Christmas is a festival celebrated with great enthusiasm and religious fervor around the world. Christmas carols, nativity scene, Santa Claus and Christmas tree festooned with decorations are just as much a part of Christmas celebrations as are exchanging gifts among friends and relatives and the traditional Christmas dinner. Here we look at some of the traditional items associated with Christmas and its significance.
Santa Claus: Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas is a figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many Western cultures, brings gifts to the homes of good children on 24 December, the night before Christmas. He is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man, with spectacles, wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots, riding a reindeer-sledge and bearing gifts for children.
Christmas tree: The practice of tree worship has been found in many ancient cultures. Often the saplings were brought indoors and decorated to ensure a good crop for the coming year. The modern Christmas tree was likely born in the 8th century, when St. Boniface, in order to stop the worship of an oak tree cut it down, only to have an evergreen fir tree grow in its place. The evergreen was then offered as a symbol of Christmas.
The nativity scene: The nativity scene has been a staple for Christmas for over many years. One of the largest nativity scenes is set up in Saint Peter’s square in Rome, Italy. Basically the whole play includes the birth of Jesus and how the three kings, guided by the star came to visit him. This play is presented throughout the world in almost all countries with Catholics.
Christmas carol: A Christmas carol is a song whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas, and which is traditionally sung on Christmas itself or during the surrounding holiday season. Christmas carols may be regarded as a subset of the broader category of Christmas music.
Mistletoe: Mistletoe was believed to have fallen from heaven and grown onto a tree that sprang from Earth. It thus represents the joining of heaven and earth. A kiss under the mistletoe symbolizes acceptance and reconciliation.
Holly: One of the most popular Christmastime accoutrements is a sharp edged holly. In many Western cultures, holly is used especially in wreaths and in illustrations on Christmas cards. Since medieval times the plant has carried a Christian symbolism, as expressed in the well-known carol "The Holly and the Ivy".
Yule Log: The word yule meant ‘infant’ in the language of the Chaldeans, who lived in the Middle-East. On Christmas Eve an enormous log would be cut and placed in the hearth. The log would be then sprinkled with salt, oil, and prayers said to protect the house from evil. In certain places, the Yule logs became decorative, often being used as Christmas centerpieces and decorated with evergreens and candles. Cooks began creating pastry Yule logs, rolled cakes covered in chocolate or coffee and decorated with sugared holly and roses.
Candy Canes: A candy cane or peppermint stick is a cane-shaped stick candy associated with Christmastide. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint, but today there are a variety of flavors and colors. In celebrations of Christmas day, candy canes are given to children.
Christmas Cards: A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey a range of sentiments related to the Christmas and holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks before Christmas Day.
Bells: Bells especially church bells have traditionally been associated with Christmas for a long time. In Victorian times, it was fashionable to go around singing carols with small hand bells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there would only be bells and no singing. This tradition is popular even today.
Christmas pudding: Also known as the plum pudding, this item is not only famous in Britain, the country of its origin, but also throughout the world. The pudding in itself takes hours to cook and is usually served still flaming. However, the legend attached to this is its wish-making. According to the legend, all those who stir the batter are supposed to make a wish. Sometimes the bakers even drop a coin into the batter and the person to find it will be the lucky one.