Archive for the ‘Christmas Traditions’ Category

The Twelve Days of Christmas or Happy Holidays!

This may seem late for those who aren’t familiar with the liturgical calendar,  the old celebration of Christmas, or what exactly the Twelve Days of Christmas happen to be.

 The 12 days of Christmas is the period that in Christian theology marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day). The four weeks preceding Christmas are collectively known as Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24.

The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and are a time of celebration.

So, my comment about taking the whole month of December off isn’t too outrageous if we add the four weeks prior to 25th December to the time to Ephiphany (6 January). Christmas day is only beginning,  yet few families choose to mark the 12-day period by observing the feast days of various saints (including St. Stephen on December 26) and planning daily Christmas-related activities. Things go back to business as usual after December 25 for most people.

For those who are into the liturgical 12 days, each traditionally celebrate a feast day for a saint and/or have different celebrations:

  • Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day – celebrating the Birth of Jesus
  • Day 2 (26th December also known as Boxing Day): St Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian martyr (someone who dies for their faith). It’s also the day when the Christmas Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas‘ takes place.
  • Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle (One of Jesus’s Disciples and friends)
  • Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents – when people remember the baby boys which King Herod killed when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus.
  • Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the Church.
  • Day 6 (30th December): St Egwin of Worcester.
  • Day 7 (31st December): New Year’s Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). Pope Sylvester I is traditionally celebrated on this day. He was one of the earliest popes (in the 4th Century). In many central and eastern European countries (including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Slovenia) New Year’s Eve is still sometimes called ‘Silvester’. In the UK, New Year’s Eve was a traditional day for ‘games’ and sporting competitions. Archery was a very popular sport and during the middle ages it was the law that it had to be practised by all men between ages 17-60 on Sunday after Church! This was so the King had lots of very good archers ready in case he need to go to war!
  • Day 8 (1st January): 1st January – Mary, the Mother of Jesus
  • Day 9 (2nd January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two important 4th century Christians.
  • Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘named’ in the Jewish Temple. It’s celebrated by different churches on a wide number of different dates!
  • Day 11 (4th January): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past it also celebrated the feast of Saint Simon Stylites (who lives on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years!).
  • Day 12 (5th January also known as Epiphany Eve):

Even if you are like me and are more pagan/Tudor about it all and just want to celebrate the season, you have Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay), New Years Day, and Twelfth Night.

Let’s toss in that the Puritans pretty much wiped out the extended Christmas celebration. After all, it’s not too far out to start preparing in November if your Christmas begins four weeks before the 25th of December.

But the bottom line is that the Solstice/Christmas Celebration tend to be long because it is intended to “drive the cold winter away”. It is something to keep seasonal affective disorder at bay and seems really weird when celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere where the days are long.

Sinterklaas en Zwarte Pieten

OK, once again it is time for the cries of “War on Christmas” to begin, which are amusing since (1) the holiday has had problems since the Early Christian Fathers and (2) the people whining have no real reason to whine.

Anyway, over in the Netherlandish countries (Holland, Belgium, and sort of Luxembourg), they are having a row over this tradition for good reason.

I said I would post these pics from my time in Belgium when I found them.

 

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

BTW, be sure to check out “Six To Eight Black Men” by David Sedaris. Try to find the version where he compares this custom to US gun nuttery!

Whose war on Christmas?

‘Tis the Season of stupid comments about Christmas and a “war on Christmas”.
Funny, but people forget about, or are just plain ignorant of, the FACT that some Christians did not like Christmas based upon its pagan origins and traditions (pretty much all of them are Pagan). 

Christmas was banned in Puritan England and New England as well as Scotland.  Other Protestant faiths refused (and some still refuse) to celebrate Christmas.  It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday!

I’m going to grab this comment as a pretty good summary of the state of Christmas in the US:

Christmas is actually a perfect example of the way that a nearly homogeneously Christian dominant culture has segued into a pluralistic one. Christmas is a national holiday mostly because it’s always been one and the inertia is too strong. But Christmas has been co-opted by secular society to the point that it is celebrated by the popular culture as a nonreligious holiday. All the Christmas specials about the “true meaning of Christmas” being abstract notions like “giving” and “caring” and “family” and so on.

The other part of this is that lots of voters still believe that America is a “Christian” country–whatever that means–and any politician who so much as suggested demoting Dec. 25 from its status as a federal holiday would be committing political suicide for no tangible benefit.

So, there really isn’t a “secular war” on Christmas and Christians, it’s that some people don’t realise that the holiday has become secular, rather than religious.

The World Turned Upside Down

Since we are getting into how screwed up things can be when one forgets the lessons of history, or succombs to a more pleasing revised version of history, I present the ballad The World Turned Upside Down.

This was first published on a broadside in 1643 as a protest against the policies of Parliament relating to the celebration of Christmas. Parliament believed the holiday should be a solemn occasion, and outlawed traditional English Christmas celebrations. There are several versions of the lyrics. It is sung to the tune of another ballad, “When the King Enjoys His Own Again”.

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d.
Old Christmas is kicked out of Tow
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
The wise men did rejoyce to see our Savior Christs Nativity:
The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepheards did rejoyce and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them.
Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke.
And then strange motions will abound.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, doe mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in.
Hospitality it selfe is drown’d.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
The serving men doe sit and whine, and thinke it long ere dinner time:
The Butler’s still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look,
Where is no goodnesse to be found,
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
To conclude, I’le tell you news that’s right, Christmas was kil’d at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

Of course, those who take the term “Conservative”, yet are hardly holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, are more than willing to turn the world upside down.

