Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, 10 December 2012

WEEK 4: LET'S LEARN!


Christmas is rich in Legends - old and new.

Let's learn more about them.

You can post one legend, make it short but full of information/
If you can add anything of value, use commentaries and replies.
Pls, read each other, do not duplicate! 


Each post is 3 points
Each commentary is 2 points
Each reply is 1 point

Here is the one I found:
THE MAGI

In today's world, many think of them only as the Wisemen. They are also known as the Three Kings who were eyewitnesses to the Nativity and bringers of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Infant Jesus. Their story is well known and widely celebrated. Though documented in just a few scant verses of Biblical text - and recorded in just one of the Gospels that tells the story of the Nativity - nations nevertheless celebrate their exploits and revel in the symbolism their story conveys. 

Those elements, in their simplicity, add to the charm of the Christmas story. But in reality, the story of the Magi is more complex. When fully exposed, one feels the story would make a great movie. It is one filled with mystery, adventure, magic and the murderous designs of an evil king. 

Who really were these wise men? Where did they come from? What made them follow the star to Bethlehem? Why are they called the Magi? And what is their significance in the story of Christmas? These compelling questions lead to a fascinating perspective on the very meaning of Christmas itself. 

THE STORY

25 comments:

  1. Story Of The Three Wise Men
    According to the Legend of the Magi, there were three of them. They were so famous that even King Herod of Judea came to know about them. Herod was the king at the time of Jesus's birth and was cruel, evil, oppressive and a Jew-hater; he took immense pleasure in torturing his Jewish subjects. Herod had a very suspicious behavior and troubled his people by imposing heavy taxes on them. Once he came to know of the distinguished visitors who entered his kingdom, he consulted his priests to gather more information about the prophecy of the past which made reference to the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem. It was prophesied that Christ would be the future ruler of Israel. So, Herod welcomed the Three Wise Men to his court and told them that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Herod instructed them to go in search of the child and to inform him once the baby was found so that he could come over and worship the child.

    The Magi followed the directions given by the King and followed the divine star to reach Bethlehem. When they reached Bethlehem, the Magi found Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus there. Mary had given birth to baby Jesus in a lowly stable where people had then gathered to get a glance of the new born king. The Three Wise Men bought him gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. That night as the Magi slept, they had a dream in which the Lord directed them not to go back to Jerusalem and inform the King about the baby. Instead, they were asked to inform Mary and Joseph to move from Bethlehem with the Holy child until the death of King Herod. So, the Magi took a different route and returned home and Joseph and Mary went to Egypt. Herod, who was very cruel, had ordered to kill all the children who under the age of two, across his kingdom.

    Hence, the Magi didn't just pamper Jesus with their expensive gifts, they also gave Jesus the ultimate gift-the gift of life. No wonder the Magi are still revered all around the world.

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  2. Legend Of The Candy Cane
    Along with candles, wreaths, stars, bells and mistletoes, another ubiquitous decorative item for Christmas, which is also a favorite with children, is the candy cane. In fact, the candy cane is so popular that it is one of the most visible items in any decoration, for Christmas or not. The candy cane is simple, eye-catching, and what's more, it's tasty. Though candy canes come in many flavors, the most popular and common flavor is peppermint and cinnamon. Candy canes can be hung with colorful ribbons and can be used to decorate almost anything, from an entire room to a cake or a Christmas tree; they add a very playful touch to everything. And like all other facets of Christmas, this J-shaped, red and white candy also has an interesting story, legend if you may call it, behind it. As so, the origin and symbolism of candy cane is steeped in myth.

    The Legend
    It is widely believed that the candy, which earlier was straight as a stick, was given its distinctive J-shape by a German choirmaster. It is said that during service one evening, the children were being very loud and noisy, creating quite a ruckus and not paying any attention to the choirmaster. To keep them quiet and still for the nativity ceremony, he gave them a long, white, sugar candy stick. Since giving chocolates and candies at church was considered sacrilegious, he bent these sticks at one end to make them look like a shepherd's cane and thus, attached a religious significance to them. In Christianity, Jesus is regarded as the Good Shepherd and so, the staff is considered to be a sacred symbol. The Staff also represents the shepherds who came to visit the infant Jesus.

