, Americans continued to import theirs from the UK. It was only when a German immigrant, Louis Prang, went and settled in the US and opened his own lithographic shop that the Americans began to enjoy their own home-grown Christmas cards. His designs included winter motifs and Christmas themes.

The early British Christmas cards featured unrelated figures of birds, flowers, fairies and other natural scenery rather than any religious or winter themes. It was only much later that the focus shifted to snow landscapes, fir trees, decorated Christmas trees, glowing fireplaces and Santa Claus.

As printing technology improved, Christmas greeting cards grew more and more in popularity. By the early 20th century, Christmas cards had conquered Europe and were particularly a big hit in Germany.

During the Victorian era, the ‘trick card’ became hugely popular as a Christmas card. The card always involved some pulling of the string or lever to reveal some element of surprise! Pull out flower cards ruled the day.

In 1915, the legendary Hallmark Cards was created by John C. Hall and two of his brothers – one of the biggest card making companies in the world today!

Around that time, in the early 20th century, several charities started selling Christmas greeting cards to raise funds for their organisations. The most prominent among these was the UNICEF Christmas card programme, launched in 1943.

In 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first official White House card, thereby setting into motion a trend of prominent artists depicting original winter decorations in the White House.

Today’s modern Christmas cards sport a more trendy look with cartoons and funny verses. However, typical Christmas images like the Nativity scenes, children grouped around a lighted Christmas tree and Christmas symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem and shepherds with their flocks continue to hold a timeless appeal.

Christmas cards boast a rich history, with many of the early greeting cards prized collector’s items. Queen Mary’s collection of Christmas cards can be viewed at the British Museum in London.

Christmas Time: Christmas or Cashmas?

Home / Christmas / Christmas Time: Christmas or Cashmas?

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

Snowmen, Santa, baubles, tinsel, carol singers, turkey, mince pies… Wherever you are in the world, there’s no getting away from Christmas.What’s the best thing about it? Is it the holiday from work or school? The buying and giving of Christmas gifts? The wonderful food we get to eat? Receiving Christmas presents? Celebrating the birth of Jesus, or simply being with family?

I love Christmas. The twinkling lights and decorations. The smell of a real evergreen in the house. The garland and lights hanging on everything from stair banisters to fireplaces. The red stockings and trill of Frank Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The cosy evenings with just the tree and fairy lights illuminating the room. Of course, I love giving and receiving Christmas presents and cards.

And come on, who doesn’t love a bit of turkey at Christmas, not forgetting the Christmas pud? I also enjoy being with family and friends and sharing the warmth and festivity of this time. Every year, my Dad tacks holly and ivy around the lounge and across the fireplace. It sounds a little odd, but it really gives a Christmassy, touching feel to the home.

On Christmas Day, it’s tradition in my family, after Christmas dinner, to relax in front of a movie, armed with Mum’s homemade “Snowball” cocktail. Mum serves endless mince pies and Dad normally ends up falling fast asleep in his armchair half way through a film. My brother usually resorts to chucking a cushion at him in an effort to stop his ear piercing snores.

Being a bit of a romantic, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a fan of the flick Love Actually and especially love the “to me, you are perfect” signs scene, not to mention the bit where Hugh Grant dances to “Jump.” And I also have a soft spot for The Muppet Christmas Carol. Is that really such a bad thing?

As for Christmas shopping, I tend to start mine around October time. And, I’ll admit, I get into a bit of a flap when it comes to choosing Christmas present ideas for, well, just about everyone on my list. Especially my boyfriend. Watching someone un-wrap a pressie is a joy in itself, unless, of course, you choose the wrong Xmas gift ideas.

So you see for me, this festive season is a lot more than just Xmas gifts. To me, Christmas is a time for all the family to get together and enjoy each other’s company and forget about things. And for some, including me, Christmas is about remembering the birth of Jesus. But perhaps this time of year is a lot more to do with other things than the real meaning of Christmas.

I’m not getting on my high horse here, as I don’t go to Church every Sunday, but it seems like the whole thing has been robbed, repackaged and sold back to us as a festival of eating, drinking and splurging. Aren’t we forgetting the original Christmas message? The celebration of Jesus Christ is slowly but surely transpiring into a corporate, celebrity-endorsed spend fest.

Shop signs and advertisements scream “Christmas gift ideas!” “unusual Christmas gifts!” “cheap Christmas gifts!” blah blah blah, begging us to spend, spend, spend and spend some more. I walked into a restaurant the other day which was already promoting Christmas menus. Seriously. The summer’s only just come to an end.

And another thing that irritates me about this time of year are the tacky lights, humungous blow-up Santas, snowmen and reindeers that people put up outside their abodes. Then they put signs up outside their houses saying, “If you like our Christmas scene, put some money in the tin and we’ll give it to charity.” Or is that really to cover their phenomenal electricity bill?

The true meaning of Christmas is different for everyone. For some, it’s about spending time with family and friends, remembering the birth of Christ, reliving old traditions, or giving to those in need. So aside from the Christmas gifts, carols, decorations, shindigs, boozing and the gluttonous indulging of food, let’s not forget the real Christmas message: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Hungarian Christmas Traditions

Home / Christmas / Hungarian Christmas Traditions

Hungarian Christmas traditions are many and turn Christmas into a distinctive and meaningful time to experience with family and close friends. In Hungary, Christmas suggests time to be together with all the loved ones. This is mostly a family celebration, and despite the fact that a few of these practices have actually lost significance over time, there are still countless Hungarians who keep them with pride every single December.

