Paperwhite Narcissus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paperwhite_flowers.jpg
The December birthstone is Turquoise. In some parts of the world, turquoise is used as a talisman to bring good fortune. The December flower is Narcissus. In the West, the word narcissus is associated with narcissism and vanity but in the East, the flower is a symbol of wealth.
The highest selling Christmas song is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas from the classic film Holiday Inn. 30 million copies have been sold to date and many covers have been done.
On Christmas Eve, in the Middle Ages, was held “The Festival of the Ass”. This church mass was meant to recall Joseph and Mary’s hiding in Egypt with the newborn Jesus. A girl holding a baby would enter the church riding a donkey. It is claimed that during the mass, instead of saying “Amen”, the congregation would say “Hee Haw”. Eventually the practice was banned under the charge of being sacrilegious.
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How many Magi visited Jesus in the stable? Western tradition says that is it three, based on the gifts given: gold, frankincense and myrhh. Eastern Orthodox tradition says that there were twelve Magi. The Magi were most likely Zoroastrian astrologers from Persia (Iran) or Arabia. Herodotus, a 5th century BC historian said that the Zoroastrian Persian priests were noted astrologers.
The 25th of December was chosen in the early days of the Church as the birthday of Jesus to coincide with the Saturnalia, a Roman pagan festival to the god Saturn. The date was also the birthday of the god Mithras, a solar god important to the Roman military. These birthdays occurred a few days after the winter solstice, the day when the daylight hours begin to get longer.
Incidentally, December 26th is also the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna.
The word “Christmas” means “Christ’s mass”. The abbreviation “X-mas” originated in the Europe of the 1500s. It was based on the Greek form of his name, Xristos. It has been postulated that the early Christians, who were mostly Jews, used the Greek letter “T”, which looked like an “X” to represent Christ. This letter, the “tau”, was the last letter in their alphabet and meant perfection. Some now think that the “X” morphed into the Christian cross, the crucifix.
St. Stephen is considered to be the first Christian martyr. His feast day is December 26th.
December 26th in much of the world is called Boxing Day. This name may originated from the days when all the monies collected in church alms-boxes over the festive period in the weeks leading up to Christmas was distributed to the poor.
Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration that begins on 26 December and lasts seven days. It was begun in 1966 by college professor Dr. Maulana Karenga who had studied many African festivals. Kwanzaa means “the first fruits of the harvest” in Kiswahili.
Bing Crosby’s White Christmas: Image via Wikipedia