    The candy cane became popular when, in 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, who liked candy canes a lot, decided to string them on his Christmas tree as decorations. The idea soon caught up became quite a fashion in no time. By 1900, candy canes, which were earlier only white, came in red stripes, and with peppermint and cinnamon flavoring. Of course, now it's a popular tradition everywhere.

    The candy canes became a much sought-after Christmas-decoration item as the 'hook' in the candy made it easier to hang them on the Yule trees, and the unique shape made it an eye-catching attraction.

    Symbolism
    Traditionally, the only symbolism that was associated with the candy was that of the shepherd's staff. But now, there is a modern allegorical interpretation of the candy cane. It is said that since the candy cane, when inverted, becomes J-shaped, it is a direct representation of Jesus Christ. The white color of the candy denotes the purity of Christ while the stripes represent His sacrifice and the whipping he received at the hands of the Romans, the color red symbolizing his blood. It is believed that even the peppermint flavor of the candy is so because it is similar to hyssop which, according to the Old Testament, symbolizes purification and sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. interesting recipe:

      Candy Cane Cocoa

      4 cups milk
      3 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
      4 peppermint candy canes, crushed
      1 cup whipped cream
      4 small peppermint candy canes

      Heat the milk until steaming hot – NOT boiling.
      Add the chocolate and crushed peppermint candy and allow them to melt and become smooth.
      Pour into Christmas mugs and garnish with whipped cream and crushed candy canes.
      Or add candy cane stirring stick to make it extra special.

      Delete

  3. Stork-Patron Of Babies

    Mother Mary lay in a stable in Bethlehem, with baby Jesus, surrounded by an assortment of birds and beasts that had come over to greet the Lord of the world. The wild animals stood far and just hoped for nothing more than a glimpse of the new born King while the rest of the animals knelt down humbly beside the infant. Among those kneeling, stood a long legged stork with white feathers. He was moved by the sight of the baby King lying in the straw, with no pillow, to rest His head. Although, the bird could not offer any crown or jewels befitting the baby King, his true compassion for Jesus made him give the ultimate gift to Him. He plucked feathers from his plumage and gave them to the child to be used as a pillow. This was the best pillow that the baby could ask for. Infant Jesus smiled with overwhelming gratitude and blessed the stork with undying glory and even today, storks are a symbol of births and are considered indispensable to baby-showers. Today, if one spots a stork flying in the air or on the roof a house, it is considered a lucky omen as storks are now referred to as the patrons of 'babies'.

    Facts:

    - As per the ancient legends, it is believed that the stork bring babies to the parents in a basket held in its beak. One of the tales states that the souls of unborn babies live in watery areas and as storks visit these areas frequently, they deliver the babies to their parents.
    - Sighting a stork is thought lucky while killing one is said to bring about nothing but misfortune on the killer.

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    1. According to ancient legends, storks bring babies to parents in baskets held in their beaks. There is one particular tale associated with the stork which explains the role played by storks in child-birth. According to this account, the souls of unborn babies live in watery areas and since storks frequently visit marshy areas, they pick these souls and deliver the babies to their parents. Many believe that seeing a stork brings luck whereas killing a stork would bring nothing but misfortune to the slayer.

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  4. The Legend of the Christmas Tree

