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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 24, 1970, Lethbridge, Alberta There are misreadings of some seasonal lore SyW.Y.FERROL all that is good and W true to be said of Christ-. tion continues to be published every year. A national news service, for instance, in 1969, trans- mitted a statement that the earliest documented Christ- mas tree anywhere in the U.S.A. was at Ohio, in 1847. Yet, Moravians who established Bethlehem, Pa., in 1741, after living in Geor- gia, erected triangles of ever- green boughs, and decorated them with candles and sweets ior Christmas. Also, Hessian mercenaries of. the British in the Ameri- can War of Independence, 1775-1781, were known to set up Christmas trees in accord- ance with a custom in their homeland adopted from Scan- dinavians. A magazine, in 1969, pro- vided another typical exam- ple of misinformation. Quot- ing it: "1620 is believed to be She year the first colonists spent Christmas in America. Men landed on the New Eng- land coast from the May- flower to fell trees." In truth, English colonists had been spending Christmas in Vir- ginia since 1607. Even before then, French colonists had a Noel celebration at St. Croix Island, in Maine. Fnrthnrmnrp. Spanish col- onists had been observing Christmas in the Americas ever since 1492. ITS GOOD LEGALLY Court decisions in France and United States hav.e been adverse to contentions that belief in Pere Noel or Santa Claus may be bad for chil- dren. A French father won a damage suit against a teacher for destruction of a child's faith in Pere Noel. (He gave the money to charity.) A West Virginia State Court of Appeals-decision said, "Let the Constitution be amended until it looks like a patch- work quilt; but rob.not child- hood of its most intriguing mystery: Santa Claus." BRIGHT IDEA Yule comes from Jul, An- glo-Saxon word for feast one that was warmed and brightly lit by a log especially seasoned for the occasion. Jul logs were brought into the festive hall -and placed in the fireplace ceremoniously. MOVABLE FEAST December 25th was fixed in the early Christian Church in approximation of the kalends coinciding with the winter solstice and beginning of the Homan pagan Saturnalia, since there was no reliable tradition as to the actual date of the Birth of Jesus. One sect, the Quartodecimans, chose to observe Christmas at the spring solstice in March, basing their assumption of the date of the Nativity on Pi- late's recorded words and deeds. SANTA OF THE EAST The St. Nicholas associated in tradition with the Dutch Santa Claus, was a native of what is now Turkey and was, perhaps, of sub-Oriental lin- eage. Another St. Nicholas, "the was a Ho- man deemed among the most effective Popes of the Middle Ages. WASN'T FAT THEN All early imagery of St. Nicholas of Santa Claus tra- dition had him tall and thin, not short and roly-poly. GENESIS OF JOLLY FELLOW Conception of Santa Claus in the verses of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" the Night Before had its inspiration two decades earlier in "A History of New published in 1809 by Washington Irving under the p s'e u d o n y m of "Diedrich Knickerbocker." SOME of the liveliest of Yuletide lyrics are admixed with devout religious verse in the words of Eev. Robert Herrick who was ejected from his parish under the Puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell (but restored to it by Charles Example of his Christmas sentiments: COME bring with a noise, My merry, merry boys, The Christmas log to the firing; While my good dame, she Bids ye all be free; And drink to your hearts' desiring. With the last year's brand Light the new block, and For good success in his spending, On your psalteries play That sweet luck may Come while the log is a-tending. Drink now the strong beer, Cut the white loaf here, The while the meat is a-shredding; For the rare mince-pie And the plums stand by To fill the paste that's a-kneading. Lyrist, bagpiper, fiddler. Dancers and accompanists. Royal bellringer. YES, HORNING IN IS AN OLD YULE CUSTOM to carols as early as the Second Century A.D. naturally prompts curiosity about what instrumental accompaniments the carolers may have had. (St. Telesphorus, Pope 125-136 A.D., is credited with instituting observance of Christmas as a solemn feast in place of the English carol singers in time of James I. Saturnalia of the pagan llomans, and in giving music a religious significance.) Inquiry indicates there were at hand in- struments the peoples of Old