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Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. The
most important part of Christmas service is a love offering in honour of
the Lord Jesus whether he existed or not is immaterial to the Christian
message. This Jew from an obscure small town in the Province of Judea had a
historical impact must be unquestioned.
My Christmas love offering is; To our enemies, forgiveness. to our
opponents, tolerance, to our friends, our hearts. to all, charity, to
In 1818 on a cold Christmas Eve at Saint Nicholas Church at Oberndorf,
Austria, and Pastor Joseph Franz Mohr was perturbed. The Salzach River had
rushed over its banks, spilling into the church and putting the organ out of
commission. It was only hours until the midnight mass would be sung, and
there would be no anthem. Pastor Mohr took a poem he had written two years
earlier and walked the three kilometres to the home of Franz Xavier Gruber,
school teacher and part-time choir master. Gruber accepted the challenge,
and the congregation heard "Stille Nacht" presented by the choir with guitar
accompaniment that night. The English version of "Silent Night" first was
heard in 1863.
The Scots big celebrations are on New Year's Day, Hogmanay. There was a
superstition that it is bad luck for the fire to go out on Christmas Eve,
since it is at this time that the elves are abroad and only a raging fire
will keep them from coming down the chimney.
On Christmas day, people sometimes make big bonfires and dance around them
to the playing of bagpipes. Bannock cakes made of oatmeal are traditionally
eaten at Christmas.
Christmas, in Scotland, had traditionally been celebrated very quietly, the
Presbyterian Church has never placed any great emphasis on the Christmas
festival, however, their are Scots who are members of the Church of Scotland
or other churches. They generally celebrate Christmas in the same way as the
English. Scots people disapproved of Christmas for they believed that there
was too much riotous festivity that went on.
The Welsh at Christmas go carol singing. In the churches, they are sung to
the harp. They are sung in people's homes around the Christmas tree and at
the doors and windows of the houses.
Christmas is spent with lots of people gathering in the public square for
the announcement of who, during the year, has won the prize for submitting
the best music for a new carol, and the formal pronouncement of it as the
carol of the year. This carol is now added to those already known and sung
in Wales. Christmas goose is essential along with taffy..
The Swiss begin with tinkling of a silver bell heralds the arrival of
Christkindli - a white clad angel, with a face veil held in place by a
jewelled crown. The tree candles are lit as she enters each house and hands
out presents from the basket held by her child helpers.
The week before Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small
gifts. Bell ringing has become a tradition, and each village competes with
the next when calling people to midnight services. After the service,
families gather to share huge homemade doughnuts called ringli and hot
In France on Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to
be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they also find that
sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.
In cathedral squares, the story of Christ's birth is re-enacted by both
players and puppets.
In Southern France, a log is burned in people's homes from Christmas Eve
until New Years Day. A long time ago, part of the log was used to make the
wedge for the plough as good luck for the coming harvest.
The traditional Christmas treat is a chocolate log.
French families used to have a Three Kings Cake with a gold coin or bean
hidden in it. Whoever found the bean in their slice was made King, or Queen,
for the day.
French children go out to look for the Kings, taking gifts of hay for the
camels. This is Twelfth Day. It is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas,
which used to be one long holiday. It was the last night of the Feast of
Fools before the Lord of Misrule had to give up his crown and become
themselves once again.
"Pere Noel" brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Children leave their
shoes by the fireplace.
Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on 6 December in Eastern Europe. Children
put a boot by the window on 5 December and Saint Nicholas fills it with
treats. Naughty children get coal and onions.
The Dutch "Sintirklass" arrives by boat on 6 December Children leave a
wooden shoe filled with hay and carrots for the donkey which carries St.
Nicholas' pack of toys. The good children get gifts.
In Lithuania people celebrate Christmas Eve on 24 December by sharing dinner
of 12 dishes. Christmas Eve is special in Lithuania. Children wait for
presents till the next morning. "Senis Saltis" (Father Christmas) puts the
presents under the Christmas tree.
In Letonia (the Republic of Latvia) Santa Claus sometimes just leaves
presents under a decorated Christmas tree, which is usually a spruce. It's a
custom to leave some food on the table for the night so that passed - away
relatives can enjoy the meal when they come to visit their families that
night. People go to church before the evening meal. There also light candles
on the graves in the graveyards. As it gets dark at four, the graveyards
look beautiful with hundreds of lighted candles.
In Germany families go to church on Christmas Eve. While they are at church
the "Christkind" or Christ Child brings presents to their homes.
In Spain children wait until 6 January for their presents. The Three Kings
or Wise Men bring the gifts. Children put shoes by the front door to get
their gifts. There is usually a big procession through the streets with
floats for each of the Wise men.
In Sweden a gnome called "Juletomten" brings gifts in a sleigh driven by
goats. (Tell us more please Lena)
In England Father Christmas is a stern version of Santa Claus who brings
gifts on Christmas Eve.
Europe is really tribal and the differing customs reflect it.
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