    There once was a poor woodcutter who lived with his family deep in the forest. On Christmas Eve they sat down for dinner when they heard a knock at the door. There stood a child in torn and ragged clothes, pale and hungry. The woodcutter invited the child in for food even though they did not have much to share and gave him a bed to rest. The woodcutter and his family prayed to God, thanking him for a warm and safe place to live. In the early morning they awoke to the most beautiful singing they had every heard. They went to the window and saw the orphaned child standing with a choir of angels singing a lovely Christmas carol. The child was no longer wearing the tattered clothing but dressed in a magnificent robe surrounded by a glowing light. When the child saw the woodcutter and his family he said, "I am the Christ Child, I have received your kindness and now this is my gift to you." He broke a branch from a small fir tree and planted it. He told them, "From this day forward, this tree shall bear fruit at Christmas and you shall have plenty even in the cold winter." As they stood listening, the branch grew into a beautify tree covered with fruit. The Christmas tree as we know it originated in Germany. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, people in Europe performed miracle or mystery plays in front of cathedrals during the advent season. This was a means to teach the Bible since few people could read the scriptures. The evergreen tree was often used as a prop. Its image lasted in the minds of those attending and influenced the German people to bring trees into their homes at Christmas. The fir tree in the plays represented the tree of life as well as sin, so people first decorated trees with little religious figures on the branches. The Christmas tree spread to America when Hessian soldiers practiced the custom while fighting in the Revolutionary War. Later, the German born Prince Albert and Queen Victoria popularized the custom when they erected the first Christmas tree in Windsor Castle. By the early 20th century, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was adopted by most Americans of European descent. The tradition of a Christmas tree in the White House started in 1856 with President Franklin Pierce. This cherished tradition of celebrating Christ's birth around a decorated tree is one of the most popular and beloved parts of our Christmas season.

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    1. The success of Christmas tree in Protestant countries was enhanced by the legend which attributed the tradition to Martin Luther himself. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. In England the tradition was made popular by the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The German immigrants brought the Christmas tree to America in 17th century. Public outdoors Christmas trees with electric candles were introduced in Finland in 1906, and in USA (New York) in 1912. The claim of the Pennsylvania Germans to have initiated the Christmas tree custom in America is undisputed today. And it's in the diary of Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, under the date December 20, 1821, that the Christmas tree and its myriad decorations received their first mention in the New World.

      It is no surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The Pilgrims' second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

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  5. Legend of Christmas Angels

    There were two angel friends. One used to sunset pink robes while other used to adorn himself with sky blue robes. They were known for singing sweet duets about glory of God and playing on pure silver trumpets. They often used to lead the orchestra for angels because of their musical abilities. Once, their orchestra leader Temira gave them and other members of the angelic orchestra, an exciting news. God had decided to send his Son to live among His people. They had to prepare a musical jubilee in one of the most important events in the history of the world. It just had to be the best and all angels with good voice had to sing and all instruments were to be played for the event.

    Temira asked his orchestra, whether they knew the importance of the assignment. Trumpeting angel in pink said that he understood that the Lord want them to appear to the shepherds in the hills of Bethlehem, who had never seen an angel in their lives and might get afraid. The trumpeting angel in blue completed the answer by adding that the angels could replace the fear of the shepherds with joy and love for the Christ Child and then, they could announce the arrival of the Savior. Temira smiled and nodded contentedly. All orchestra members felt honored for the opportunity and practiced for perfection in their roles.

    On the day, Christ was born in the stable at Bethlehem and as planned, the Christmas angels first appeared to the shepherds and the trumpeting angel friends played the first few notes of the glorious concert in the dark night sky. Shepherds looked up to the sky and were shocked, surprise and awed, soon to be filled with amazement and wonder and their hearts brimmed with humility and thankfulness to God for His glory. The angels then gave the shepherds the good tidings of great joy and were joined by many other angels who sang and praise God, filling the skies with the angelic words - "Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men".

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  6. The Story Of The Drummer Boy

    Zack, a little boy, a passionate drummer, was sleeping on his bed when he was awakened by some people passing by his house. To his surprise, he saw richly dressed men mounted on camels, led by servants. Zack, who thought it was a parade, was overwhelmed with joy as he liked parades very much. He grabbed his drumsticks and joined the group and started playing his drum. The people woke up, lit candles and shouted at him for playing drum in the midnight. Even the three important people mounted on their camels weren't pleased, but Zack, the genuine parade lover, was not ready to give up the parade for any reason and thought that no parade is good without drums.