Testament times had been using for centuries. That is, drums, horns, pipes, lyres, virginals, direct ancestors of practically all percus- sion, wind, string instru- ments of the 20th Century, except steam whistles. Ancient friezes, mosaics, pottery, sculptures (such as Pan piping) uncov- ered by archeologists attest to early Semitic, Assyrian, Egyptian, Grecian peoples' wind instruments of wood and metal in addition to the drums and horns with which prehistoric peoples 'sounded signals and, sometimes, joy. Illuminations in medieval manuscripts show [as in the examples above] how instru- ments had advanced when carols were transformed from pagan sing-alongs to Christ- mas hymns. Coronet, virginal. Harp and violin. HOW COME? Association of Santa Claus' goings and comings with reindeer, sleighs, and noctur- nal passages through chim- neys seems to have originat- ed in New Netherlands. In Holland itself Santa rode a white or gray horse, pack on his back, and went to doors openly. HE COULD CLIMB OUT The circumstance that an iron ladder, or masonry foot- ings, were built into old chim- neys to facilitate cleaning out soot or making repairs could have prompted the myth that Santa Claus made entries to homes via hearths. FAIR WARNING Mistletoe as n Christmas decoration comes from the Druids of ancient England, to whom it was a sacred sym- bol of fertility. Kissing under the mistletoe was presumed 'to insure the couple's having offspring. EVERLASTING STOSr What could be called the earliest Christmas storybook for children, in English, was "Aesop's printed by William Caxton in 1484. BOTHER GOOSE'S MTHER There was a.Mother Goose in 18th Century Boston, mother in law of Thomas Fleet, a printer, who pub- lished in 1719, a collection of "Songs for the Nursery." But Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Sleeping Beauty, Puss and Boots, and com- panion lore in Christmas gift books come down from a risian barrister, Charles Per- rault, who published a collec- tion of Contes de ma. Mere VOye, or "Tales of My Moth- er in the previous century. WENT KF.LING ALONG Superstitious belief that to dance tiie old year into the new one dispelled bad spirits and "settled" good fortune on the dancers prompted com- munal New Year's Eve dan- sants in old French and Ger- man villages of any size. BANG-UP FOR ALL Noise-making customs in celebration of New Year's in the of horns, pealing of a com- mon origin with those in the East, where also rockets were sent whirling, cannons were fired, bonfires were lit. FAIR EXCHANGE The exchanging of Christ- inas cards is simply a trans- ference in the 19th Century of an old custom of sending New Year best wishes to fam- ily members or friends at a distance. That was a good- will gesture fostered by su- perstition that purses or cup- boards empty at New Year's would remain this way most of the year. (Even royalty ex- pected something more than a card, no matter how well expressed the sentiments and fancily decorated, such as expensive doo-dads or jewels or money.) SOMETHING FOR ALL REV. Phillips Brooks is generally referred to only as the lyricist of the beloved hymn, "0 Little Town of Bethlehem" (with music by Lewis He should also be known for this inspired verse: TTiVERYWHERE, everywhere, Christmas -III tonight! Christmas in lands, of the fir-tree and pine, Christmas in lands of the palm-tree and vine, Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white. Christmas where cornfields stand sunny and bright. Christmas where children are hopeful and gay. Christmas where old men are patient and gray, Christmas where peace, like a dove in his flight, Broods o'er brave men in the thick of the fight; Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight! For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all; No palace too great, no cottage too small. HNS AWAY! The verses of "O Tanne- baum" to which there are references as "the Pine Tree do not refer to pine, or specifically to any tree. Reference to "leaves so verdant" could al- lude to juniper, cedar, -fir, hemlock, holly, palm, or one of numerous shrubs, such as laurel or rhododendron. FLOWF.K GIFT The gorgeous red and green blooming shrub known in the U.S. as the poinsettia, had a religious festive significance in Mexico long before it was taken abroad for propagation by Joel Poinsett, an American diplomat. In Spanish America it was Fior de to Noche Bit- cm: (Flower .of the Holy Night, .of Christmas Eve.) MISPLACED CREDIT Attributing of the carol, "Away in a to Mar- tin Luther (it has been re- ferred to