Please be patient as I am updating a few things for this Christmas season. A few dead links have been removed so things may not look quite perfect, but all the good info is here! :-) If you have some good link suggestions to fill the empty holes, please email me!
Welcome to Wesley's Christmas page and thanks for stopping by! This page is dedicated to the real reason behind Christmas-- the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvements, *Please* email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. The stories and Christmas facts are first, followed by a section of links. Thanks for visiting and enjoy your stay! Come again soon!
A special thanks goes out to Brad Huddleston Productions for providing the RealAudio version of the Christmas Story.
Being the Christmas nut that I am, even my minivan has been decorated with lights to celebrate the season. Maybe you've seen this van driving around... Click here to take a look!
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the Herald Angels
To begin with - some stories, facts, and other interesting bits of Christmas information.
The Christmas Story
Click here for the RealAudio version
Click here if you need to download the RealAudio Player
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:1-20, NIV.
A Candy Maker's Witness
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd"with which He reaches down into th e ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane -- a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear." I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness To The Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.
(Source: this was attached to a candy cane of unknown origin. It was given to Brad Huddleston by Judy Shafer, a very sweet and loving traffic manager at WLTK)
The following section of information comes from the book "Curious Customs, The Stories Behind 296 Popular American Rituals" by Tad Tuleja. Published by: Harmony Books
This common abbreviation for Christmas might easily be interpreted as an instance of modern insolence, or laziness, or both, and I remember, during my Catholic boyhood, being told by a more pious acquaintance that to write an "X" for Christ's name was a gross insult, if not a sacrilege. Actually he was both overzealous and wrong, for the letter "X" in Xmas, like the letter alone as a sign for a kiss, stands quite appropriately for the name Christ. In Greek, it's the first letter, transliterated chi, of Jesus' name. The abbreviation isn't modern either. The Oxford English Dictionary mentions a somewhat longer version, X'temmas, dating from 1551.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
The Christmas tree, like the Maypole, originated ultimately in pre-Christian Europe, where the northern peoples believed that trees (fruit trees and evergreens in particular) were embodiments of powerful beings. This connection to paganism is distant, however, and the more immediate link is to the Middle Ages. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Phillip V. Snyder notes, the designated miracle play for December 24 was the story of Adam and Eve, and in this play the chief prop was an apple-hung evergreen called the paradise tree, dramatically evoking, for the illiterate medieval audiences, the lost innocence of Eden. Perhaps as an invitation to that innocence, perhaps as a throwback to their pagan heritage, German families in the sixteenth century began bringing evergreens into their homes during the holiday season. By the seventeenth century, these were known as Christbaüme ("Christ trees") and were being decorated with fruit, candies, cookies, and flat wafers resembling the eucharistic host. The candles that were the precursors of our Christmas lights were introduced at about the same time--although a pretty but unsubstantiated legend says they were invented earlier by Martin Luther.
The Christbaum remained largely a German custom until the nineteenth century, when it was taken to England by German merchants and popularized by Victoria's beloved consort, Prince Albert of Sexe-Coburg. The first Christmas tress in America were set up by German immigrants in the 1820s, although it was many decades before the custom took firm hold. As late as 1878, according to Snyder, one New York reporter referred to the import as "an aboriginal oddity." The almost universal adoption of the custom, Snyder says, dates from the 1910s.
KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE
Among the Druids of pre-Christian Britain, mistletoe was a sacred, medicinal herb, so esteemed for its curative properties that it was popularly known as all-heal. Sir James Frazer identified it as the golden bough plucked by Aeneas from the oak at the gate of the underworld, and the Druids seem to have been no less fascinated by its magic than the Romans; A Druid priest who removed a sprig from its host plant, the oak, had to do so with a golden sickle and catch it in a white cloth before it hit the ground. The only bad news we hear of the mistletoe in ancient times is that it was used in a dart to kill Balder, the most beloved and innocent of the Norse gods; but even this reinforces the plant's reputation for having magical power over life and death.
Frazer associates the kissing custom with the "license of the Greek Saturnalia." and Philip Waterman, casting still further, sees it as a survival of temple prostitution in the worship of the "Babylonian Venus." Mylitta T. G. Crippen, who sees it as a "peculiarly English" custom, makes a couple of better guesses. It may reflect a primitive marriage or fertility rite. Or it may go back to a Scandinavian truce custom. If people were prohibited from fighting when they met near mistletoe in the fores, it may have been but a short step to the custom of hanging a sprig on a doorway "to imply a pledge of peace and friendship" that would "be sealed with a friendly greeting" like a kiss. This would make the Christmas connection logical, since it is the season of peace.
More intersting Christmas facts from AOL
The word Christmas comes from the old English "Cristes maesse" meaning Christ's Mass. The Holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The actual birthday of Jesus is not known; therefore, the early Church Fathers in the 4th century fixed the day around the old Roman Saturnalia festival (17 - 21 December), a traditional pagan festivity. The first mention of the birthday of Jesus is from the year 354 AD. Gradually all Christian churches, except Armenians who celebrate Christmas on January 6 (the date of the baptism of Jesus as well as the day of the three Magi), accepted the date of December 25th.