    They were passing Bethlehem when day gave way to night and Zack noticed a bright star in the sky. He noticed that the important three men are also watching the star. Finally, he saw that the star had risen on the top of a little house and the caravan stopped in front of that small shed and the kings went inside. Zack peeped through the window and saw a newborn baby inside, receiving expensive gifts from the three men. Zack felt sad as he did not have anything to give to the baby and he thought maybe he could play the drum for the baby. Just then, Mary saw him and welcomed him inside. He played drum for the baby and, to his surprise, he saw the baby and the three men smile.

    Years later Zack died at an early age, leaving behind a beautiful and religious wife in poverty. Once she came to know that a preacher was in town and she went over with the last two coins that she was left with. She was embarrassed at others' expensive gifts and quietly dropped her pennies into the box. She looked up to see the preacher, Jesus smiling at her, a sweet smile just like her husband had described. With great surprise, she realized that her husband had played drum for the king of kings and the lord of lords and that the great one still remembers it.

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    1. The legend of the Drummer Boy is a popular one and marks the significance of the greatest gift one can present to another one during Christmas. It might be hard to look for the perfect gift for loved ones during Christmas, but the story of the drummer boy teaches us a valuable lesson. This is the perfect story to read out to children on Christmas this year, with the moral of the story highlighting the importance of 'love' holding prime importance above everything else.

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  7. The Legend of the Poinsettia

    In Mexico, it is an old custom to take flowers to church on Christmas Eve in honor of the Christ Child. According to legend, long ago in a small mountain village in Mexico, there lived a boy named Mario. Each year Mario watched the villagers walk to church Christmas Eve carrying bundles of fresh flowers. Mario could not afford to buy fresh flowers so, he would look in the fields for wildflowers that might have survived the cold winter up in the mountains. One Christmas Eve, as he was searching for wildflowers, a voice called out to him. "Mario, pick up the weeds that are growing where you kneel and take them to the Christ Child." Mario answered, "I cannot take these weeds to the Baby Jesus!" The voice gently replied, "the simplest gift, when given with love, will be the most beautiful to him." Mario listened to the voice and placed the green weeds around the manger, as the other children teased him. But to everyone's astonishment the weeds turned into a beautiful red flower with bright green leaves. Mario could not believe his eyes. It was the most beautiful flower he had ever seen. The other villagers who witnessed the miracle knelt before the manger. Mario understood what the angelic voice was trying to tell him. He knew that the most important gift for the Christ Child was the give of love. The plant was brought from Mexico to America in 1836 by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first American minister to Mexico. It was introduced to him by Mexicans who called it the "Flower of the Holy Night." The plant was cultivated in the 1890s by Albert Ecke in California. The city of Ventura, California, is called the "Poinsettia City." Today, the Poinsettia plant is considered a Christmas symbol and brought into homes in early December. Their beauty remains throughout the holiday season.

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  8. Legend of the Thunder Oak

    According to a Scandinavian folk tale, in the forests of the ancient Northland, there lived heathens who worshipped the war-god Thor. Human and animal sacrifices were offered to a giant tree known as the Thunder Oak that was considered the altar to Thor. The oak was believed to have grown up on human and animal blood. Mistletoes used to hang from its thick dark branches and it was so gloomy that not even beasts or birds dared to wander to the tree or live near it. One Christmas Eve, the forests were covered with deep snow. Thor's priests were preparing for the winter rites beneath the Thunder Oak and the mystic feast of the mighty Thor.

    Sacrificial flames were lit and the human victims were waiting for their death at the hands of the white-robed priests, when Saint Winfred and his people made their appearance like a Christmas miracle and new life for them. Before anyone could realize what was happening, the saint drew out his shining axe and cut the oak tree from its very foundations. The heathens were too awed and shocked to even resist. The mighty oak fell backwards but what was more surprising was that a young fir just behind the tree remained unharmed. Saint Winfred then introduced the heathens to a new way of life.

