10 Christmas Facts you Did Not KnowAuthor: Sean Carter
The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Twelve Days of Christmas refers to the twelve days between the Christmas Day (December 25) and the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). Tradition has it that this is the time taken by the Three Wise Men (the Magi) to reach Bethlehem to see the babe in the manger, Jesus.
Mistletoe: Mistletoe is a plant hung on the doorway of every American household during Christmas. The mistletoe symbolizes love, having been closely associated with Frigga, the Scandinavian's goddess of love. It's from this that the convention of kissing under the mistletoe originated.
Hanging Stockings: The practice of hanging stockings over the fireplace on Christmas Eve comes from England. The legend of St. Nicholas has it that the latter was a kind saint who was believed to have left gifts of gold coins in the stockings of three poor maidens, who badly needed the money for their wedding dowries. They hung their stockings to dry over the fireplace, and to their great surprise, they found bags of gold in them the next morning. Following this, children kept hanging Christmas stockings over the fireplace on Christmas Eve in the hope that Santa would drop gifts and toys in them !
Christmas Carols: The first carols are said to have been sung by angelic choirs at Christ's birth. St.Francis of Assissi is also accredited as the 'Father of Caroling'. The word 'carol' comes from the Greek 'charaulein', a Greek dance, later replaced by song. By the 17th century, caroling was restricted to Christmas time, and now, it's customary for kids to go caroling in groups from door to door, singing favorites such as "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and many more !
Holly Boughs: The boughs of holly are another very important symbol of Christmas. These are red berries with thorny leaves. To the Christians, the holly berries symbolize Christ's blood and the sharply pointed leaves stand for the thorns in His crown. Henceforth, the holly became part of the Nativity tradition.
The Nativity Scene: The Nativity Scene includes the scene at Bethlehem, when Jesus was born. The manger, the swaddling clothes, the bright star in the sky, the shepherds surrounding baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men (the Magi) form part of the scene.
The Poinsettia: Poinsettias are beautiful winter blooms, native to Mexico. They've been named after the first US ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the plant from its land of origin to America. Since the beginning of the 19th century, poinsettias have come to be associated with Christmas.
Eggnog: Eggnog, a very popular Christmas drink, is prepared by mixing cream, milk, sugar and beaten eggs with some kind of liquor. This has a close connection to the Christmas holiday, and on Christmas Eve, it's fairly common to spot groups of people eggnogging at their neighbors' and friends' places. People also gather round the Christmas tree, drinking eggnog and then move from house to house caroling.
The Yule Log: The yule log is a huge log used to light up big fires during festive celebrations. It originated in Europe, where it used to be placed in the hearth and continued to burn throughout the year, till it turned into ashes. Bringing in the yule log was as much a custom during the Christmas holidays as was decorating the Christmas tree. The yule log is generally placed in the fireplace. It's from this yule log that Christmas also came to be known as 'Yuletide'.
Boxing Day: The day after Christmas is known as the Feast of St. Stephens. The alms box of the Church was opened on Boxing Day, and the contents, known as the "dole of the Christmas box" were distributed by the parish priest among the needy. Henceforth, the day after Christmas came to be known as the Boxing Day