Hungarian Christmas begins along with the celebration of Advent (planning time before Christmas). Advent sets off four Sundays prior to Christmas, at this time families beautify their own front yards and dining tables with precious wreaths decorated with four candle lights. Each and every Sunday before Christmas they light 1 new candle and the final one is lit on Christmas Eve. You can easily find shiny wreaths in every Hungarian household, likewise in stores and educational institutions.

Many Hungarian kids are given an advent calendar at the beginning of the month. These calendars usually come with a very small window for each day during Advent so small children can open one door per day to discover a Christmas image along with a chocolate candy.

On December 6th Hungarians commemorate the day of St. Nicholas (St. Mikulás). St. Nicholas is the Hungarian variation of Santa Claus. On this Day, St Nicholas visits youngsters at family homes and at kindergartens and primary schools. At households young children wait for Mikulás by placing their clean and shiny boots at the window the evening of December 5th. If children have actually been good throughout the year, St Nicholas packs their boots with goodies, candies, mandarins, nuts and simple presents for instance toys and books. Obviously if kids happened to misbehave lately they receive in their boots some delicacies together with a willow switch (virgács) as an indication of admonishing.

At homes where there are young kids, commonly a family close friend dresses up like Mikulás and delivers the gifts to toddlers. When Mikulás arrives, they sing melodies or tell poems to him. Mikulás praises them for the great deeds and calls them off for their mischievousness. Giving gifts is the last element of St. Mikulás visit, just before departing.

In Hungary, the Christmas tree is embellished upon the holy evening (December 24). That is why you don’t encounter Christmas trees in Hungarian homes before December 24th.

Christmas Eve (Holy Night “Szent-este” in Hungarian) is among the most significant event of Hungarian Christmas practices. On this day Hungarians remember the nativity of Jesus Christ. Within the afternoon of December 24th family members join up to decorate the Christmas tree, to indulge in a nice dinner together having a good time and give each other presents.

For a great number of Hungarian families this might be truly the only time over the entire year when a whole family come together. This evening is really significant that and even public transportation stops at 4 pm for the rest of the evening, thus vehicle operators may go to join their families as well to celebrate.

If there are small children within the family, the Christmas tree is adorned without their attention.

Christmas trees are typically decorated with lights, sparkles (I confess that I don’t like the sparks in the tree, the smell is very strong inside the house) handmade ornaments, gingerbread figurines and with “szaloncukor”, a Hungarian Christmas candy coated with chocolate and wrapped in metallic, gold and red sparkling paper laced with bows. Szaloncukors embellish the Christmas tree and guests visitors are invited to take and eat them.

Hungarian children are taught that it is baby Jesus (Jeszuska) who brings the decorated tree and the presents for all on Christmas Eve and not Santa Claus as in lots of many other nations. Traditionally, by the afternoon of Christmas Eve while grown ups in secret install the Christmas tree, the children are not allowed to enter the room where the Christmas tree may be set up. They keep entertained anywhere else at home or taken for a short walk by grandparents or older siblings to a park or to see the city’s Christmas lights.

My in-laws keep this great custom and all youngsters inside our family become absolutely thrilled about baby Jesus delivering in secret the tree and gift items. In our family, when the tree is ready, a tiny|a little bell is played as an alert that baby Jesus has delivered the tree and presents. When children hear it, they run with enthusiasm to search for the presents. When children spot the tree they sing typical Hungarian Christmas carols right after we give away presents.
When all of the excitement around the Christmas tree has passed we move to the dinning table that is wonderfully arranged for an authentic Hungarian Christmas dinner.

A genuine Hungarian Christmas dinner normally consists of fish soup, fried fish, turkey, filled cabbage and beigli (an authentic wintertime pastry stuffed with poppy seeds or chestnuts filling). A range of Hungarian wines compliment the celebration. Needless to say, there are still various additions to the dinner.

At midnight, many religious families go to the Holy Night mass to religiously commemorate the arrival of baby Jesus with traditional Christmas carols plus the conventional Christian mass. During December 25 and 26 |it is actually a to pay a visit to relatives and good friends and have a good time enjoying Christmas dishes and desserts.

Christmas is a magic time everywhere around the globe and Hungary is not the exception. Hungarians try to maintain their Christmas traditions by embellishing their homes, featuring Christmas markets where you come across all kinds of self prepared ornaments, special Hungarian food and authentic handmade Christmas crafts.

 

Senior Citizens – Get Christmas Gifts Online

Home / Christmas / Senior Citizens – Get Christmas Gifts Online

Although some may think that Senior Citizens and buying Christmas gifts and toys online may not go together, I am here to tell this is rubbish. I won’t hold it against the inexperienced younger folk who believe in such nonsense.

There are many very good reasons why Senior Citizens will be buying lots of Christmas toys and gifts online this year. The biggest reasons are convenience and getting more for less money.

(I apologize for the long article. I realize that some of the younger folks may lose interest and not make it all the way through. Well, that just made this article even longer.)

Convenience

Okay, I’ll be the first geezer, er, Senior Citizen, to admit that I find shopping for Christmas gifts and toys the tradition way is a bummer; it unmellows my mood.

Christmas Shopping Saga: Here is a Christmas gift shopping saga. It has all happened to me, but I admit, not all in one trip:

Traffic: I hate traffic. Like a black hole in space, time slows down the closer you get to the mall or the mega-box store. Cars are everywhere and parking spots seem to be nowhere. Wait! One just opened up! No! That little hybrid just zipped in and took the spot.