    He directed them to accept the fir as their holy tree. He preached them that fir is the tree of peace and it deserves to be worshipped for their houses were built of fir and thus, it gave them shelter. Fir also represented endless life and hope as it is an evergreen tree. It's spire points to heaven and thus, it was to be called the tree of the Christ Child. They were asked to keep the tree in their homes and make it holy not by bloodshed but by love, kindness and sharing gifts under it. Since then, the heathens accepted fir as the symbol of good will and peace and welcomed it in their homes every holy Christmastide.

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    Replies
    1. The legend of the thunder oak is a Thursday tale, which has a deep significance with respect to Christmas. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and the tales associated with Christmas represent many customs that have come down from generations unknown. Almost every tradition has a story behind it. The legend of thunder oak tells us of the origin of the Christmas tree. Most of these legends have a central character that does something historic and the deeds by him get converted into practices. These myths and legends make Christmas even more fun and interesting. Narrating tales to children on Christmas Eve is a traditional and still-thriving way of celebrating Christmas

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  9. Legend Of The Christ Child
    There was a poor woodcutter who worked hard to make his ends meet and earn his daily bread. He had a loving wife and two lovely children called Valentine and Marie. All of them helped him in his work, were obedient to him and were pious in nature. They read the Bible daily, even on days when they had nothing or very little to eat. Once, when they were going through this particular daily ritual, somebody knocked on the window. It was a little child suffering from cold and hunger. They pitied him and immediately took him inside their small home. Both the children offered him a place near the fire to keep him warm and a portion of their bread. Since, he seemed very tired, they offered him their bed too while they slept on the bench in great discomfort throughout the night.

    The stranger child thanked them for their kindness and soon fell asleep. The family prayed for the poor child who did not even have the nice warm room and the comfortable bed that they had. They could only fall asleep late at night but little Marie was woken up in the wee hours of the morning by sweet musical sound of harps and singing that seemed almost divine. She gently woke up her brother Valentine and, together, they listened to the notes and realized that it was the angels singing for the Christ Child, the child they had played host to a day before. Their hearts leapt with happiness and then they looked through the window and saw the most beautiful dawn breaking and a number of little children holding golden harps and lutes, dressed in sparkling silver robes.

    The brother and sister turned around to see the stranger Child standing behind them wearing golden robes and a golden crown. He told them that he was indeed the Christ Child and wandered around to give good things and joys to loving children. Since they had been so unselfish and helpful, he gave them his blessing and took a bough from a nearby fir tree and planted it in the ground. He then told them, that this branch would soon grow up to give them Christmas fruits every year. The Christ Child then vanished leaving the children overwhelmed with what they had seen and heard. Soon, the fir branch grew into a high and stately Christmas tree that bore golden apples, silver nuts and lovely toys on every Christmas Eve. Hence, it is said that it is in remembrance and anticipation of the Christ Child that the Christmas tree is decorated every year.

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    1. Miracle Of Jesus
      Long ago, one fine Christmas Eve, a little child wandered all alone in the busy streets of a crowded city. The child had no place to go to and so, he roamed about freely. The winter winds pierced his skin severely and yet he walked by the houses in the hope of being welcomed by a family. The child then decided to climb a stairway that led to an enormous, wealthy household and tapped on the front door. On hearing the knocks, the servant of the house opened the door and dismissed the boy. The child walked away in disappointment and continued to wander. Every time the door opened, he was denied a share of Christmas pleasures, which left him utterly disappointed.

      At last, the child came upon a small house. He peered through the windows and saw a mother and her children seated near a fireplace. The child then gently knocked on the door, one last time. The mother opened the door and on seeing the state of the boy clothed in rags, she quickly pulled him into the house. She warmed his frozen hands and kissed his face. Together, the family began to decorate the Christmas tree.

      What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. A luminous light began to grow in the room, and when the mother and children turned to see where the light came from, they were astonished with the divine sight. The little boy was not in rags but was bedecked in white with a halo and the face shone like the sun. The family gazed in awe at the child, and at the same time, the house grew larger. The little child smiled and floated away into the night. The family knew immediately, that the child was Jesus Christ.