In American/English tradition, Christmas Day itself is the day for opening gifts brought by jolly old St. Nick. Many of our current American ideals about the way Christmas ought to be, derive from the English Victorian Christmas, such as that described in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
The caroling, the gifts, the feast, and the wishing of good cheer to all - these ingredients came together to create that special Christmas atmosphere.
The custom of gift-giving on Christmas dates only to Victorian times. Before then it was more common to exchange gifts on New Year'' Day or Twelfth Night. Santa Claus is known by British children as Father Christmas. Father Christmas, these days, is quite similar to the American Santa, but his direct ancestor is a certain pagan spirit who regularly appeared in medieval mummer's plays. The old-fashioned Father Christmas was depicted wearing long robes with sprigs of holly in his long white hair. Children write letters to Father Christmas detailing their requests, but instead of dropping them in the mailbox, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draft carries the letters up the chimney, and theoretically, Father Christmas reads the smoke. Gifts are opened Christmas afternoon.
From the English we get a story to explain the custom of hanging stockings from the mantelpiece. Father Christmas once dropped some gold coins while coming down the chimney. The coins would have fallen through the ash grate and been lost if they hadn't landed in a stocking that had been hung out to dry. Since that time children have continued to hang out stockings in hopes of finding them filled with gifts.
The custom of singing carols at Christmas is also of English origin. During the middle ages, groups of serenaders called waits would travel around from house to house singing ancient carols and spreading the holiday spirit. The word carol means "song of you." Most of the popular old carols we sing today were written in the nineteenth century.
The hanging of greens, such as holly and ivy, is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era. Greenery was probably used to lift sagging winter spirits and remind the people that spring was not far away. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is descended from ancient Druid rites. The decorating of Christmas trees, though primarily a German custom, has been widely popular in England since 1841 when Prince Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle for his wife Queen Victoria, and their children.
The word wassail is derived from the Anglo-Saxon phrase "waes hael," which means "good health." Originally, wassail was a beverage made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs, and spices. It was served for the purpose of enhancing the general merriment of the season. Like many of the ancient customs, wassailing has a legend to explain its origin. It seems that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words Waes hael. Over the centuries a great deal of ceremony had developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl is carried into a room with great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink is sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage is served.
For many years in England, a roasted boar's head has been associated with Holiday feasting. The custom probably goes back to the Norse practice of sacrificing a boar at Yuletide in honor of the god Freyr. One story tells of a student at Oxford's Queen College who was attacked on Christmas Day by a wild boar. All he had in his hand to use as a weapon was his copy of Aristotle, so he shoved the book down the boar's throat. Wanting to retrieve his book, the student cut off the animal's head and brought it back to the college where it was served for Christmas dinner with much pomp and ceremony.
It is from Scandinavia that most of our Yule log traditions derive. The dark cold winters inspired the development of traditions concerned with warmth and light. Yuletide, meaning the turning of the sun or the winter solstice, has traditionally been a time of extreme importance in Scandinavia - a time when fortunes for the coming year were determined and when the dead were thought to walk the earth. For a long time, it was considered dangerous to sleep alone on Christmas Eve. The extended family, master and servant, alike would sleep together on a freshly spread bed of straw.
The Yule log was originally an entire tree, carefully chosen, and brought into the house with great ceremony. The butt end would be placed into the hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The tree would be slowly fed into the fire and the entire process was carefully timed to last the entire Yule season.
The Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France, and though the use of the Yule log has faded, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the "buche de Nol," which means "Christmas Log." The cake, among other food in great abundance, is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called Le rveillon. Le rveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. The traditional Christmas dinner is made of turkey with chestnuts puree, and the buche de Noel as desert. Oysters are eaten on New Year's Eve only because New Year's is more an adult celebration and usually children are not very fond of oysters. The tradition in Paris is to eat grilled chestnuts in the streets during the month of December and part of January.
The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.
Some Holiday Humor...
A Politically Correct Santa
'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck... How to live in a world that's politically correct? His workers no longer would answer to "Elves", "Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves. And labor conditions at the north pole Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul. Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety, Released to the wilds by the Humane Society. And equal employment had made it quite clear That Santa had better not use just reindeer. So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid, Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid! The runners had been removed from his sleigh; The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A. And people had started to call for the cops When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops. Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened. His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened." And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows: Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation, Demanding millions in over-due compensation. So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife, Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life, Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz, Demanding from now on her title was Ms. And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion That making a choice could cause so much commotion. Nothing of leather, nothing of fur, Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her. Nothing that might be construed to pollute. Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot. Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise. Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys. Nothing that claimed to be gender specific. Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific. No candy or sweets...they were bad for the tooth. Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth. And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden, Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden. For they raised the hackles of those psychological Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological. No baseball, no football...someone could get hurt; Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt. Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe; And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away. So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed; He just could not figure out what to do next. He tried to be merry, tried to be gay, But you've got to be careful with that word today. His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground; Nothing fully acceptable was to be found. Something special was needed, a gift that he might Give to all without angering the left or the right. A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision, Each group of people, every religion; Every ethnicity, every hue, Everyone, everywhere...even you. So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth... "May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."
