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Did You Know This About Christmas?
Today, kissing under the mistletoe is a popular Christmas custom. However, mistletoe was for many centuries a symbol of healing and divine love representing Christ as the Divine Healer of all people and nations. Gradually, mistletoe was introduced into the home, where the more familiar traditions surrounding the plant developed. Hanging mistletoe in a doorway or from the ceiling became a sign of good will and harmony to all visitors ... a throwback to mistletoe's ancient role as a "plant of peace." The Puritans had no time for pagan carols and were actually quite frightened of them. So much so, that anyone caught singing carols, particularly in Scotland, was at risk of being accused of witchcraft.
Xmas Door Wreath
Nowadays it's quite common to display a Xmas wreath on the front door. This Christmas custom actually comes from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations of displaying a wreath on the front door of your house. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts strenae after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these into a ring and display them on doorways.
The German style nutcrackers have huge garish teeth and the usual pair of staring, eyes. These nutcrackers are whimsical and some comical. Everyone is familiar with the nutcracker and usually it is depicted as a soldier. These wonderful nutcrackers depict several holidays and all walks of life.
The Nutcracker began in the villages of the Erzgebirge region of Germany in the Ore mountains, near the Bohemian Border. The Ore Mountains were rich in minerals and many of the locals worked in the mines. During the winter months, the miners would carve to pass the time. Usually they would carve Christmas presents and toys. A favourite carving was the toy soldier. Naturally the first nutcrackers were soldiers. In the 1700's the lathe was invented. The miners would use a lathe driven by the power of running water. The lathe would carve the pieces of the nutcracker, which would be assembled and painted. At one time as many as 30 lathes operated in the Erzgebirge region. As the mines ran out of ore, the miners began to make toys, presents and nutcrackers full time. Soon vendors were selling the Erzgebirge items all over Europe. The nutcracker became a symbol of the region. Two great nutcracker companies survived from the area. Steinbach and Christian Ulbrecht. Their nutcrackers are famous worldwide by collectors, and they command premium prices from collectors.
'Angels' in Greek mean 'Messengers'. In the Bible, heavenly angels are mentioned as messengers of god. Angels are believed to be immortal, who live in Heaven, and act as intermediaries between God and Humankind. Traditionally, pictures and poems on angels portray them having human bodies with wings sprouting from their backs. 'Wings' are said to symbolize Innocence, Virtue, Purity, Peace and Love, which place them above Humans though they are still under God.
It was the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of Christianity, which first mentions that angels had a human body and angel wings and could fly. According to the New Testament, when people are sorry for their sins, angels rejoice. In Bible, nine ranks of angels are mentioned with Seraphim and Cherubim angels on top. Angels are headed by a chief angel known as an Archangel whose name is Saint Michael. It was in 1100 to 1200 AD when Christian doctrine about angels evolved rapidly, as in the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas believed that angels fill the gap between God and mankind; they are countless and immortal. According to Saint Thomas, angels have perfect knowledge except things that can depend on human choice and things that only God knows.
They were quite instrumental in birth of Jesus Christ and hence, play an important role in Christmas celebration and festivities. Angels were the ones that brought us the news of the birth of the Christ child. Gabriel, the heavenly Christmas angel brought the divine news to Mary and revealed that she was chosen to bear God's son. Another angel informed Joseph that he should marry Mary and look after the Christ. According to a legend, God appointed a small group of tiny angels, who were just learning their angel ways, to watch over Joseph and Mary on their journey to Bethlehem.
Tiny angels did all they could and tried to do their best but could not help the couple to find shelter in the inn in the over-crowded town. Finally, they had to make do with the inn's stable. They were so excited that they were to witness the birth of God's Only Son that flew closer to earth and sang sweetly. The fastest among them caught sight of the newborn child from stable's roof and instantly understood their mission was to herald the birth. They were so filled with joy and mirth that they burst into a glorious thanksgiving song that reached the heavens and was so melodious that it could be heard all over the Earth. A Christmas angel appeared to the shepherds near Bethlehem about the Christ Child's birth too. We still see Christmas angels singing and playing music in Nativity scenes who look so cute and benevolent that they catch young one's attention and fascination instantly.