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by: Marilyn Pokorney
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Everyone enjoys the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping
and decorating. Children love to write letters to Santa and
get a reply with an envelope stamped "North Pole". But even
more fascinating is the origins of many of our beloved
Christmas traditions.

Exchanging Gifts: In ancient times holiday meals were
shared with family, friends, and the poor. It was believed
that in order to have a prosperous year, one must not be
selfish for to hoard what they already had would guarantee
that they would never be blessed with more. This is why we
exchange gifts today.

Tree decorating: In olden times trees represented life
triumphant over death. The Romans trimmed trees with
trinkets, candles, and toys. The Druids tied polished
apples and other offerings on tree branches. In Munich,
even trees in cemeteries were decked with holly and
mistletoe. Therefore, the evergreen tree, which decorates
our homes today, has come to signify the ever living Christ.

Yule Logs: The ancient Druids and other cultures believed
that the sparks from a burning log carried their wishes for
a prosperous New Year to the gods. Today, fireplaces with
burning logs recapture this ancient custom with the belief
that the firelight is symbolic of the light that came from
Heaven when Christ was born.

Candles: In England, large candles were burned in
conjunction with the yule log. In America today, the
candles represent the Star of Bethlehem.

Holly: The Druids believed that holly was favored by the
sun because it was always green. Today holly represents the
ever living Christ. The white flowers, purity; the red
berries, his blood; the leaves, his crown of thorns, and the
bitter bark, his sorrow.

Mistletoe: Comes from a Norse legend. Freyja, a goddess,
had arranged for her son to be protected from all earthly
dangers. When he was shot with an arrow made from
mistletoe, Freyja made mistletoe promise never to harm
anyone ever again. So today, mistletoe is a symbol of peace
and love. It's winter blossoms bring promise of bounty for
the coming spring.

Caroling: In Scandinavian custom, every Christmas, a party
was given to the god Thor, represented by a goat. After
much singing and dancing the goat would pretend to die and
return to life. Today, carolers go from door to door
singing and this represents the life of Christ.

Santa Claus: Santa actually started out as a version of
Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. Sailors feared him because
he could bring terrible storms or grant them safe journeys.
Because he could save them from angry waters, he became
known as "giver of all good things". Due to the rise of
Christianity, the old custom was changed to honor Nicholas
of Myra, an Asian bishop. Nicholas wore red clothing, rode
a white horse who could fly, and delivered gifts
anonymously. Today, he is Santa with his flying reindeer!

For more information on getting a letter from Santa for a
child close to you visit:

About the author:
Author: Marilyn Pokorney
Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the
Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading.

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