Where did the practice of kissing under the mistletoe arise? Mistletoe is a fungus, for goodness sake. --Wolf Dixie, Indianapolis
What's your problem with funguses? Some of my best friends are funguses. Fungi. Whatever. Besides, mistletoe isn't a fungus. It is a parasitic shrub, which, granted, is not a vast improvement statuswise. Nonetheless your unease about mistletoe is well founded. Mistletoe berries, for one thing, are poisonous, and some species can kill the trees that host them.
Even worse is the legend that supposedly accounts for our custom of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas. In the version recounted by Edgar Nash in the Saturday Evening Post in 1898, the Scandinavian god Baldur told his mother Frigga that he had a premonition that he was going to die, whereupon Frigga extracted promises from every animal, vegetable, and mineral that it would not harm her son. She overlooked only the inconsequential mistletoe, a fact that came to the unfortunate attention of Loki, the god of destruction. Loki promptly hurried over to where the other gods, obviously in desperate need of entertainment, were hurling spears and such at Baldur for the fun of seeing them swerve aside without harming him. The pitiless Loki, however, shot an arrow of mistletoe, which fatally pierced Baldur's heart.
Rather than punish Loki, the gods decided the answer was mistletoe control, and turned the plant over to Frigga to do with as she would, provided it did not touch the ground. (Why this was important I don't know, although since it grows on trees mistletoe generally does not touch the ground.) Frigga hung up the mistletoe and, to show she did not bear a grudge, declared that all who passed beneath it should receive a kiss of love and forgiveness, as opposed to, say, a severed aorta. So when somebody smooches a fellow hominid who has strayed beneath the mistletoe, he or she is implicitly saying: Be grateful it's only a kiss, babe. I could have killed you. Maybe not such an inappropriate custom for the 90s after all.
Copyright 1995 Chicago Reader
I hear Jesus wasn't really a Capricorn but that he was either a Pisces or a Leo instead--that his birthday is observed in December because the Catholic Church took over the ancient Saturnalia debauch. What's the lowdown? --Jerry M., Los Angeles
History records no observation of Christmas before 354, and by that time there was no one around who remembered exactly when Jesus was born. Today, historians have all but given up trying to figure it out. They give his birth date as 6-8 BC (good trick, but this was no ordinary dude) and leave it at that.
Nobody knows exactly why Christ's birthday is celebrated on December 25. One theory holds that this is the right date, postulating that Zachary was high priest and that the Day of Atonement fell on September 24, ergo, John the Baptist was born on June 24 and Christ dropped in exactly six months later on December 25. Modern scholars use this theory to get laughs at cocktail parties.
Another guess works backward from the supposed date of the crucifixion (March 25), figuring that Christ was conceived exactly 33 years before he died, True Believers having no use for fractional numbers. According to the most tenable hypothesis, Christ's birthday was assigned to the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian) because the date had a ready-made pagan holiday, the "Birthday of the Invincible Sun" (or "ancient Saturnalia debauch," as you put it).
The idea that Jesus was a Pisces probably comes from the characterization of that sign as one of spiritualism, humility, compassion, sacrifice, etc. Students of astrology will tell you it's not kosher to work the formula backwards that way.
Copyright 1984-1996 Chicago Reader
My friend claims the first song sung in space was "Happy Birthday." I, however, have heard it was a Christmas carol. Who is right? --Steve C.
You are. "Happy Birthday" was first performed in outer space by the Apollo IX astronauts on March 8, 1969. They were beaten to the punch by the crew of Gemini VI, who sang "Jingle Bells" on December 15, 1965. They accompanied themselves on harmonica and bells, thereby taking the ancient tradition of caroling to, you should pardon the expression, new heights.
Copyright 1988-1997 Chicago Reader
And now some links for your viewing
|'Tis the Christmas Season||Christmas in CyberSpace: A Christian Perspective|
|Old Christmas Tree Light Site||www.christmas.com|
|Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"||Christmas 'round the World (Wide Web)|
|History of the Santa Suit||National Christmas Tree Association|
|Christmas on the Net||Santa Claus|
|Welcome to the North Pole!||HomePage for the Holidays|
Now... if you know of any good Christmas pages that aren't listed, please email me so I can add them to this list! Thank you for your support!
Cute video clip
Please take a look at this very humorous clip. To view, click here, then choose "open" to view. It is a .exe executable file which may prompt a warning, but it is safe to open. If anyone has this in another format, please let me know, I'd love to have it available in a non-executable format..
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