Christmas Means Decorating

christmas

The Christmas season is upon us and, ho ho ho, it’s time for decorating.  The main event for many of us is a Christmas tree, which can be real, meaning it was once alive, or artificial.  There are a variety of options for real trees.  And within each class of tree, there are choices as well.  Fir trees, for example, include: Balsam, Fraser, Canaan and Douglas to name a few.   Some real tree enthusiasts remain steadfastly loyal to Spruce or Pine.  Because a tree purchased from a lot may shed its needles before the New Year, some people cut down their tree.  Today, many tree farms allow you to roam around the selection of trees in the Fall and label your tree for cutting in December.  This eliminates all those freezing ventures, stomping through deep snow, trying to select just the right one.  Most of us who’ve cut down our own tree have not experienced an adventure equal to that of the Griswald family.

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Don’t Let the Coronavirus Steal Christmas

outdoor nativity

This Christmas season, the Coronavirus could be a metaphor for the cantankerous protagonist in Dr. Suess’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  The Grinch is an unhappy creature with a heart “two sizes too small” wanting to ensure that everyone feels as lonely as he, which isn’t too far from reality right now. The Coronavirus is an insidious virus made up of spike proteins that act like grappling hooks, ensuring practically everyone who comes in contact with it gets sick. Yikes!  Well we know what to do about the virus, but what about feeling woeful about Christmas?  Maybe Dr. Suess’s book can give us direction.

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Why Do We Visit Santa?

Santa chair

A Guide to Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas traditions are a funny concept. We are taught from the moment that we celebrate our first holiday season to participate in countless amusing, yet outlandish customs. Even odder is the fact that it rarely  dawns on us to question our participation. Speaking for myself, I never second guessed sitting on Santa’s lap and sharing my cherished wish list or posing for a photo with the elves in a Santa chair. It’s inevitable that country to country holiday customs differ drastically, however one thing is for certain: The origins of these traditions can get lost in translation.

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How Did the Snowman Connect to Christmas?

outdoor snowmen

Both the “Christmas” tree and sometimes life size snowmen originated in pagan cultures.  Snowman documentation dates as far back as the Middle Ages.  Before that, we can only assume that in the dark times of winter, humans were creating art with anything available, including snow.  According to Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman, the snowman’s earliest known representation is in the 1380 Book of Hours in the Koninkijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands.

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A Brief History of Christmas Carols

Santa Claus with Jingle Bells carol sheet music

There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something.

— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


Of all the Christian holidays, Christmas must be the most sociable. Since at least Victorian times (and certainly before) it has been a season for family and friends to spend time together and engage in joyful group activities. And one of the most joyful of those activities is the making of music and the singing of holiday songs by outdoor Christmas carolers.

Imagine Christmastime without music or carols. It just wouldn’t be the same. And yet, ironically, in the very earliest years of Christianity there was no Christmastime to speak of, much less music to celebrate it. Easter—commemorating the miraculous resurrection of the crucified Jesus—was the main holiday of devout Christians. The birth of Jesus, by comparison, seemed an unimportant affair and simply was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, however, church officials decided to proclaim the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The history behind that proclamation illustrates the genius of Roman Catholicism for incorporating secular, pagan traditions into its religious rituals. One of those is the tradition of caroling.

Carol sheet music, The First Noël
The First Nowell from an 1879 book by Henry Ramsden Bramley
(Source)

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Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?

santa sleigh

Dutch Influences in the Story of Santa

It is believed that Santa is a derivative of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, which is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas was described as a serious-looking older man with a long white beard, who wears a red cape, rides a white horse and carries a large red book filled with names of children who have been naughty or nice. Sinterklaas was said to travel with an apprentice called Piet.

Before the Book of Naughty and Nice

Santa’s helpers either listened at the chimney or on rooftops. Then Santa’s helper would report back to Santa the goings on in the homes. With this information Santa would decide who was worthy of a reward. In some stories, it was his helper Piet, in other stories it was two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, who listened on Santa’s behalf. When the focus shifted to children is unknown, but it is possible that when the fable of Santa was Christianized, it may have been in that time. Eventually, instead of Santa’s helpers listening for Santa, it was inferred that Santa, simply knew if a child was naughty or nice and Santa kept track of it in his large red book. Continue reading “Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?”

Art of the Nativity

Duomo of Florence Italy at night

Guest Blog by Frank Weaver


The long, dark, cold nights of December are immeasurably warmed and brightened by the Christmas decorations that mark the holiday season: colored lights, tree ornaments, elaborate wreaths—and not least of all, the indoor and outdoor Nativity scenes that homeowners, churches, and municipalities display to remind us of the meaning of that season. But what inspired this tradition?

On a recent trip to Italy I wanted, of course, to immerse myself in the natural, cultural, artistic, and day-to-day charms of that country, especially in the vicinity of Florence. But I also made a particular point of seeking out the origins of the Nativity Scene tradition within the unrivaled collections of art found throughout that country.

The Nativity in Florence and Milan

I did not have to search hard.

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2020 Holiday Season Trends


It’s hard enough to keep track of your own world during the holidays without trying to figure out what’s new and trendy. But Christmas Night Inc. has done it for you! We have our finger on the pulse of the holidays every year, and our guide to the holiday season trends of 2018 will help you have a more rewarding, less stressful December. While you can’t go wrong with tradition, our tips and advice below can put you at the forefront of the season.

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Evolution of the Beloved Nutcracker

Giant Nutcracker

The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale….”
Vera Nazarian

Primitive nutcrackers were nothing like the nutcrackers that we know of today. To understand the significance of the nutcracker, we need to go back in time to a point when malevolent spirits held a place in everyday life. In these early times, typically referred to medieval times, nutcrackers were used to ward off spirits, bring luck and crack nuts.

The Nutcracker as an Everyday Tool
Typically, nutcrackers were of simpler but creative design. During medieval times, the nutcracker was an everyday tool. And nuts were a staple in everyday life. Medieval nutcrackers were whittled from wood and were skillfully designed by the whittler.

Some nutcrackers appeared with human or elfish heads, animals and other objects. But typically, the nutcracker had two handles which clasped together, and at the end was a cracking mechanism. The nutcracker was more geared toward function but also had ornate design. Nutcrackers weren’t considered decoration in these times, but simply a tool. Once, harder metals were introduced, nutcrackers were also ornately fashioned from metal, but were not as affordable to the lower classes.

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Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes

Outdoor Nativity scene

 

“All cultures…have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration.”
— Joseph Campbell, Mythology and the Individual (1997)


From church iconography to Easter baskets, from Yule logs to small indoor crèches and huge outdoor Nativity sets, the backstories behind the outward manifestations of Christian belief, in all their rich variety, remain a source of endless historical interest, and not a little speculation. Continue reading “Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes”