FOCUS: Christmas Around The World 2020

I wrote this article several years ago and decided to use it this year since the Buckhannon City Christmas committee decided to decorate the stores, have special events and decorate the town with the theme “Christmas Around The World.”  I wish to commend Pam Bucklew and her committee for planning this salute to the Christmas traditions celebrated all around the world.  Please take the time to drive through Buckhannon’s Main Street and see all the wonderful decorations that one can find in the various business windows showcasing the many countries whose traditions of Christmas are shared. 

Be sure to stop and see the beautifully decorated USA Christmas Tree in front of the Courthouse.  Thank you to all who took the time to decorate the tree in red, white and blue ribbon, American flags and lights.  Your drive should also begin at the Courthouse and travel all through Main Street to WVWC to see the streetlight decorations put in place by our City crew.  Your drive will also see the many decorations that families have shared.  You can drive all over town and stay in your vehicle. 

“Christmas Around Our World” is a little different this year, but we must never forget the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Many years ago, a little baby was born in a stable.  This little baby would grow up to teach about God and how much we are loved.  Jesus was born in that stable and He died on a cross for us.  This is the reason for the season.

Even though I have never traveled around the world, I have a fascination with the Christmas traditions that are shared in other countries.  I love the history of the celebration of Christmas in America. It is troubling to watch the news and find out that the celebration of Christmas in many of our towns is being questioned and many traditions are no longer welcome.  We must not let these traditions be lost.  We should never force the traditions on those who do not believe them to be worthwhile.  However, for those who love Christmas, love to celebrate their family traditions, and wish to have a day to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, why is it wrong?  Christmas has been celebrated all around the world for centuries and there is no reason it has to be stopped. When our cherished traditions are taken away, when we are no longer able to wish “Merry Christmas,” are no longer allowed to see the Nativity, all Christmas Carols and Christmas programs cannot be shared in public and no Christmas trees are put up in the public square, the words Hope… Joy… Love and Peace will fade away.  Christmas is a time to share hope, joy, love and peace with our families, neighbors, those who need a helping hand and those who are all around the world and have no hope, joy, love or peace.  The world cannot afford to lose this connection with God and with each other.

These customs are taken from the Reader’s Digest Christmas Book.  In every time zone, Christ’s birthday is celebrated.  Each custom and tradition of the celebration of Christmas around the world is endearing.  To know that others celebrate Christmas as a time to remember the Christ Child and to spend time with family and friends gives us hope.

Many of the world’s cherished Christmas traditions stem from Germany where the first Christmas trees were decorated with sparkling glass balls and garlands of tinsel.  The Advent wreath with four candles leading up to Christ’s birthday is a German custom.

Austria celebrates Christmas with Father Christmas who parades through streets in full bishop’s regalia followed by a group of folks dressed in straw and wearing fur masks.  They greet children with a hug as they walk along.

Italians have a female Santa Claus called Lady Befana who passes out gifts on Epiphany while children roam the streets blowing paper trumpets.  The legend says that Lady Befana wanders the streets because the shepherds followed the star to find baby Jesus and she was delayed in setting out on her journey.  Ever since, she has wandered in search of the Christ child leaving gifts at each house in hopes that he might be within.

Almost every home in France has a crèche and folks go into the woods to find a Yule log which is burned in the home on Christmas Eve. A glass of wine is poured over the log before it is ignited and a Christmas Eve dinner is shared after the midnight Mass.  Young children dress as shepherds and shepherdesses and march through the streets beating drums and playing wind instruments.  Along the path to the cathedrals, men hold torches to light the way.  At midnight, organs, choirs, bells, harps and flutes are heard playing and singing “Adeste Fideles.”  On Epiphany, King’s Day, king’s cakes are baked in honor of the Magi.  Each cake contains a coin, a bean, or a small gift.  The person who finds the gift is crowned king or queen for the day.

In Sweden, the children set out food for Santa.  On Saint Lucia’s Day (Dec 13) a young girl in white with a crown of candles on her hair is followed by other young people carrying burning candles.  They awaken sleeping families at dawn to offer them wheat cakes and coffee.  Many believe she represents the revered Lucia who had her eyes put out for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. 

Christmas in Spain begins on December 8th, which is the feast of Immaculate Conception.  It is not until January 6th that the children receive their gifts, which are said to be left by the Magi passing through on their way to Bethlehem.

The great midnight Mass in Poland is called Pasterka, the Mass of shepherds. On this night, according to legend, those whose lives have been pure and blameless may see a vision of Jacob’s ladder in the winter sky.  Children dressed as storks, bears, or characters from the Nativity go house to house singing carols.  They represent the birds and beasts who gathered at the manger.  The children are rewarded with gifts of food.

Christmas in the Middle East is a time of contrasts, of the mingling of East and West, of ancient and modern.  The town of Bethlehem retains an Eastern almost Biblical atmosphere.

