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The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe.
His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.
In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors, in France he was the patron of lawyers, and in Belgium the patron of children and travellers. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.
In 1822 Clement C. Moore composed the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas, published as The Night Before Christmas as a gift for his children. In it, he portrays Santa Claus:
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
Other countries feature different gift-bearers for the Christmas or Advent season: La Befana in Italy ~ The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico ~ Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria ~ Father Christmas in England ~ and Pere Noël, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France. Still, the figure of Santa Claus as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore’s poem remains with us today and is recognized by children and adults alike around the world.
In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religous play depicted the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
A fir tree hung with apples was used to symbolize the Garden of Eden — the Paradise Tree. The play ended with the prophecy of a saviour coming, and so was often performed during the Advent season.
It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. While coming home one December evening, the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir inspired him to recreate the effect by placing candles on the branches of a small fir tree inside his home
The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert from his native Germany. The famous Illustrated News etching in 1848, featuring the Royal Family of Victoria, Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle, popularized the tree throughout Victorian England. Brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans, the Christmas tree became by the late 19th century.
According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood.
The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls’ plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman’s house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.
Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter.
The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.
Scandanavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.
In Northern Europe Christmas occurred during the middle of winter, when ghosts and demons could be heard howling in the winter winds. Boughs of holly, believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter, were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.
Legend also has it that holly sprang from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth. The pointed leaves were said to represent the crown of thorns Christ wore while on the cross and the red berries symbolized the blood he shed.
A native Mexican plant, poinsettias were named after Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant to America in 1828. Poinsettias were likely used by Mexican Franciscans in their 17th century Christmas celebrations. One legend has it that a young Mexican boy, on his way to visit the village Nativity scene, realized he had no gift for the Christ child. He gathered pretty green branches from along the road and brought them to the church. Though the other children mocked him, when the leaves were laid at the manger, a beautiful star-shaped flower appeared on each branch. The bright red petals, often mistaken for flowers, are actually the upper leaves of the plant.
It was not long after Europeans began using Christmas trees that special decorations were used to adorn them. Food items, such as candies and cookies, were used predominately and straight white candy sticks were one of the confections used as ornamentation. Legend has it that during the 17th century, craftsmen created the white sticks of candy in the shape of shephreds’ crooks at the suggestion of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
The candy treats were given to children to keep them quiet during ceremonies at the living creche, or Nativity scene, and the custom of passing out the candy crooks at such ceremonies soon spread throughout Europe.
According to the National Confectioner’s Association, in 1847 German immigrant August Imgard used the candy cane to decorate a Christmas tree in Wooster, Ohio. More than 50 years later, Bob McCormack of Albany, Georgia supposedly made candy canes as treats for family, friends and local shopkeepers. McCormack’s brother-in-law, Catholic priest Gregory Keller, invented a machine in the 1950s that automated the production of candy canes, thus eliminating the usual laborious process of creating the treats and the popularity of the candy cane grew.
More recent explanations of the candy cane’s symbolism hold that the color white represents Christ’s purity, the red the blood he shed, and the presence of three red stripes the Holy Trinity. While factual evidence for these notions does not exist, they have become increasingly common and at times are even represented as fact. Regardless, the candy cane remains a favorite holiday treat and decoration.
A form of Christmas card began in England first when young boys practiced their writing skills by creating Christmas greetings for their parents, but it is Sir Henry Cole who is credited with creating the first real Christmas card. The first director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry found himself too busy in the Christmas season of 1843 to compose individual Christmas greetings for his friends.
He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley for the illustration. The card featured three panels, with the center panel depicting a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the card was inscribed with the message “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
Enjoy these Christmas related jokes. Funny, clean Christmas Jokes for kids and adults.
Q. What kind of bird can write?
A. A pen-guin
Q.What do you get if you cross Santa with a detective ?
A. Santa Clues!
Q. What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
A. It’s Christmas, Eve.
Q. Why does Santa Claus like to work in the garden?
A. Because he like to hoe, hoe, hoe!
Q. What happened when the snowwoman got angry at the snowman?
A.She gave him the cold shoulder.
Q. What do snowmen wear on their heads?
A. Ice caps.
Q. How do sheep say Merry Christmas in Mexico?
A. Fleece Navidad!
Q. What is a snowman’s favorite lunch?
A. An Iceberger!
Q. What do vampires put on their Christmas turkey?
Q. What did the ghost say to Santa Claus?
A. I’ll have a boo Christmas without you.
Q. What do you call a snowman party?
A. A Snowball!
Q. What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed?
A. A cookie sheet!
Q. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a shark?
A. Frost bite!
Q. What do you call an Eskimo cow?
A. An Eskimoo.
Q. How is the Christmas alphabet different from the ordinary alphabet?
A. The Christmas alphabet has NO EL.
Q. What do the elves sing to Santa Claus on his birthday?
A. Freeze a jolly good fellow . . .
Q. What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmastime?
A. Sandy Claws!
Q. Why are Christmas trees such bad knitters?
A.They are always dropping their needles.
Q. What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas?
A.Thanks, I’ll never part with it!
Q. Why did they let the turkey join the band?
A. Because he had the drum sticks.
Q. What do you when if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?
A. A pineapple.
Q. What did the big candle say to the little candle?
A. I’m going out tonight.
Q. Why wasn’t the turkey hungry at Christmas time?
A. He was stuffed!
Q. Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve?
A. Because it soots him.
Q. What kind of ball doesn’t bounce?
A. A snowball!
Q. What’s the best thing to put into Christmas pie?
A. Your teeth!
Q. What do you get when you eat the Christmas decorations?
Q. Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
A. Because every buck is dear to him.
Q. If athletes get athletes foot, what do astronauts get?
Q. What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Q. What does Santa like to eat?
A. A jolly roll.
Q. How does Santa take pictures?
A. With his North Pole-aroid.
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Chamber Cheer Tour – Friday, December 6th
Breakfast with Santa – Saturday, Dec. 7th at the North Broad Fire Hall at 8:30am
Christmas Day Happening at the North Broad Fire Hall
DECEMBER 7 & 10
"Sing Joy" Choral Concert
date: Saturday, December 7th and Tuesday, December 10th
location: Sacred Heart Church------St. Leo Church in Ridgway
description: The Concert Choir of Elk County will present "Sing Joy" a concert of your favorite Christmas Carols to be held on Saturday, Dec. 7th at Sacred Heart Church in St. Marys and again on Tuesday, Dec. 10th at St. Leo Church in Ridgway. A social will follow in the church social halls. What a wonderful way to begin the Christmas Season. Please join us.
There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
~ Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), American author and humorist.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”
~ Peg Bracken.
The earth has grown old with its burden of care But at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair And its soul full of music breaks the air, When the song of angels is sung.”
~ Phillips Brooks (1835-93), American Episcopal bishop, wrote ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’
Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given–when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.”
~ Joan Winmill Brown, American author and editor.
This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.”
~ Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985), English novelist.
Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.”
~ Charlotte Carpenter.
There are no strangers on Christmas Eve.”
~ Adele Comandini and Edward Sutherland. Michael O’Brien (Charles Winninger)
I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
~ Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English author. From ‘A Christmas Carol’.
They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart.”
~ Mrs. Paul M. Ell.
It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
~ W. T. Ellis
At Christmas, all roads lead home.”
~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer.
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
~ Bob Hope, American film actor and comedian.
Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”
~ Oren Arnold
The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
~ Charles N. Barnard, American author, travel writer.
I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
~ Harlan Miller
Christmas–that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance–a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
~ Augusta E. Rundell