What we now know as Christmas is actually a compilation of 2000 years of traditions and customs rooted in the midwinter celebrations of different religions and cultures. This Holiday has stood the test of time, even sustaining through being banned in some places over time.
- Around 320 A.D. December 25th was chosen as the official date of the birth of Christ, and later the date of Christmas. The name Christmas has actually evolved starting in 1038 as “Christes Maesse” then changing to “Christes-messe”. From there it was shortened to Christemass and eventually Christmas.
- Now here is a fun fact about the tradition of the Christmas tree. In ancient Scandinavia, trees were first brought into the home not to celebrate Christmas, but to provide a warm and welcome environment for the fairy folk and spirits that lived in the trees. The use of a decorated tree outside to celebrate Christmas likely began around 1000 years ago in Northern Europe, but they were not known to be brought inside until 1800 when Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) decorated a tree for a Children’s Christmas Party in which its branches were hung with candy, nuts, fruit, and small presents for the children to find. Later, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria adopted the tradition, decorating their tree with glass-blown ornaments and candles, and thus bringing this holiday custom to popularity in England.
- In the Twelve Days of Christmas, “Four Calling Birds” is actually a not a part of the song at all. The line is actually “Four Colly Birds” which refers to the Old English word for blackbird which was baked into pies. Somewhere along the line, someone heard it wrong and changed the line as we know it. It’s like that old game of Telephone all over again.
- St. Nicholas was real! A bishop in the third and fourth century, he inherited his family fortune and decided to share it with those in need, most often children. But there was another generous Nicholas. Around the same time, a young monk from Turkey named Nicholas was giving gifts of food, clothing, and money to those in need. Not wanting to garner attention, he did this under the guise of a long, hooded cloak, often waiting until everyone was asleep before leaving his gifts…Sound familiar?
- And now for some heartwarming inspiration. In 1914, just four months after the start of the First World War, an unofficial ceasefire took place on the Western Front. In the week leading up to Christmas as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, approximately 100,000 soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and met in “no man’s land”. There, complete strangers, enemies, no less, exchanged holiday greetings, songs, food, and souvenirs. They exchanged pictures of loved ones and even played football. They also buried their dead together.
Most of this information, and much, much more can be found in The Christmas Vault by Wendy Malloy and Gina Webb. This book has not just tons of information, but is also filled with copies of memorabilia, letters, postcards, and many more interesting little tidbits. The exception is the last point about the Christmas Truce, as it has become known. I first learned of this from a song sung by John McDermott called “Christmas in the Trenches”. It is a beautiful song that never ceases to make me cry. More information can be found easily through any WWI historical information.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Gateway Physiotherapy!