Skip to comments.[Christmas] Customs from Various Countries and Cultures
Posted on 12/21/2008 6:45:27 PM PST by Salvation
by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
Centuries ago Christians brought plants and flowers into the celebration of Christmas, for did not Christ come to uphold the dignity of all God's creation? The natural world, as well as humans, angels and animals, should have a part in welcoming him.
Evergreens, from ancient times symbols of life and eternity, have always had a prominent place in Christian celebrations. Holly, with its green leaves, its prickly points and red berries, suggested that the Child born in the manger would wear a crown of thorns and shed drops of blood. Mistletoe, long associated in the pre-Christian world with healing, became a symbol of the healing power of Christ.
The poinsettia, from Central America, with its bright, star-like flowers, is a natural reminder of the Star of Bethlehem. Other plants that bloom during this season are images also of the Root of David that flowered with new life.
Many nations have contributed a rich mosaic of Christmas customs. Among the Latin peoples, the Christmas novena, nine days of prayer before Christmas, is a popular tradition. The Christmas meal after midnight Mass, in which all the family participates, is traditional among the French. Among the Slavic peoples on Christmas eve, the father of the family breaks the feastday wafers of bread and gives them to the members of his household, while wishing all the peace of Christmas.
From Ireland came the custom of placing lighted candles in the window during Christmastime. It originated in penal times when the Catholic religion was suppressed in Ireland and priests were forced into hiding. Irish families put a burning candle in their window and left their doors unlatched, hoping that a priest might come to their door and celebrate the Christmas Mass with them.
On the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, the people of South America celebrate the coming of the Three Kings with colorful processions and give gifts on that day.
The Christmas tree probably originated from popular early medieval religious plays, "the Paradise Plays," performed in churches and town squares of Europe during the Advent season. The plays told the story of the human race from the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise till the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. On stage during the play was a great tree hung with apples, symbolizing the Garden of Paradise. Soon people began the custom of putting a "paradise tree" laden with gifts and lighted with candles in their homes during the Christmas season to celebrate paradise regained through the coming of Christ.
Representing many things--the original tree of paradise, the life-giving tree of Christ's cross, the tree John the Apostle saw in the Book of Revelations, "a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year...for the healing of the nations"--our Christmas tree is rich in Christian symbolism.
The leader may begin:
In the beginning God made the world and saw it was good. Long ago, God placed a tree in the garden of paradise as his gift to all human beings, a tree of wisdom and knowledge and laden with every good thing. Our Christmas Tree reminds us of that tree. Long ago too, God's kindness appeared in the coming of Christ, who is our hope of eternal life. This tree is a sign of Christ's blessings.
A Reading from the Book of Genesis
This is the story
of the heavens and the earth
after their creation.
When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
there was neither shrub nor plan growing on the earth,
because the Lord God had sent no rain;
nor was there anyone to till the ground...
The Lord God formed a human being
from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
so that he became a living creature.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden
away to the east,
and in it he put the man he had formed...
and in the middle of the garden he set the tree of life.
Genesis 2: 4-9
Then all pray:
The lights of the tree are illuminated and a carol may be sung.
The leader may say:
It was St. Francis of Assisi who first popularized the Christmas manger. Wanting to see how Christ was born with his own eyes, he had a stable and some images made before Christmas and then invited his neighbors and frieds to come and join him at his "Bethlehem."
As we look on our manger, may the Christmas story unfold before our eyes, too.
Listen to the Holy Gospel according to Luke:
In those days a decree was issued by the emperor Augustus for a census to be taken throughout the Roman world. This was the first Registration of its kind; it took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone made his way to his own town to be registered. Joseph went up to Judaea from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to register in the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house of David by descent; and with him went Mary, his betrothed, who was expecting her child.
The figures are then placed in the manger, and after a short period of quiet, the reading continues.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Then all pray:
whose mighty Son was born in Bethlehem
those days long ago,
lead us to that same poor place,
where Mary laid her tiny Child.
And as we look on in wonder and praise,
make us welcome him in all new life,
see him in the poor,
and care for his handiwork
the earth, the sky and the sea.
O God, bless us again in your great love.
We pray for this through Christ our Lord.
A Christmas song may conclude the blessing.
The Troparion, Kontakion, and Canon of the Nativity
All About Christmas!
Advent Prayers and Collects
Advent Hymns and Canticles
Lighting the Advent Wreath
All About Advent!
ChurchYear.Net: Worship and Liturgical Resources
Ancient and Future Catholics
Various Orthodox Texts for the Feast of the Nativity
The Five Best Christmas Stories
What Are We Celebrating When We Celebrate Christmas?
Secular Christmas Celebration Pointless, Pope Says
The Wonder of Christmas - 1959
The Real Meaning of Christmas Lights
Top ten Carols and things you didn't know about them
The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Christmas gifts are a reminder of Jesus, the greatest gift given to mankind, Pope tells youth
Christmas: the beginning of our redemption
Christmas and the Eucharist
Catholic Caucus: The 16 Days of Christmas (Christmas to the Baptism of the Lord)
Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas [An Underground Catechism]
Origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" [Underground Catechism]
I thought you’d be interested.
The apparant strategy?
From what I can see, gradually replace "Merry Christmas", with "Happy Christmas" this year. I am certain this is not just a sudden popularity to say it the standard British Way. I saw it at a number of shops here in Japan this year I had never seen it before (that, and more "Winter Sales" rather than "Christmas Sales" that I have seen in the past.
My theory: They cannot easily change "Merry Christmas" overnight into the PC "Happy Holidays" in Japan because for the Japanese, the latter greeting makes no sense and sounds strange and unnatural when said. There is no political correctness here and there is specificity in everything. 10 out of 10 Japanese would say （どんな休日のですか？）"WHICH Holiday?", or （いったいクリスマスって何が悪いのか？）"What's wrong with "Merry Christmas?". Even "political correctness itself requires a good 30 minute explanation to most Japanese, they often cannot get their hands around the concept and usually just laugh at it initially with a sense of incredulity, curiosity and confusion.
So (again, my theory) in a phased-in approach, they can get people to start dropping "Merry" and then just change "Christmas" to "Holidays" in about two or three more years. I do believe it is happening. I have heard in Latin cultures it is moving to "Feliz Fiestas" from "Feliz Navidad" as well, so this might be a worldwide phenomenon.
Sorry to report it this year, folks, but it was fun while it lasted.
Maybe a few years after Christmas is fully restored in the USA, due to the time lag, then the Japanese will revert back to a hearty "メリークリスマス！"）
On Three Kings Day (12th and Final day of the Christmas Season) you go visit relatives and neighbors, and have a huge suffer. These traditions have gone the way of my older relatives (now dead), unfortunately, and I am no longer a Catholic anyway.
Its OK. When I was in Spain last year, all of the signs in the shops said “Feliz Fiestas” (Happy Holidays), while NONE said “Feliz Navidad.”
In Switzerland, on Dec 24 in the afternoon, the Christ child dressed as an angel is said to sneak into the home while the children are all on a walk somewhere. When the children return, the Christ child has left presents under the tree (decorated with real lit candles - I have seen two fires from this dangerous but beautiful practice).
But there is hope; Merry Christmas is coming back in the United States.
I like the Christ-Child walk, but the real candles scare me. The Christ-Child bringing the gifts focuses back on the real meaning of Christmas...........Christ-Mass.