      Christmas denotes the importance of sharing, love and compassion. People pay attention to the festivities but tend to forget about the origins. The legend of the Christ child is an important story that will remind us about the splendor of Jesus Christ.

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  10. Legend Of The Christmas Rose

    Christmas is the season of giving gifts, thereby, showing love towards one another. This does not mean that the gifts are the sole expression of your love. No gift is costlier or more valuable than something that that comes straight from the heart even if the gift in question is inconsequential. The tradition of gifts during Christmas originated from the kind gestures of the three Wise Men who brought expensive presents for the Infant Jesus to welcome him into this world. Since then, people have made gifts a mandate for Christmas. But, this must be remembered, as the legend of Christmas Rose will show you, that the gesture counts more than the gift. Perhaps, this legend originated just to teach people that, no matter what you gift, it must be from the heart and soul - even if the gift in question is just a flower. It is owing to this legend that the Christmas rose, the flower which only blooms during the chill of winter, has become an important part of Yuletide celebrations.

    The Legend
    On a cold December night, everybody was coming to see their new Savior and brought Him all kinds of gifts and presents. The three Wise Men came in with their valuable gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold and offered them to Baby Jesus. At that point, a shepherdess, Madelon, who had seen the wise men passing through, reached the door of the stable, to see the Child. However, being very poor and having brought nothing to offer to the child, she felt helpless and started weeping quietly at the sight of all the wonderful gifts that the Three Wise Men had got for the child. Earlier, she had searched, in vain, for flowers all over the countryside but there was not even a single bloom to be found in the bitter winter.

    An angel outside the door was watching over her and knew about her fruitless search. He took pity on her and, when he saw her head drooped down in sorrow, decided to help her with a little miracle. He gently brushed aside the snow at her feet and where her tears had fallen, sprang a beautiful cluster of waxen white winter roses with pink tipped petals. Then he softly whispered into the shepherdess's ear that these Christmas roses are far more valuable than any myrrh, frankincense or gold, for they are pure and made of love. The maiden was pleasantly surprised when she heard those words and joyfully gathered the flowers and offered them to the Holy Infant, who, seeing that the gift was reared with tears of love, smiled at her with gratitude and satisfaction. Thus, the Christmas rose came to symbolize hope, love and all that is wonderful in this season.

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  11. Like the tale of the Christmas stocking, the story of Santa Claus originated in Europe during the fourth-century when a bishop named St. Nicholas of Myra spread goodwill and generosity throughout the land. He was known to go about on a white horse giving anonymous gifts by night. His traveling clothes were bishop red and he carried a staff. His unselfish acts of kindness spread throughout Europe and the children thought of him as a giver of all good things. When he died on December 6, his remains were taken to Italy and a church was erected in his honor. That day soon became a day of celebration, gift giving, and charity. In the sixteenth century, the celebration of catholic saints was banned and St. Nicholas Day became merged with Christmas celebrations. Although the gift-giving Saint took on a non-religious form, the generous spirit still remained. Eventually, the image of the Saint became a sort of mystical being, known for rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Like so many other traditions in our country, Santa Claus is a product of many different cultures. In Europe, he was depicted as a tall-dignified religious figure riding a white horse through the air. The Dutch immigrants presented Sinterklass (meaning St. Nicholas) to the colonies. Many English-speaking children pronounced this so quickly that it sounded like Santa Claus. The tradition of the Santa Claus or St. Nick in a red suit was brought to us by the Scandinavians. Black Peter, an elf who punished disobedient children, accompanied the German's St. Nick. As Christmas evolved in the United States, new customs were adopted and many old ones were reworked. In North America, Santa Claus eventually developed into a fat, old, kind, generous, man who was neither strict nor religious.

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  12. The Reindeer Legend
    Ordinary (Rangifer tarandus) and flying ones play a role in Santa Claus story. The legend of flying reindeers (eight of them) was probably originated by Clement Clarke Moore in early 19th century poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas".

