The word Christmas comes from the Old English words, Cristes maesse, which means “Christ's Mass. " Christmas was probably first celebrated in AD 336 in Rome.
The evergreen Christmas tree tradition began in Germany around AD 700, and then moved to England and on into America through Pennsylvanian German immigrants. People probably started decorating Christmas trees in the 16th century after Martin Luther first put candles on the Christmas tree.
Mistletoe, sharply-pointed holly leaves, symbolic of Christ's crown of thorns and the red berries of drops of his blood has been used as a house decoration for thousands of years.
The term Yule dates from early Anglo Saxon celebrations of lengthening daylight after the winter solstice. It is a term derived from the Middle English Yollen, which means to “cry aloud. "
Santa Claus, based on Saint Nicholas, was a bishop of Myra in Lycia (Turkey) and attended the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Mr. Nicholas had a wonderful reputation for kindness and generosity. Legends grew of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy people. The Christmas stocking tradition originated from a legend that Mr. Nicholas left gold coins in the stockings of three poor girls who needed the money for wedding plans and saved them from a life of prostitution.
The modern view of Santa Claus, his sleigh, reindeer, chimney and all else associated with him comes largely from the poem “The Night before Christmas, " written for his family in 1822. The poem was widely reprinted in magazines and newspapers. The red suit Santa wears is from Saint Nicholas's traditional bishop's robes.
The famous “Rudolf" appeared when the Montgomery Ward Stores gave away 2.4 million copies of a booklet called: “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer, " in 1939. The booklet was written by Robert May from their advertising department. The song, a musical version of the poem, is now second only to White Christmas in popularity.
Irving Berlin wrote the song “White Christmas, " for the Holiday Inn film in 1942. It was sung by Bing Crosby. It had become the best-selling song of all time by the end of the Second World War.
The Nutcracker, a beloved ballet, created in 1892 and introduced to North America in the early 20th century by Russian touring companies. It has been performed by the world's most prestigious dance companies, been on television, and adapted across North American providing numerous performances. The NYCB's Nutcracker was seen across the continent when televised n the late 1950s. It has become a meaningful ritual for many Americans.
Source: Gold S, Chenoweth E, Rotella M, et al. NUTCRACKER NATION: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World (Book). Reed Business Information / Reviews; 2003:69. Available from: MAS Ultra - School Edition, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 10, 2008.
William Reville D. The evolution of Santa Claus and other Christmas traditions. Irish Times [serial online]. December 22, 2005. Available from: Newspaper Source, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 10, 2008.
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