Parking: After an hour of fruitless hunting and stalking, I finally find a parking spot that’s on the very far edge of the parking lot, so far away from the store that I need a GPS to find it and a GPS to find my way back hours later when I have forgotten where my car is.

Getting to the store:As I make my way to the store, I have to fight other drivers who are so intent on looking for phantom parking spots that they fail to notice me. I have never been a fan of the way parking lots mingle people and cars.

The crowd: I make it to the store. Behold the dreaded crowd! I see there must be a sale on pitch forks and torches this year. The mob’s mood takes an ominous turn when a store opens its doors. Those who have camped out overnight wake up sleepily to find that a bunch of last minute folk have just beat them into the store and gobbled up the new shipment of Christmas toys they were waiting for.

Inside the packed store, there is straight-up bedlam served with a jigger of pandemonium. Everyone is looking for Christmas gifts or toys. I make my way through knots of people who are twice as wide as normal because of their shopping bags full of loot.

Leftovers: In the distance, I see the Christmas toy I want but the supply that is left is running dangerously low. As I get closer, I seen first one, then another, snatched up by closer hands than mine. By the time I fight my way through, there is one left, on the floor, half opened, with parts hanging out. Like 3AM at the bar, this one looks pretty good, so I grab it.

The line: Then it’s more sniping, er, shopping for more Christmas toys and gifts. Hours later, with a weary sigh, I head for the checkout area with my Christmas gifts at hand. It doesn’t look that bad at first, but, oh no, the line for the register looks like the line for housing vouchers in the Atlanta area a few weeks ago. Somber medics with bottled water and smelling salts stand by for those not up to the challenge (okay, there are no medics).

Checkout: Finally, feeling utterly spent, it’s my turn at the cash register to pay for my Christmas gifts. Do I have a membership card? Do I want one? Do I want an extended warranty plan? Do I want batteries? The sign above says “NO RECEIPT-NO REFUNDS-30 DAYS”. I offer my credit card. The clerk snarls that I am to swipe it in the card reader. Silly me. I forgot. The crowd glares at me because I am an obvious rookie and holding up the line. People start to point at me.

The Gate Keeper: I pocket my receipt mindful of the sign above. I get to the door but a burly guy bars my path. “Not so fast, old timer,” he shouts. “Where’s your receipt?” So, chagrined, I dig into my pocket and show the nice man my receipt. He looks at it with suspicion, checks it once, checks it twice. Will he find me naughty or nice? Grudgingly, he finds nothing wrong, blinks, and thrusts my receipt back into my hands. So much for the dignity of being an elder.

A breathe of fresh air: Finally, I am out the swooshing door. Cool air greets me. I didn’t notice how hot and humid it was inside. And it smells better outside as well. Well, it smells better until I pass an idling Bronco full of Christmas toys, waiting for something. A gal in front of me lights up a cigarette and I get a lungful of second hand nicotine and exhaust fumes.

Donations: It’s dark now. It was day when I came, wasn’t it?. I swear it was. Several large fellows are asking for a donation to something. Whatever it is, they don’t look like they belong to it. They ain’t no Santy Clauses. I say no, and the biggest one argues with me, implying that I am guilty of something or another, or something.

Disorientation and danger: Where is my car? It looks different out here at night, and of course, everything is backwards now as I have to retrace my route. Where is my GPS? Wait, let me first get far enough away from those guys. That Bronco’s headlights suddenly turn on, all brights, and it speeds away from the curb nearly hitting me.

Lost and no island: I cross lanes, and search for my car. My GPS goes dead. I should’ve recharged it longer. Where did I park? Was it Z7 or 7YY? Why didn’t I write it down? The peach color parking lot lighting make car colors impossible to read. After about an hour, I recognize my license plate and breath a sigh of relief.

Surprise: I notice that the glass on my driver’s side door is frosted. Funny. It’s not that cold. As I unlock the car, the glass shatters into pieces and falls into the car. Someone has smashed my window. Ah yes, I had forgotten to take a few small Christmas gifts from the back seat and hide them in my trunk. They are gone now, and my car window is open to the night chill.

Finding the exit: After putting my hard-won Christmas toys and gifts in my trunk, I am off. I wander around a bit, looking for signs to the exit. Like Vegas, their priority is to get you in; you’re on your own to get out.

Chance encounter: As I get to an intersection, a car neglects to stop and nearly hits my left front fender. The driver yells and shows me his IQ with his middle finger and drives off, cursing me (I suppose) as I see his mouth working. I don’t take it personally.

The crunch at the exit: I reach the last turn into the last lane out of the parking lot. It is jammed. People are supposed to take turns but the cars already in the exit lane seem to not be letting anyone new turn into it. I wait for a timid one to come along so I can sneak in.

The lane change: Finally, I am in and ready to leave the lot once and for all. Now I need to get into the left lane for my final turn home. Easier said than done. I have to wait a bit and cars behind me honk furiously at me for holding them up.

The final traffic light: Finally again, I make it and get to the light. The light takes forever. There is no left arrow here (the city did away with them for some reason; I’m sure it was a good reason). Straight-through traffic coming towards me seems to have no end. It is lucky if one car can make a left turn per green light.

Crossing traffic: Finally, for a third time, it is my turn. I have to inch out part-way into the main cross traffic lanes to claim my right to turn. I dart behind the last car through the light. Of course, the last car went through on a yellow that turned red, and so now I am turning on red. The cross traffic takes no notice of me and is raring to go. I am in danger of being caught in a half turn sideways as cars in both directions bear down on me. Those nice people who started as the red was changing don’t help.

