Christmas Traditions. The scene of Jesus, Mary and Joseph huddled in the stable is probably the most common visual image of the Christmas season St Francis

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  • Christmas Traditions
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  • The scene of Jesus, Mary and Joseph huddled in the stable is probably the most common visual image of the Christmas season St Francis of Assisi (d 1226) is credited with arranging the first nativity scene, complete with animals and a live baby. Tradition says he was angered by the excesses of a medieval Church and wanted to create a Christmas which would be accessible to all The Nativity
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  • St Bonaventure (D 1274) records the event as follows. It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The Nativity
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  • The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. The Nativity
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  • Since then a range of animals have been placed around the manger. Donkey Symbol of humility, the triumph of Christ What do the animals symbolise?
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  • Sheep Folklore says that the reason that sheep walk in procession is out of respect for the good news the shepherds received while tending for them Ox A symbol of sacrifice, the ox is said to have used its breath to keep the infant warm What do the animals symbolise?
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  • Cockerel In classical mythology the cockerel is dedicated to Apollo because it notes the rising sun. In the Christmas tradition the cockerel announces the good news of the birth of the messiah Christ is born Stork Mid 16 th century tradition says the stork was so upset at where the baby was laid that she plucked feathers from her breast to keep him warm. In Poland children dress in nativity characters and storks when they go carolling. Camel The bearer of the wise men, in southern Spain the youngest camel brings the gifts for the children What do the animals symbolise?
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  • However, although this Nativity scene is often part of the Christmas celebrations now, it is not found in either of the two stories about the birth of Jesus which are found in the Bible. No stable, donkey, sheep or goat is mentioned in either account of the birth of Jesus in the gospels. The Nativity
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  • The Gospel of Luke has the longest story of the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew has a shorter story. These two stories are very different and as we read them we must remember they were not written to report on the birth of Jesus but rather to show how important Jesus was, from this birth! The Birth of Jesus
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  • The ancient Romans observed the festival of the god Saturn Saturnalia a festival which ran for a week from December 17 23. The festival thanked the gods for the fruits of the earth and for the farming skills which helped them cultivate the resources of the land In 274, the Emperor Aurelian declared the festival of sol invitcus to the sun god Mithras on December 25 th. Gradually, the two festivals ran into one, celebrated in late December Why is Jesus birthday the 25 th of December?
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  • At same time, the people of northern Europe celebrated the winter yuletide, when the great mother goddess was thought to give birth to the baby sun god After the winter solstice on December 21 st they lit a bonfire (onto which they threw a huge yule log) to encourage the return of the sun and a good harvest in the year to come Why is Jesus birthday the 25 th of December?
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  • Christmas Day the day of the birth of Jesus was celebrated whenever communities chose (often in September during the Jewish Rosh Hashanah festival) However, in the 3 rd century (320/354 CE) Pope Julius established Dec 25 th as the universal Christmas day, hoping to supersede the pagan celebrations Why is Jesus birthday the 25 th of December?
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  • Although the date was now fixed, the festive celebration of Christmas was not widespread, partly because of its association with pagan festivals In fact, Oliver Cromwell sought to ban Christmas festivities with his puritan blue laws believing that the feast should be solemn and not a time for rejoicing Why is Jesus birthday the 25 th of December?
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  • So where do the traditions we now enjoy come from?
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  • The tradition of Santa began in the city of Myra (now called Demre) in the 4 th Century CE with the local bishop, Nicholas Nicholas would fill the childrens shoes left outside their doors with treats, taking with him the carrots, turnips and hay left for his horse or donkey Youd better watch out..
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  • In time, he came to be known as St Nicholas and his feast was celebrated on the day of his death, December 6 th The Dutch took the custom to America and gradually Sinta Klaus became Santa Claus Youd better watch out..
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  • The custom of leaving stockings out for Santa to fill recalls the actions of the Bishop Interestingly, the gifts of St Nicholas are intended to be shared, not hoarded. Youd better watch out..
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  • Although the term Father Christmas is now used interchangeably with santa, the tradition of Father Christmas is a little different. Personification of the ideals of Christmas began in the puritan times in England, when the voice of the festivity of Christmas was brought to life in a bearded old gentleman. Youd better watch out..
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  • In Ben Johnsons play Christmas his masque, (December 1616) Christmas appears "attir'd in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Broach, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse", and announces "Why Gentlemen, doe you know what you doe? ha! would you ha'kept me out? Christmas, old Christmas?" Youd better watch out..
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  • Father Christmas was neither associated with children or gift bearing, just with rekindling a spirit of frivolity and cheer For almost 250 years he appeared in plays as Sir Christmas, Lord Christmas and finally Father Christmas Over the years the traditions of Santa and Father Christmas were merged so that the names are now used synonymously Youd better watch out..
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  • The contemporary image of Santa was made famous by Thomas Nasts drawings of 1860 Youd better watch out..
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  • In 1931 artist Haddon Sundblom was commissioned by Coca-Cola to portray Santa in an advertising campaign. Although some have proposed that the red clothes of Santa are the Coke colours, Nast (a German) used his knowledge of St Nicholas in his choice of red. Coca-Cola Santa.
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  • Prof Clement Clarke Moore is attributed with beginning the tradition of flying sleighs, and reindeer and chimneys in his poem A Visit from St Nicholas aka Twas the night before Christmas, published in 1823 Moore is said to have made up the poem for his children Dashing through the snow
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  • Can you name the reindeer the Clement Moore made famous?
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  • Christmas Decorations
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  • Pagan Rome decorated their homes during Saturnalia with greenery and lights. To avoid persecution, early Christians continued the custom with the use of hollyfor them though, the sharp leaves represented the pain of the crucifixion, the red berries the blood of Christ Deck the halls with boughs of Holly
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  • Kissing under the mistletoe was another of the rituals of the festival of Saturnalia. Mistletoe was believed to be able to increase fertility, partly because it was thought to have originated from the dung left on the branches of trees by birds. mistletoe literally means dung on a twig Mistletoe
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  • Pointsettia Legend says a peasant girl, saddened by her lack of gifts on Christmas day picked some weeds and lay them at the feet of a statue of Mary. They were transformed. The star shape is said to represent the star hovering over the birthplace of Jesus, the red the blood of both the children slaughter by Herod and the adult Christ. Christmas rose: Legend says that the child Jesus turned from the gifts of the wise men and took the white flower of the black hellebore. Since then it has been used as a charm against evil spirits. Christmas plants
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  • Tree worship goes back to pagan times when the evergreen tree represented a powerful symbol of life in the midst of death. Creation myths often involved trees; St Boniface was said to have used a fir tree as a symbol of the Trinity. The Christmas Tree
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