    The reindeer are sturdy, short-legged animals, having a brownish coat that is dark in the summer and light in winter; the long hairs under the neck, the fur just above the hoofs, and the region about the tail are almost white. The stag measures about 1.8 m (about 6 ft) in length and is about 91 cm (about 36 in) tall, measured at the shoulder; the doe is somewhat smaller. The animals have large, spreading hoofs that enable them to travel on snow-covered areas. They feed on vegetation such as grasses, leaves, mosses, and lichens, obtained by scraping away the snow cover with their antlers and hoofs.

    For many centuries reindeer have been domesticated in their original habitat, which ranges from Norway into northern Asia. They have been trained to wear harnesses because of their strength, speed, and endurance in pulling sleds over snow.

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  13. Legend of the Sage Plant

    King Herod was outraged when he heard that the ancient prophecy of birth of the Messiah and future king of the Jews in his country. Since he didn't knew where to find Baby Jesus and kill him, this cruel and heartless dictator ordered his soldiers to find out and kill all the children under the age of two, so that he could be safe from his would-be enemy. However, angels had already warned Joseph in his dream about the forthcoming disaster and he rushed off with Mary and Baby Jesus from Bethlehem to cross the borders of the kingdom of Judea and escape to Egypt. The distance was long and people were so afraid of the strangers that none came out to help them or offer them shelter or even water.

    Yet, Joseph and Mary strived to get away from Judea while hiding from Herod's mercenaries. Once during the journey, Mary couldn't just go on without some water. Their donkey was thirsty as well and baby needed to be nursed. Thus, they halted on the roadside where Mary nursed the Holy Child while Joseph went to the nearest village to get some water for them and a drink for the donkey too. Suddenly, Mary heard shouts and cries and the approaching noise of the horses' hooves. Her heart trembled with fear. She knew that if Herod's soldiers caught her, they would cut the throat of the baby mercilessly. There was not a cave or a tree nearby, where she could hide. Yet, she was desperate for a refuge.

    Seeing a rose bush in bloom nearby, Virgin Mary requested her for a place to hide but Rose, proudly refused to offer her any help, as then it would be in danger of being crushed by the soldiers. Ever since then, rose has thorns on it. Mary rushed to a clove bush nearby for help as it had plenty of flowers to hide her and the infant but she refused too saying she was too busy putting up blooms. Since then, clove has ill-smelling flowers. The only bush that remained was Sage plant. Sage was kind and charitable and when the Virgin approached her with a request to hide her and the baby, it readily blossomed abundantly and created a canopy for the Mother and the Child. The soldiers passed by them, without suspecting a thing. Since that time, the sage plant is considered sacred and is believed to possess many curative powers.

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  14. The Yule Lads

    The Yule lads, or Yulemen, are a group of thirteen mischievous creatures that have largely taken the place of Santa Claus in the Icelandic celebration of Christmas. Their first major appearance can be traced back to the early thirties, when an Icelandic writer composed a short poem describing their role in the Christmas season. Since then they’ve gone through many different incarnations, from lovable gift-givers to annoying pests, and they’ve even been painted as bloodthirsty creatures that kidnap and eat children in the night.

    StekkjastaurMostly, though, the Yule Lads have become known for their playful nature. Each of the thirteen is known for playing a different, often quite weird, trick. Ketkrokur, for example, uses a long hook to steal meat, while Gluggagaegir spies into people’s windows in order to find things to steal in the night. Stekkjastaur, a personal favorite, is said to walk on peg legs and harass sheep.

    Gift-Giving Style:

    The Yule Lads aren’t just about playing strange pranks—they also give gifts to children. Accompanied by the Yuletide Cat, which is described as a hungry beast that is known to eat bad children, they place small gifts in the shoes of well-behaved kids in the thirteen nights leading up to Christmas Eve. Naughty children, meanwhile, are given potatoes.


