8:30 a.m., Dec 22)
Origins of Christmas symbols hard to pin
By Fred Sherwin
the true origin of Christmas remains a mystery to this
day, the reasons behind Dec. 25 as the date we all celebrate
the birth of Jesus Christ is likely a conglomeration of
a number of circumstances.
traditional date of Dec. 25 was first set in 375 AD by
the western Church, but the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates
Christmas on Jan. 6.
birth is unlikely to have taken place during the winter
since shepherds in Palestine customarily remain in the
open with their flocks only from spring to autumn.
confusion as to the exact date of Jesus birth was
added in 6 AD when the Christian calendar replaced the
old Roman calendar which dated from the founding of Rome
in 753 BC.
monk, Dionysius Exiguus (also known as Dennis the Short),
miscalculated Romes founding as 748 BC. His mistake
was not detected until long after the Christian calender
had become established. From this the date of Christs
birth must be reckoned as 5 BC. However,
the exact timing is further clouded by the existence of
the Star of Bethlehem.
to astronomers a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
did occur in 6 BC pointing to the likely date of Christs
birth around October of that year.
why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? The idea
of celebrating the birth of Christ was first suggested
early in the fourth century AD by Church fathers who were
looking for a way to subplant the traditional pagan celebrations
associated with the winter Solstice.
Roman festival Natalis Solis Invicti celebrated
the birth of the unconquered sun. Dec. 25
was also the birth date of Mithras, Son of Righteousness
and god of the Iranian mystery cult.
Roman feast of Saturnalia was celebrated on Dec. 17 and
involved merry-making and the exchange of gifts.
solstice had been connected with rebirth throughout the
world from well before the Roman period and was a natural
choice for the Christian birth celebration which took
permanent hold in the Western world sometime around 337
AD after the Roman emperor Constantine had made Christianity
the official state religion 24 years earlier.
354 AD, the Church of Rome led by Bishop Liberius wanted
to reiterate the importance of celebrating not only Christs
death but also his birth.
Christmas tree with its lights and other decorations,
is derived from the so-called paradise tree, symbolizing
Eden, which was used in early German passion plays.
use of a Christmas tree began early in the 17th century,
in Strasbourg, France, spreading from there through Germany
and into Northern Europe.
1841 Albert, prince consort of Queen Victoria, introduced
the Christmas tree custom to Great Britain and from there
it accompanied immigrants travelling to the New World.
story of, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
began in 1939. Rudolph was created as part of an advertising
campaign launched by the Montgomery Ward chain of department
stores, well after the character of Santa Claus emerged.
original Rudolph was a character in a poem about a misfit
written by Robert L. May, a Montgomery Ward employee,
and given away to clients at Christmas as a store promotion.
2.4-million copies were circulated in 1939.
1947, the copyright to the story was transferred to the
original author and sold commercially. The following year,
a nine-minute cartoon of Rudolph was shown in theatres.
Rudolph exploded in popularity.
brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, came up with a song for
the story, and in 1949, the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer, sung by Gene Autry, aired.
million copies of the popular tune were sold in the first
year. The song lingers as a popular Christmas carol today.
The original story May wrote for Montgomery Ward differs
from the story told in the song. In Mays version,
Rudolph is not one of Santas reindeer, and hes
not from the North Pole.
the song, Rudolph becomes loved among all the other reindeer
who used to laugh and call him names because
he was chosen by Santa Claus to lead the sleigh.
the poem, Santa recruits Rudolph while on a foggy Christmas
Eve delivery when he sees a bright red glow emitted from
Rudolphs home. Rudolphs glowing nose saves
first Christmas cards originated in England where they
were hand-drawn on sheets of plain paper.
practice of sending formal Christmas cards has been around
for 157 years. The first formal Christmas card, depicting
adults and children with raised glasses in a toast, was
created and sent in 1843 by J.C. Horsley of England. It
read: A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
believed to have been created to symbolize a J
for Jesus or a shepherds staff, the candy cane more
likely started out the same as it is today half
confectionary treat and half ornament.
very first candy canes date back to the 17th century.
Soon after they began using Christmas trees, Europeans
began making decorations for them. A popular confectionary
item at the time was a plain white sugar stick which some
inventive person decided to bend at one end to hang from
the trees limbs.
broad red stripe symbolic of the Lords sacrifice
for man, wasnt added until the early part of the
20th century. By then the legend of the candy cane as
a Christian symbol had already been well established.
McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas
treats for his children and friends in Albany, Georgia
in the 1920s.
brother-in-law Gregory Keller later automated the process
in the 1950s and in doing so founded the largest
manufacturer of candy canes in the world.
Day falls on St. Stephens Day when the charity boxes
in churches were traditionally opened and the money distributed
to the poor of the parish.
Victorian times the custom was enlarged to allow servants
a days holiday to visit their families as cooks,
maids, butlers, grooms etc. would have had to work on
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
www.orleansonline.ca's main page