Even more amusing are the ancestors of the Puritans who want to put “Christ back into Christmas” when Christians were trying to ignore the holiday because of its pagan connections.

A bit late for Christmas, but…

It seems that a Mattawan, Michigan High School Teacher was suspended and then reinstated after the School Christmas Gift Exchange went a little XXX!

It seems that students brought sex toys to school wrapped as presents for the Christmas gift exchange.  The teacher didn’t know about the X-rated toys ahead of the exchange.  It wasn’t until the toys were unwrapped that the gifts were realised to be less than innocent. Mattawan Superintendent Patrick Bird says the teacher was suspended because she didn’t take immediate action after the wrappings were removed.

The unidentified teacher is now back on the job at Mattawan High School. The superintendent says she’s a “great teacher” who’s made a “positive difference for kids over the years.” The students were not disciplined.

Although, they might have enjoyed that!

Christmas Oldies

The Moody Blues: Don’t Need a Reindeer

I like the sentiment.

This one is appropriate to the Occupy Protests. I dedicate it to all those people who say the US is a Christian nation, yet are the most unchristian people I know. Unfortunately, they don’t know who they are.

As the song says:

Once in Royal David’s City stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby.
You’d do well to remember the things He later said.
When you’re stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties,
you’ll laugh when I tell you to take a running jump.
You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making;
that Christmas spirit is not what you drink.

So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry
and how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

Hey, Santa: pass us that bottle, will you?

Another Christmas Song

Hope everybody’s ringing on their own bell, this fine morning.
Hope everyone’s connected to that long distance phone.
Old man, he’s a mountain.
Old man, he’s an island.
Old man, he’s awaking – says,
“ I’m going to call, call all my children home.”

Hope everybody’s dancing to their own drum this fine morning –
the beat of distant Africa or a Polish factory town.
Old man, he’s calling for his supper.
He’s calling for his whisky.
Calling for his sons and daughters, yeah –
calling, calling all his children round.

Sharp ears are tuned in to the drones and chanters warming.
Mist blowing round some headland, somewhere in your memory.
Everyone is from somewhere –
even if you’ve never been there.
So take a minute to remember the part of you
that might be the old man calling me.

How many wars you fighting out there, this winter’s morning?
Maybe it’s always time for another Christmas song.
Old man he’s asleep now.
Got appointments to keep now.
Dreaming of his sons and daughters and proving ,
proving that the blood is strong.

It’s Christmas Special Time Again!

Nothing says Christmas as much as the Telly reminding us it’s that time of year again. Some folks are depirved of seeing the Regent Street lights and all the hoopla of a London Christmas, but it really starts getting hammered into your head once the Christmas Adverts start appearing and they roll out the Christmas specials.

They are a tradition as Melissa Thompson points out in her Daily Mirror article (16/12/2011) titled The changing face of the BBC’s Christmas TV schedule, which is a rather interesting survey of the tradition of broadcast Christmas specials.

While I still have some old favs (e.g., The Truth About Christmas Carols and Rick Stein’s Cornish Christmas), but this sounds like an interesting year for specials.

Channel Four has the 1999 Time Team Christmas Special up with an extravagant Medieval Christmas celebration at York’s Barley Hall.

While we are ignoring the Beeb and at Channel 4, they are putting on Felix and Murdo which the Radio Times describes as:

Imagine an Armstrong and Miller sketch about sexist Edwardian toffs, just extended superbly into a very funny sitcom by Simon Nye.

and Channel Four describes as:

In this sitcom set in Edwardian London, Ben Miller and Alexander Armstrong play a pair of ‘modern’ men who indulge in a drink and drugs spree while simultaneously competing in the 1908 Olympics… with no training whatsoever

I would watch Armstrong and Miller where ever they turn up!

BBC is serving up Lost Christmas, which is described as an “Urban fairytale set in Manchester. A series of tragic events that blight a young boy’s life are reversed one Christmas Eve, giving him and those around him the happy ending that they were destined to have.” This features a cast that includes Eddie Izzard,Jason Flemyng, Geoffrey Palmer, Christine Bottomley, Steven Mackintosh, and others.

For some reason, Doctor Who has become a Christmas Tradition now that it is a Terry Nation tribute show from BBC Wales. This special called The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe features Alexander Armstrong, Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir. I understand that Amy Pond will be leaving as companion. This one sounds interesting.

TV: The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, 8:30pm, BBC2/BBC HD
Utterly silly TV version of the utterly silly BBC Radio 4 hit, Bleak Expectations. With Robert Webb, Stephen Fry and Katherine Parkinson. The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff is a four-part comedy adventure set in the Dickensian world of Jedrington Secret-Past, the up-standing family man and owner of The Old Shop of Stuff, Victorian London’s most successful purveyor of miscellaneous odd things.

Septics who missed this and want to see it will find there are download links up already!  Get with it BBC DVD creating staff!

TV: The Borrowers, 7:30pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD Mary Norton’s classic children’s books is brought into the 21st century in a brand-new action-packed adventure film has a stellar cast, including Christopher Eccleston and Stephen Fry.

Not really Christmassy, but they sound interesting:
The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen, 9:00pm, BBC2/BBC HD–
“Amanda Vickery on the enduring popularity of Jane Austen. It might be something to do with how great her books are.”

Great Expectations, 9:00pm, BBC1 (10:00pm, BBC HD)
Smashing three-part dramatisation of the Dickens classic, with Douglas Booth as Pip and a luminous Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham.

And here is the Truth About Christmas Carols!