The way home: Well, I make it. I fight more traffic but traffic is getting a bit lighter as I get away from the black hole that is the mall. Time seems to return to normal. I begin to breathe easier. I get home. I was going to say “finally” but I will skip it.

Final insult: Under the street lights on my street, a pinkish light here, I now see fresh scratches on my driver’s side door from the mall that I missed. And so, I conclude my Christmas gift shopping.

Doh! And then it hits me. I forgot a Christmas toy! And, what about the Christmas gifts that were stolen? I’ll have to do it all over again tomorrow.

Buying Online with Auctions

If this sounds like your experience Christmas gift and toy shopping, then consider buying online this year. You can stay home. You don’t have to fight traffic or crowds. You don’t have to trek there and back again. And, you don’t have to find your car and get home safely.

Of course, online Christmas gift shopping is not without its perils and pot holes. I know a friend who wants to buy a Christmas toy in high demand and thinks he can save a bundle on an online auction. There are auctions there and there are fixed price items.

Auction prices: My friend goes for the auctions because he sees that this item has sold in the pass for less than the fixed price. He thinks he is smart. What he fails to understand is the price that his toy sold for was in an auction that he was not in. If he had bid, he would have had to have a bid higher than what it sold for. His presence in the auction would have altered it.

He might have gotten the Christmas toy for one bid increment higher, or maybe many increments higher. My friend will never know how high the winning bidder was willing to go, just how far he had to go to win. But he has it in his head that he could have had his toy for what it sold for last.

Auction risks: So, my friend bids on the item. It is a ten day auction. Bidding for a $200 item starts at a dollar. As the days roll by, the bids rise. By day nine, bids are close to what my friends thinks he can steal this toy for. In fear, he enters a bid higher than he wants “just to be sure”. In the end, it goes higher than he thought and now he has ten fewer days until Christmas. There is time risk and risk of loss in auctions.

My friend was smart, though, because he left a bid. Had he been there at the end bidding, he could have gotten into a bidding war and ended up paying too much. It’s easy to become emotionally involved and to believe that this one time is the only chance you will have. That my be true for some one-of-a-kind items, but not usually for electronics.

Shenanigans: Now my friend tries a fixed price item. What he doesn’t realize is that some sellers are really good and some, not so much. For example, selling refurbished items without disclosing it, or selling “grey” items for international use with a invalid US warranty, unbundling packages and selling the parts separately for more money, or selling counterfeits and rip offs. With gizmos, especially electronic gizmos, you have to really do your homework on the seller.

“Free shipping”: My friend thinks he got a deal because he got free shipping. He didn’t notice that the price he paid was higher to include the “free” shipping. Hey. It floats his boat.

Shipping time: My friend has to wait several weeks for his Christmas toy to arrive. The seller neglected to say, and my friend neglected to ask, if the seller had the toy actually in stock. In fact, the seller did not. The seller was using a drop shipper in China, and it takes about five weeks to fulfill the order.

Know the seller: Now, I am not saying all auction experiences are negative. Far from it. Deals and good merchandise can be had. But there are shenanigans to guard against. You really have to do your homework on the seller. Most people don’t. They don’t know what to ask and what to look for. It all boils down to how trustworthy the seller is.

Buying Online at Amazon

I used to just buy books and DVDs from Amazon, and I still do. I find that Amazon is a seller that I can trust. It has distribution points located across the country and usually can ship quickly. Amazon tells you its usual shipping time and whether your chosen Christmas gift or toy is available. You get good email updates from them so you know where your order is. You can always login to your account and see where your order is.

The anti-Amazons: As an aside, I hate online places that treat your order like it dropped in a black hole (there’s that black hole analogy again). I place an order, and I hear nothing. No one tells me that they are out of stock, so I sit there, waiting. Maybe it will never come. Maybe it will come in a few months where new supplies arrive.

Amazon is not like that. They are good at fulfilling your order and shipping quickly.

Two day shipping: I buy the Amazon Super Saver shipping and pay once each year. Then I get free two-day shipping on my Amazon orders. Because of Amazon’s service, I sometimes get an in-stock item the next day, in one day, if I order before the closing time for a day’s ordering. Even if it takes the regular two days, it’s still very, very fast shipping.

Lots of stuff: Did I mention that Amazon sells a lot more than books and videos? They sell electronic gifts, toys, and a huge variety of cool products.

Trust: I trust Amazon. Bottom line. Its products are fresh, unspoiled, and legal. For Christmas toys and gifts, they are hard to beat.

I don’t know for sure, but it appears Amazon has better control over third-party suppliers compared to fixed price sellers on auction sites. (Your super saver shipping does not apply to these folks.)

True story: I’ve switched to buying my Christmas gifts and toys from Amazon. I got a Garmin GPS navigator and some accessories for a travel Christmas gift. To be fair, Amazon said one of the accessories would ship from a third-party supplier with a small shipping charge, so I knew that going in. I got the GPS itself in two days, and some of the accessories the next day and the day or so after that.

Value: So, as a senior citizen I am convinced there are good reasons to buy Christmas gifts from Amazon. I find that Amazon prices are very good, maybe not the lowest every time, but since the items are new and not pawed through like at your local drug store or mass-market big-box-mart store, I think they are a better value. For an important Christmas gift or toy for a loved one, I would not take on the risk just to possibly save a few bucks. I usually knock out the highest and lowest offers, and take one in the low middle range.