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  15. Belsnickel

    Country: Germany, Austria, Argentina, United States (Pennsylvania Dutch)

    Belsnickel is a legendary figure who accompanies Santa Claus in certain regions of Europe, as well in some small Dutch communities in Pennsylvania. Like the Krampus in Germany and Austria or La Pere Fouettard in France, the role of the Belsnickel is to be the main disciplinarian of Santa’s entourage. He’s usually depicted as a mountain man-style figure with fur covering his body, and he occasionally wears a mask with a long tongue. Unlike Santa, who was designed to be beloved by children, Belsnickel is generally a character to be feared, and in most regions he is employed as a sort of warning to coerce kids into being good.

    Gift-Giving Style:

    Although Belsnickel generally comes off as a negative figure, in some regions he is also known to give gifts. In Germany, for example, well-behaved kids are given candy and small gifts on Dec. 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. Naughty children, on the other hand, are given coal or switches, and in some places they may even receive a visit from the Belsnickel himself, who will warn them that they should be on their best behavior


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  16. La Befana

    Country: Italy

    Similar to Santa Claus in style but quite different in appearance, the Befana is a witch-like character who has become a big part of yuletide celebrations in Italy. Her back-story varies, but the most popular version describes her as being a kind woman who gave food and shelter to the three wise men while they were en route to visit the baby Jesus.

    la-befanaMuch like a traditional Halloween witch, the Befana is portrayed as an old hag who rides a broomstick, and she typically wears a black shawl and carries a bag of gifts. She supposedly does not like to be seen, and is said to whack any child who her spies on her with her broomstick—no doubt a clever way of keeping the kids in bed while parents arrange gifts in the night.

    Gift-Giving Style:

    Like Santa Claus, La Befana supposedly climbs down the chimney to leave gifts for kids, and she also is known to leave behind a piece of coal or ash for those who have been naughty. As the legendary Befana was regarded as the best housekeeper in all of Italy, she also is known to sweep the floor around the chimney on her way out.


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  17. Father Christmas

    Countries: UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and many others

    Along with Sinterklaas, Father Christmas stands as the biggest influence in the creation of the more modern American Santa, and he is still the primary Christmas gift-giver in the holiday legends of several different countries. In his modern incarnation, Father Christmas is often indistinguishable from Santa Claus, but their origin stories are actually quite a bit different. Early versions of the character from the 1600s depict him as a merry old man clad in a green robe. At the time, he wasn’t seen as a gift-giver, but rather as the spirit of good tidings and the joy of the Christmas season. This incarnation was made famous by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, who used the popular conception of Father Christmas as the model for his “Ghost of Christmas Present” character. With time, though, Father Christmas merged with Santa Claus and Sinterklaas into his more modern role as a bringer of gifts to children.

    Gift-Giving Style:

    The modern version of Father Christmas differs very little from Santa Claus in his gift-giving methods. Like Santa, he rides a sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer, and climbs down the chimney to leave behind gifts for nice children. Families often leave behind snacks for him and his reindeer, though these differ according to the country. His location and appearance differ as well. Some versions of the legend state that he wears a green suit instead of the more prevalent red, and he doesn’t always live in the North Pole. Some countries cite Greenland as the traditional home of Father Christmas, while others use the Lapland Province of Finland.


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  18. Christkind

    Country: Parts of Germany, Austria, Italy, and Brazil

    Literally meaning “the Christ Child,” Christkind is a holiday gift-giver associated with different parts of the world where Christianity is the main religion. He was popularized in the 1500s by Martin Luther, who hoped that a more religion-based holiday figure would help stamp out what he saw as the corruptive influence of St. Nicholas. Since he is supposed to literally be the baby Jesus, Christkind is usually depicted as a small, saintly child with blond hair and the wings of an angel. The influence of Christkind as the sole holiday figure has waned with the increasing popularity of Santa Claus, but it is still widely celebrated, especially in the more largely Catholic regions of South and Central America.

    Gift-Giving Style:

    Unlike many holiday gift-givers, the Christkind is never actually seen. Gifts are exchanged to honor the spirit of the Magi bringing gifts to the baby Jesus, but Christkind himself doesn’t ever make an appearance, and children are often told that he disappeared just moments for they arrived.


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