Dis­cov­er­ing the ori­gins of Christ­mas tra­di­tions

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - De­cem­ber was likely cho­sen so the Catholic Church could com­pete with ri­val pa­gan rit­u­als held at that time of year and be­cause of its close­ness with the win­ter sol­stice in the north­ern hemi­sphere, a tra­di­tional time of celebration among many an­cient cultu

WHEN was the first Christ­mas card sent? Why do we kiss un­der the mistle­toe? Learn the ori­gins of Christ­mas and fun facts about some of our favourite Christ­mas tra­di­tions and sym­bols. There are Christ­mas tra­di­tions that are prac­ticed by a num­ber of coun­tries all over the world dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. From the Old English “Cristes Mæsse” – mean­ing the “mass of Christ” – the story of Christ­mas be­gins with the birth of a babe in Beth­le­hem. It is be­lieved that Christ was born on the 25th, al­though the ex­act month is un­known.

In Greece, he is the pa­tron saint of sailors; in France, he was the pa­tron of lawyers; and in Bel­gium, the pa­tron of chil­dren and trav­ellers. Thou­sands of churches across Europe were ded­i­cated to him and some time around the 12th cen­tury an of­fi­cial church hol­i­day was cre­ated in his hon­our.

The Feast of St Ni­cholas was cel­e­brated on De­cem­ber 6 and the day was marked by gift giv­ing and char­ity. Af­ter the Ref­or­ma­tion, Euro­pean fol­low­ers of St Ni­cholas dwin­dled, but the leg­end was kept alive in Hol­land where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Niko­laas was even­tu­ally trans­formed to Sin­terk­laas.

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