Good deals in tough times: Times are tough and very uncertain. The economy has been down the tubes since 2008 and there is no sign that it is getting better. It’s wise to get good value when you do want to buy a nice Christmas toy or gift today more than ever. Even in hard times, we want to get Christmas toys, especially for our grand-kids. We can go for a lot of cheap Christmas gifts or a few good ones. Whichever way you go, it’s important to get a good deal.

Hits: And, what a waste it would be to buy someone a Christmas gift and have it turn out to be a dud. Below I post a link to a Christmas gift web site that features best-selling and most wished-for Christmas gifts from Amazon. Buying best sellers greatly increase your odds of getting a Christmas toy or gift that will be a hit and that you will be appreciated for getting it.

Wrapping it up: So, seniors, you have discovered the benefits of email and online news. I urge you to do your Christmas gift shopping online this year at a store you can trust, and get through your shopping in a breeze with none of the hassles of traditional shopping. You deserve it.

Top 6 Christmas Traditions That We Cannot Do Without!

Home / Christmas / Top 6 Christmas Traditions That We Cannot Do Without!

Think Christmas, and the strongest images to float before the eye are the decorated and lighted Christmas tree, stockings hung up near the fireplace for Santa to fill them on Christmas Eve, mistletoe, holly…Think carols and up pops the image of Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer. All these quaint traditions, and many others, have now become such an indelible part of everything ‘Christmasy’, that it is impossible to envisage the season of Yuletide without them.

Here are the top 6 Christmas traditions that continue to dominate celebrations all around the world:

1. Christmas Tree. There is perhaps no greater or more easily recognised symbol of Christmas than the graceful, evergreen Christmas tree. It dominates family homes and is the most enduring Christmas icon of all. The tradition of setting up a Christmas tree goes back a long way – in fact, the pre-Christian era. Tribes used to sacrifice trees like oak and ash to please their gods. The ancient Romans used to keep a decorated tree in their homes in honour of their Saturnalia festival. Further down the ages, during the 15-16 centuries, the Germans used to decorate fir trees within their homes with candies, apples and coloured paper. It was the Protestant reformer Martin Luther King who first started the trend of lighting candles on fir trees – inspired by the sight of stars shining through the leaves of a fir tree outside. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, introduced the concept of having a Christmas tree into England from his native Germany. It were the Pennsylvania Germans who brought the Christmas tree to America in the late 19th century. It caught the collective imagination of the world, and continues to be an inseparable part of Christmas celebrations.

2. Santa Claus. For a child, Christmas means just one thing. Stockings to hang up at night on Christmas Eve and wait in delicious anticipation of Santa Claus coming from the North Pole in his reindeer-drawn sleigh and depositing toys and other goodies in his or her stocking. The mythical figure of Christmas has his roots in the persona of a 4th century AD Bishop Nicholas who was known to be generous and particularly fond of children. Years later, he came to be known as Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. An Anglo-Saxon version called him Father Christmas and he was supposed to punish the naughty children and reward the well-behaved ones. Finally, the Dutch, British and German settlers in North America brought with them their own version of this rotund, jolly figure. However, it was the Dutch figure of ‘Sinterklaas’ that caught the imagination of all. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace during Christmas Eve, and Sinterklaas would place goodies in the shoes of all the ‘good’ children. It was his name that was anglicised to the now well-known Santa Claus.

3. Mistletoe and Holly. ‘Kissing under the mistletoe’ is another time-honoured Christmas tradition. Any guesses on just how mistletoe got singled out? Well, this evergreen plant was used by Druid priests in their winter celebrations some 200 years before the birth of Christ. The plant was highly revered for its ability to remain green even during the harsh winter months.

While the ancient Celtics attributed magical healing powers to the mistletoe, the plant was regarded as a symbol of peace by the ancient Romans. Enemies would turn friends if they met under the mistletoe.

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe probably originated from the Scandanavians. They associated the plant with their goddess of love, Frigga. Good luck and happiness followed those who kissed under the mistletoe.

4. Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer. It is amazing how some of the iconic aspects of Christmas actually owe their existence to an entirely unrelated cause. Rudolf, the famous ‘red-nosed reindeer’ is one such character. In 1939, Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store, was asked to write a Christmas-themed story to pull in sales. May wrote about Rudolph, a young reindeer, who was an outcaste among his own due to his rather prominent, ‘glowing red nose’. However, a foggy Christmas Eve night catapulted him into instant popularity when Santa himself chose him to lead his sleigh that night. That year, Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story. A further three and a half million flew off the shelves when it was reissued in 1946. Years later, May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1949. And one of the most popular and beloved of all Christmas songs was born.

5. Christmas Stockings. Children have been routinely hanging stockings and socks near the chimney (or near the fireplace) every Christmas Eve in the hope that Santa Claus would fill it with delectable goodies. This tradition also has its roots in an ancient legend. A nobleman, stricken by the untimely death of his wife, squandered away all his fortune, leaving his three unmarried daughters facing a future of poverty and spinsterhood. One evening, the daughters washed and hung their stockings near the chimney to dry in the night. Saint Nicholas, moved by the plight of three hapless girls, came during the night and put a pouch of gold in each of their stockings. The next morning, a happy surprise awaited the beleaguered family. The delighted nobleman could now marry off all his daughters. And that’s how the practice of children hanging their stockings at night came into being. Of course, modern homes do not have chimneys these days and they are usually hung near the bed.