Christmas in Great Britain comes with the pealing of bells.  Carolers gather around communal Christmas trees on village greens and raise their voices at candlelit church services.  The traditional English dessert is plum pudding.

The Christmas custom of piñatas is found in Mexico.  Beginning on December 15, a novena known as the posada is held.  Posada means inn.  For nine days, the children of each house go from room to room asking for shelter and are refused.  In one room, a beautifully decorated alter has been set up with a crèche and empty crib.  On Christmas Eve, the children place a figure of the Christ Child in the empty crib.  This ceremony is a reenactment of the trial of the Holy Family as they sought shelter in Bethlehem.  After these posada ceremonies, the children are blindfolded and each one has a chance to hit a piñata which is hanging from the ceiling.  When the piñata is broken, candy and gifts are spilled all around for the children.

The first Nativity was set up in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi.  Since many people did not read or write, St. Francis used live animals and people so that this manger scene could be seen and understood.  The tradition of the live Nativity is still used in many communities all around the world.

In Russia and Poland, a piece of straw decorates the Christmas table to remind the people of Jesus’ manger bed of straw.  During the meal a white wafer, perhaps with a picture of the manger scene on it is served as a symbol of love and peace.

In Cuba, the children eat rice pudding with an almond hidden inside.  Whoever finds the almond is assured of good fortune during the year.

Christmas in America is a mixture of all of these customs, as well as traditions handed down from generation to generation.  There is a concerted movement to stop many, if not all of our Christmas traditions such as the nativity scene, the peppermint candy cane, the singing of Christmas carols, the greeting of “Merry Christmas,” the celebration of Santa Claus, and the recognition that we celebrate Christ’s birthday with a special holiday called Christmas.  Our children are becoming confused as to what is allowed and what rules to follow in celebrating many of our traditional holidays.  How is it that one or a few can make the decisions that touch so many? 

Over the centuries, Saint Nicholas has been the origin of Santa Claus.  Here is the truth, written by Lisa Minney, which I found in a Two-Lane Living.  Lisa recounted the history of Saint Nicholas who was born in a village called Patra which is now the southern coast of Turkey.  At the time the area was Greek, not Christian.  Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who raised him to be a devout Christian.  His parents died while Nicholas was young and they left him a sizable inheritance.  Nicholas had read in the Bible that Jesus said to sell what you have and give it to the poor.  Nicholas gave his inheritance to those who were in need and lived his life helping others.  Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra and was known throughout the land for his generosity of helping the poor and for his love for the children.  Under rule of the Roman Emperor who persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned.  After Bishop Nicholas’ death, a special day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, was set up for December 6.  There are numerous accounts written about the wonderful things St. Nicholas provided for many families over his lifetime.  Over time, St. Nicholas has been remembered as a great man, known for his concern and gifts of charity to others.  Over the centuries, St. Nicholas has become a jolly man called Santa Claus.  Santa Claus is known for his visiting children all over the world on Christmas Eve.  There was a St. Nicholas and who is to say that there is not a Santa Claus.  Santa Claus is the spirit of charity and love for friends, neighbors and strangers.  Santa Claus is alive and well in all who follow the rule of doing for others.

“Merry Christmas” What is wrong with this greeting:  What if I used a sentence for each letter in the phrase of Merry Christmas?  What would the message be?  Here goes.

(M) – Mary was the mother of Jesus.  (E) – Emanuel means God is with us.  (R) – A single red rose stands for love. (R) – Christ the King, Royalty.  (Y) – You and our family are loved by God.  (C) – The Christ Child was born to save the world.  (H) – The Herald Angels celebrated the birth of the Holy Child. (R) Christ is the reason we celebrate the Christmas Season.  (I) – The Inn was too full for Mary and Joseph to stay.  (S) – Jesus was born in a stable.  Jesus is the Savior of the world.  (T) – The traditional Christmas story is told about the birth of a special baby.  (M) – Millions believe that Jesus was born, died, and will come again.  (A) – The angel watched over Mary and Jesus.  (S) – The star shined over the stable in honor of the newborn Savior.

As you plan your Christmas day, remember that the real reason we celebrate Christmas is to remember that God loved us so much that He sent His son into the world to save us.  Love came down from Heaven and covered the earth. Christmas is a gift of love wrapped in human flesh and tied securely with the strong promises of God. The Christmas story is about one young woman’s faith in God.  Could one ever imagine that a little baby born in a stable could be talked about for thousands of years?  This one man was loved, hated, nailed to the cross and died so that we might have eternal life.  When you wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” think of the message you are sharing with others.  Christmas remains a message of hope, love, joy and peace.  May you have hope for today and for tomorrow!  May you have love for yourself and those around you!  May you have joy in everything you do!  May you have the peace that passes all understanding!  May you have Christmas in your heart now and for always!  May God bless you and your family!  “Merry Christmas”



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