frequently as Lu- ther's "Cradle is in dispute. There is evidence of its origin among early Ger- man immigrants in Pennsyl- vania, who introduced Christ- mas chorals in America. GREEK TO US The contraction Xmas !s derivative from Greek. X is a transliteration of the pronunciation of 'chi', the 22nd letter of the Greek al- phabet of Biblical times. TOKEN In ancient Babylon, if you wanted to reassure your em- ployer, mother-in-law, or somebody of your good wish- es, you sent him or her a tile with inscriptions designed to ward off curses or evil omens in a household where hung. TIME TO UNWIND Among old Rom (gypsy) tribespeople, as among Dru- ids, New Year's Eve was the time for marriages. If the wife had not been the help- meet the husband expected, that is, as fortune-teller and money-gatherer for him, he could divorce her' the next New Year's Eve in time to take another chance, i.e., bride. THE OID ROUNDUP The word carol originally meant a ring or round dance, such as a romp around a May-pole. (When Gregory the Great sent Augustine as missionary to pagan Britain in 597 A.D., he directed: "Do not destroy the harmless cus- toms associated with the old religion; consecrate them, like the churches to Christian Apple (or orange) relays. Spinning platter to win a kiss. Bon-bon jousting tourney. BHndman's bluff for young or old. EVERYBODY HAD A GOOD TIME "rpHE EVES OR VIGILS of the different ecclesiastical festivals J- in the year are, in accordance with strict canonical rule, times of fasting and of penance. But in several instances, custom has appropriated them to very different purposes, and made them seasons of mirth and a 19th Century European social his- torian wrote. "Such is the case with All Saints' Eve, and more so with Christmas Eve. The whole of tho latter season is still a jovial one, abounding in entertainments and merry-makings of all sorts, but is much changed from what it used to be with our ancestors to whom it was an almost uninterrupted round of feasting and games." A significant development toward democracy appeared on these occasions. Young and old joined in the games and entertainments [even those principally for children silhouetted Trades- people and artisans were privileged callers at mansions, to share fully in dancing and feasting. Servants were partners of the heads of households in reels, waltzes, polkas, for erasures of prevalent social lines during traditional twelve days of Christmas. Significantly, a favorite in 18th Century England was called "Hot something like "blind-man's Muff." The blindfolded player received a slap, and had to guess from the feel who gave it. S CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR "fMlRISTKIAS domes But Once a Year" is a poem not so well known to present-day readers as it was some Pity or more years ago, when it was found in albums and was a, popular recitation. The author remains anony- mous. The verses seem to have had their first publication in a. Christmas annual in- ISlil, the year before the issuance of the earliest known Christmas card sold in England. An original of the latter is preserved in Britis7i Museum. Christmas comes but once a year; By jove! It hadn't need come more, Unless it wants to nitn me Outright, and turn me out of door! That horrid fit of gout, brought on By neighbour Guzzle's Christmas, cheer I thought It would have klll'd me quite; But Christmas comes but once a year. I very seldom touch a card, For gambling's not at all my sphere; 1 wish I hadn't played last night! But Christmas comes but once a year. In drinking, I'm most moder- ate: Oh! my' poor head: oh, dear! oh, dear! Why did I taste that nasty punch? But Christmas comes but once a year. I do not -often play tho fool, And Join in romps with younger folks; But Where's the stoic can resist When pretty lips so sweetly coax? "Come, nuhks, one game at Blindman's-bluff; There, turn round roast A nice lumbago I have got; But Christmas comes but once a year. I'm rather fond of gardening, And curious plants delight to roar: The best, my- mistletoe, is pone; But Christmas comes but once a year. The tree that on my natal day Was planted by my father The holly-tree is stripped quite bare; But Christmas comes but once a year. My kinfolks cousins, neph- ews, aunts, All como to dine on Christmas day; It's been the custom many years (Which Heaven forbid sliould fall But scarcely had they all arrived, When down the snow came, dull and So deep, not one can get away; But Christmas comes but once a year. distributed by King Features Syndicate, 1870 ;