6. Christmas Cards. The Christmas card was created in England more than 160 years ago – and that, too, born out of a desperate necessity! Sir Henry Cole, the first director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, was inundated with work commitments in the Christmas season of 1843. Hard-pressed for time to write individual greetings to all his friends, he commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to make a painting. The card featured three panels. While the first and third showed feeding and clothing the poor and needy, the central panel depicted a family enjoying Christmas festivities together. The card was inscribed with the words ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You’. Thus was born the world’s first Christmas card!

What’s Christmas without tradition? It brings long-lost friends and family together, making everyone’s lives that much richer and fuller.

 

Christmas Story – The True Spirit Of Christmas

Home / Christmas / Christmas Story – The True Spirit Of Christmas

The true spirit of Christmas has a wonderful way of making everything more beautiful. Christmas is a very special time throughout the Christian world. The twelve day festive holiday begins Christmas Eve until Epiphany in the New Year which falls on the 6th of January. However, from November onwards, the Christmas spirit can be felt and seen everywhere with its wonderful traditions of gift giving, its beautiful Christmas Carols, Nativity scenes, Christmas trees with all their glitter and tinsel and, Christmas Day, when the family will gather to celebrate their much-loved, Christmas traditions and customs with those they love. It’s a time of happiness and excitement for all, especially the children who look forward for the arrival of Father Christmas (Santa Claus).

CHRISTMAS STORY-THE BIRTH OF JESUS

The Christmas Story however, has Divine Origins that mark the Christian era with the Birth of Christ. Jesus is the “Light of the World.” Through Him, we find the light of love, peace, happiness, hope and, the true spirit of Christmas.

God gave us the gift of His only Son and, salvation so we can inherit The Kingdom of God. Christmas commemorates the Birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, on that first Christmas over 2,000 years ago, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds. In Luke 2:11 the Angel told the shepherds, “For there is Born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. We go to church at Christmas to honor the Birth of Jesus and to hear the Voice of God.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

Deep within the heart, is a recognition that there is something more to this life and beyond, that only God can satisfy. It brings comfort, reassurance, strength, inspiration and a sense of connection to something much greater than we could ever imagine. Faith in God and Jesus manifests a Christian spirit in all we do.

THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

Comfort and Joy is a phrase linked to Christmas. Sadly, there are people who face hardship, sorrow and pain in their earthly lives. So, Christmas is a time to understand the true spirit of what is meant by “its better to give than to receive” because, gifts from the heart are a part of the true spirit of Christmas.

A giving, generous heart, filled with compassion, should be a way of life. We are living out the Vision of God and, we follow in the Footsteps of Jesus by giving generously to those less fortunate in any way we can, without asking for reward. The joy you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you.

GIFT GIVING

It’s hard to imagine celebrating Christmas without giving gifts to family, friends and charities. Gift giving also, conveys the true spirit of Christmas as special, symbolic expressions of love, respect, gratitude, friendship and charity.

God gave the wonderful Gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The Three Wise Men from the east followed the Star of Bethlehem to find the newborn King. They bowed before Him to acknowledge His Deity and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Santa Claus symbolizes this spirit of gift giving and, we identify him with Saint Nicholas with his good deeds and charitable gifts.

A THANKFUL HEART

A grateful heart strengthens the soul. “Be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name, for the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5). A thankful heart will reap an abundant harvest in God’s blessings. Christmas is a time to be thankful for what we have and to say, “May God bless everyone”.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

Christmas Carols, with their heart-warming spirit of Christmas messages of praise and joy, make everyone feel the Christmas spirit and have a special place in the hearts of young and old. From the religious to the secular, they express the joyful and merry sounds of everything that Christmas stands for. They are sung in church and at home with family and friends, going door-to-door in small groups or, out in the street, to spread the spirit of Christmas and to raise money for charities.

Some of the most beautiful and best-loved religious, Christmas Carols like Silent Night, O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel and Little Drummer Boy are songs of praise for the Birth of Jesus. Secular Christmas Carols like Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Frosty the Snowman spread their spirit of Christmas cheer with their wondrous warmth.

THE BONDS OF FAMILY

Christmas has certainly always been about the bonds of family as they gather around on Christmas Day to celebrate it’s rich Christmas customs and traditions.

On the beautifully decorated Christmas table, there may be traditional roasted meats like turkey, duck or goose, leg of ham and, mouth-watering accompaniments like seasonal vegetables and salads. There may be traditional Christmas pudding, enticing deserts and Christmas biscuits. The festive Christmas table is sure to please, as we celebrate the true spirit of Christmas, on this special day, the Birth of our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Around The World Christmas Celebrations

Home / Christmas / Around The World Christmas Celebrations

Christmas in USA

The United States of America integrates different elements from different places in its Christmas celebrations. The Christmas tree tradition comes from Germany, parades from Latin America, Carols from the English and Australians, Santa Claus from the Europeans and more. Apart from the general celebration with feasting, caroling, decorating and gift-giving, each family in the US has their individual Christmas celebrations. And even the traditions vary from one place to another within the US. In Washington DC for instance, there’s this central celebration with lighting of the tree on the Ellipse. Here you’ll find one big tree (which represents the nation) and other smaller trees (standing for other states). In New Orleans, caroling is the focus of Christmas–thousands throng the Jackson Square each year on Christmas to have a huge group/ community caroling around big bonfires lit along the river Mississippi. The oldest city in the US, St. Augustine, Florida, has the whole of the city lit up in white lights on Christmas. No lights except white are allowed on Christmas. Then again, many Americans love to hit Hollywood, California to treat their eyes to the annual Parade of Stars, while others entertain themselves at Christmas concerts or caroling festivities in and around the cities.

