Monday, December 19, 2011
Christmas Traditions: Part One
According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood.
The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls' plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman's house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.
St Nicholas in the 4th century was the original "Santa Claus". Our image of the jovial white bearded gentleman in red is courtesy of Coca Cola and their ads in the 1930s. But the origin of Santa Claus began with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. When I was in Poland recently, staff were being given gifts on December 6. In many European countries this is the day when St Nicholas delivers sweets and toys.
He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley for the illustration. The card featured three panels, with the centre panel depicting a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the card was inscribed with the message "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."
This is a uniquely British one and we get a 2nd day off! Boxing Day takes its name from the ancient practice of opening boxes that contained money given to those who had given their service during the year. It was also the day when alms boxes, placed in churches on Christmas Day, were opened. The money was then given to the priest or used to help the poor and needy. Another name for Boxing Day used to be Offering Day.
The Queen's Message
The first Christmas Broadcast was delivered by George V in 1932 and since then has evolved into an important part of the Christmas Day celebrations for many in Britain and around the world.
Tomorrow: Learn about how our neighbours in Europe spend Christmas
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