Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day, December 25th

Christmas... Whew. It's done. Santa was good to me this year. Now that I am back from visiting my family, I'm remembering how much I enjoy having a cuddly cat sleeping on my bed with me. But, all of my friends are either allergic, or they really, really dislike cats. I guess that I am not going to get a cat, or no-one will ever visit me.

Anyway, according to my baby brother, I too often focus on and remember random facts and folklore. Since he doesn't want to share, I will share here.

Santa Claus
The gift giving persona are different in various countries:
Spain and South America: The Three Kings visit on January 6th
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
England: Father Christmas
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure)
Other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus)
She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse
Holland: St Nicholas.

Other Facts
Some priests in Australia advise you to say "Happy Christmas", not "Merry Christmas", because Merry has connotations of getting drunk. One should say "Happy" instead.

In Germany on Christmas Eve, the rivers turn to wine, animals speak to each other, trees bear fruit, mountains open to reveal precious gems, and church bells can be heard ringing from the bottom of the sea. However, you must be pure of heart to witness this magic. But, both my brother and my dad never mentioned that these things happened during their Christmases in Germany.

Christmas Candles
Throughout medieval Europe, a very large candle, called the Christmas candle was burned until the Twelfth Night (January 5th), in remembrance of the arrival of the Wise Men to Bethlehem. In Victorian times, candles represented good will for those less fortunate and were placed in windows December 25 to January 6 to indicate welcome to any passerby needing shelter and food.

Some people believed the flames from the burning candles frightened away evil spirits during the darkest days of the year. The Norwegians believed that Christmas candles must not burn out on Christmas Eve or bad luck would plague the family. It was also believed that candles placed in windows guide the Christ Child as he wanders from house to house on Christmas Eve looking for a place to stay. Therefore, no visitor should be turned away on Christmas Eve.

Ever wonder why we kiss under the mistletoe? It goes back to Norse mythology. Baldur was the god of spring and beauty. He was the son of Frigga, the Norse goddess of love and marriage. Baldur was often disturbed by dreams that his life was in danger. To protect her son, Frigga went about the land demanding promises from all the other gods and all the natural elements such as, fire, water, air and earth not to harm her son. But, she considered the mistletoe plant too puny and insignificant to do her son harm.

Baldur had one enemy, the mischievous Loki. When Loki heard that the mistletoe was ignored by Frigga, he ordered a mistletoe dart shot into Baldur's heart, killing Baldur. Frigga was heart-broken. Her tears fell onto the mistletoe causing pearl-like berries. Because Frigga was well-liked among the gods, her son's life was restored by them. She was so delighted that she went about the land kissing everyone under the white berries of the mistletoe. She then declared that the mistletoe could never again be used as a weapon.

Merry Christmas!

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