Christmas in France

Joyeux Noël ! For all the curious, that’s ‘Merry Christmas’ in French. In France, Christmas is called Noël and Father Christmas is known as Père Noël. Christmas trees are decorated with red ribbons and candles. Fir trees are also lighted on Christmas. People gather together and feast on meat and fine wine. The French kids put shoes and boots by the hearth for Santa to keep Christmas goodies in them. And nearly every family sets up a Nativity scene at home on Christmas.

Christmas in Spain

Feliz Navidad ! Now that’s ‘Merry Christmas’ for the Spanish-speaking population. Spanish Christmas is essentially religious in spirit and celebration. Virgin Mary is the country’s patron saint and hence, Spain observes a pious Christmas festivity. Here, Christmas officially begins from December 8, the day of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Each year, the Spanish celebrate Christmas in front of Seville’s Gothic cathedral with a ceremony known as ‘los Seises’ or the ‘dance of six’.

Christmas in Portugal

Portuguese Christmas is much in the same street as Christmas in Spain. Whatever gifts Father Christmas brings to the kids, are kept at the base of the Christmas evergreen or in shoes by the fireplace. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Portuguese have a special Christmas meal of dry and salted cod-fish and boiled potatoes. And in the early morning of the Christmas day, they have a meal called ‘consoada’, where seats are left empty at the table for the ‘alminhas a penar’ or the ‘souls of the dead’. This comes from the ancient practice of leaving seeds to the dead ancestors in hopes of getting rewarded with a more bountiful harvest. So boas festas ! Have a great party this Christmas and New Year !

Christmas in England

England holds claim to the origin of hanging stockings on Christmas. It’s believed that Father Christmas once dropped some gold coins while coming down a chimney and the coins landed on one stocking hanging out to dry. Since then, the idea of hanging stockings on Christmas held ground and children today, make it a point to hang their stockings for Santa Claus to fill these up with Christmas goodies. In some parts, ‘pantomime’ is also a popular Christmas tradition. And the wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ and gift-giving is of course there in England.

Christmas in Germany

In Germany, the St. Nicholas Day celebration of December 6 is similar to the Christmas celebrations of the English. Apart from wishing each other a ‘Froehliche Weihnachten’ or ‘Merry Christmas’, the Christmas customs and traditions of Christmas vary from one region to another in Germany. The St. Nicholas Day is primarily a day reserved for the young ones to have fun and get pampered in gifts. After this, the actual Christmas gift-giving kicks off at the Christmas Eve night. Gifts are usually kept under the Christmas tree and people enjoy a traditional roast goose in their Christmas meal. The Weihnachtsmann (a look-alike of St. Nicholas) brings gifts on Christmas and sometimes these are brought by the Christkind (a fairy child often like baby Jesus).

 

How Have Christmas Celebrations Changed And Evolved In The Last 100 Years?

Home / Christmas / How Have Christmas Celebrations Changed And Evolved In The Last 100 Years?

Nowadays, many people celebrate Christmas simply because it has become tradition to do so, rather than because of any religious beliefs. However, Christmas celebrations have changed considerably over the years to become what they are today, and these changes are very interesting.

The last 100 years or so have seen many changes to Christmas celebrations, as technology has become a larger part in the seasonal festivities. The First and Second World Wars also had a big effect on Christmas, as people were affected by the hard times. Despite all of this though, Christmas has always been a time when people come together to celebrate as a family.

So, here are just some of the changes to Christmas celebrations in the last 100 years:

Late 1800s
The late 1800s was a time of prosperity in the UK, with the Industrial Revolution helping the country to boom. This created an even larger divide between the classes though, with the Victorian era seeing many middle class families emerging.

historic-uk.com has a great page dedicated to Victorian Christmas celebrations and explains that:

The wealth generated by the new factories and industries of the Victorian age allowed middle class families in England and Wales to take time off work and celebrate over two days, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Boxing Day, December 26th, earned its name as the day servants and working people opened the boxes in which they had collected gifts of money from the “rich folk”. Those new fangled inventions, the railways allowed the country folk who had moved into the towns and cities in search of work to return home for a family Christmas.

Early 1900s
One of the most notable historic parts of the early 1900s was the start of the First World War in 1914, and this obviously had a huge impact on how people celebrated Christmas. There were of course men fighting in the trenches over Christmas, and this created one of the best WWI stories there is. Firstworldwar.com describes it:

The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man’s land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. Today, 90 years after it occurred, the event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One – a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.

At home, though, families enjoyed a frugal Christmas with Christmas trees, carol services and presents. Christmas presents were very different what we get nowadays as well – ‘children born in the late 1800s and early 1900s looked upon the orange as a luxury, a rare treat only available at Christmastime’ ( http://www.nwitimes.com ).

Christmas decorations were also very different back then – first starters, people used lit candles to decorate Christmas trees rather than the LED fairy lights we have nowadays. As about.com explains, ‘in 1882, the first Christmas tree was lit by the use of electricity [and] by 1900, department stores started using the new Christmas lights for their Christmas displays’. Safety Christmas lights appeared in 1917 – ‘Albert Sadacca was fifteen in 1917, when he first got the idea to make safety Christmas lights for Christmas trees’.

Mid-1900s
Christmas in the mid-1900s was overshadowed by the Second World War, which spanned from 1939 to 1945. The BBC has an excellent and in-depth article on how Christmas was celebrated throughout WWII, from a mildly-inconvenienced Christmas in 1939 that ‘was little different from how it had always been [with just a] few extra restrictions’, to ‘the most joyless Christmas of the war’ in 1945, when ‘an extra 1 1/2 pounds of sugar, 8 pennyworth (3.5p) of meat, and half a pound of sweets’ were granted as Christmas treats by the Ministry of Food.

The 1950s were much more joyous though and the BBC has another fantastic article depicting a typical 1950s Christmas. By the 1960s there was more technology available, and so Christmas was even better during this decade. The Cawston Parish website has a list of traditional 1960s decorations that were used, such as real Christmas trees (artificial ones were available though), holly, ivy and mistletoe. The article also explains how Christmas cards were displayed around the house as decorations and carollers would come knocking regularly throughout the festive period.

Late 1900s
By the 1970s Christmas had become much more like today’s celebrations and was incredibly commercialised. One of the biggest industries around the festive period was that for children’s toys, and the Christmas in the 70s blog has some excellent examples of 1970s toys, such as space hoppers, Barbie dolls, Action Men, comics and more.

The 1980s and the 1990s were very similar, with yet more memorable children’s toys being released and Christmas becoming a universally renowned celebration. Christmas decorations became increasingly more modern and ‘artificial trees became increasingly popular during the late 20th century’ (Wikipedia).

 

Great Christmas Films For the Festive Season

Home / Christmas / Great Christmas Films For the Festive Season

It’s December which means Christmas is rushing towards us and so are the annual onslaught of Christmas films on the big screen. Christmas really is a special time of the year when you can guarantee a batch of feel good films which are fun for all the family, as well as a few ideally suited to those film fans without families. But it’s not just the new releases which makes Christmas films so special but also the annual showing of previous favourites on the TV as well. So to put you in the mood for Christmas here are just a few great Christmas films to watch this year.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

No list of Christmas films would be complete without a mention of one of the most popular Christmas Movies of all time. Yes that’s right Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” a remarkably inspirational, feel good movie which despite it’s dark underbelly is a remarkably uplifting movie. There is no doubt with the wonderful acting of James Stewart, the marvellous storyline and the warm direction of Frank Capra, the tale of George Bailey a man who’s pushed to the edge of despair only to be visited by an angel is one of the most uplifting movies to have been made.

Home Alone (1990)

He may have ended up becoming one of the most precocious child stars of his generation but there is no doubting that without Macaulay Culkin “Home Alone” would have never become such a successful and popular film. Telling the tale of young Kevin McAllister who having been accidentally been left home alone for Christmas, saves the day by foiling a pair of robbers, played hysterically by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, “Home Alone” certainly has that little bit of Christmas magic. But it’s not just the Christmas magic which makes it so special but also the cartoon style slapstick which gets you laughing.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

Every few years Hollywood always seems to make a Christmas movie around the classic Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol”. There are the serious, the updated and the funny which “The Muppets Christmas Carol” is one of my favourites. It’s such a rich movie with full of wonderful sets, humour and song plus of course the Muppets lead by Kermit the frog. But it is also the performance of Michael Caine in the midst of all the puppetry which makes it such a wonderfully entertaining movie. It’s definitely a Christmas film for children but still has enough laughs to make it fun for adults as well.

The Holiday (2006)

Although many Christmas films are made for children, there are few usually romantic tales, which are made with adults in mind. One of my favourites from the last decade is “The Holiday” which manages to blend modern romantic comedy with a touch of classic Hollywood to deliver a warm friendly Christmas film. It’s not so much that “The Holiday” is a true Christmas movie rather than just a romantic comedy, but the fact that it is set over a Christmas period means that it is a worthy addition for anyone looking for a romantic Christmas film.

Holiday Inn (1942)

It’s classic Hollywood again a journey back to the 1940’s and Irvin Berlin’s Christmas classic “Holiday Inn” starring the crooning talents of Bing Crosby and the dancing of Fred Astaire. It’s such a wonderful musical full of memorable songs and wonderful dance routines but strangely like another classic from a bygone age “White Christmas” is not that focussed on Christmas rather has a few memorable scenes which take in the Christmas Period. Of course the most memorable is Bing Crosby sitting by a Christmas tree singing “White Christmas” making “Holiday Inn” a worthy film on my Christmas list.

The Grinch (2000)

Whilst Jim Carrey has been occupied recently lending his talents to “A Christmas Carol” it is his latex aided performance from 2000 in “The Grinch” which makes it onto my list of Christmas films. Based on the popular Dr. Seuss story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”, “The Grinch” is a frenetic, fun film which has that blend of innocent humour for younger audiences yet enough subtle elements to provide mirth for adults who end up watching it. But it is the energetic performance of Jim Carrey, the narration of Anthony Hopkins and the wonderfully imaginative set designs which really capture you as the tale is spun in a very visual manner.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

It’s hard to pick which version of “Miracle on 34th Street” which I like the most. On one hand the original 1947 has the brilliant performance from Edmund Gwenn whilst the 1994 version manages to deliver a really warm Christmassy feeling that many modern Christmas films fail to achieve. For me the 1994 version just wins because of the wonderful performance of Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle but also because that although it is seriously sentimental and overly sweet does deliver a really nice wholesome message as well as being fun for all the family.