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Cultures And Customs From The Other Culture--005: Christmas
by Mr. Mike J (England)
Hi, friends, today is Christmas Eve in Europe, Asia and Australia and tomorrow it will be in America, right? :-) Now it is the midnight in China already, but, I can still often hear someone are greeting each other outside for they are still celebrating Christmas -- now in China there are more and more people celebrate Christmas, and in every shop, hotel and restaurant, the waiters/ waitresses are working wear in Christmas hats and the Christmas trees and the picture of Santa Claus can be seen everywhere.   

Anyway, we have no a holiday for it... :-)

I am luck to receive many Christmas greetings from many friends. Here I would like to publish an article that was written to introduce something about Christmas by Mr. Mike J. from England and hope you enjoy it. :-)

If you have any questions, comments and suggestions, please write to shirley@ebridge.cn , or shirleyz004@yahoo.com, You are welcomed.

Sat, Dec 24, 2005

¡°Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. For this day, is born to you a saviour, who is Christ the Lord.¡±

Thus, according to St Luke, did the Angel of the Lord announce to the poor shepherds watching their sheep in the hills around Bethlehem, the birth of Christ. Christmas day is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and literally means ¡°Christ mass¡± ( the ¡°mass¡± is a Roman Catholic religious rite). Nobody knows the actual date of Christ¡¯s birth, but there are several theories about why December 25th was chosen to commemorate it. One theory is that it is based on an attempt to calculate the actual day, but it is generally thought that the early Catholic Church chose that date in order to supplant the various pagan festivals of different cultures that occurred around the time of the northern winter solstice with a festival of its own.

For many parents of small children, Christmas day will be announced, probably at around 6am, by their own ¡°little angels¡±, calling: ¡°Mommy! Daddy! Look what Santa brought me!¡± Gift giving is one of the many traditions associated with Christmas and is said to follow the example of the Magi (the three wise men) who brought gifts for the baby Jesus.

Many small children are told that on the night before Christmas (Christmas eve), Santa Claus will visit them on his reindeer-drawn sleigh, slip down the chimney and leave them gifts, but only if they¡¯re, asleep, and only if they¡¯ve been good¡­so they go to bed excited, but hoping that if they catch a glimpse of the red clad old man with the long while beard, that he won¡¯t notice! The character of Santa Claus is based on a minor 4th century saint, St Nicholas, who was noted for his kindness and generosity.

In the first week or so of December, many people start to decorate their houses for Christmas, they will buy a Christmas tree, a coniferous tree such as spruce, and decorate it with coloured lights and glass baubles, perhaps some tinsel, and place a fairy or a star at the top of the tree. Some people hang paper streamers across their ceilings and decorate pictures, mirrors etc with tinsel. Recently in the UK, some people have taken to lighting up the outside of their houses coloured lights and lit novelties such as snowmen, reindeer Santas etc. People may hang a holly wreath (holly is an evergreen plant with prickly leaves) on their front door and a piece of mistletoe ( a parasitic plant) above some of the doorways in the house¡­there is a tradition of ¡°kissing under the mistletoe¡±. In the evenings people are busy writing Christmas cards to their friends and relatives and the next morning the postman¡¯s bag is bulging with hundreds of these cards. During church services ¡°carols¡± (hymns about Christ¡¯s birth) will be sung and on prominent display will be a nativity scene with statues of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and some shepherds (and their animals) in attendance. All these decorations stay up over the Christmas holiday and are taken down by the twelfth day after Christmas.

Commercially, the onset of the Christmas season seems to occur earlier and earlier each year, with the appearance of Christmas seasonal goods in the supermarkets, which these days are put out during September. There will be a whole aisle devoted to Christmas cards, wrapping paper, Christmas trees, decorations etc. The commercial pressure builds up momentum during November with Christmas decorations going up in shopping malls and high streets, giving the impression that there isn¡¯t much time left to buy all those gifts. Children¡¯s television is bombarded with adverts for the latest toys and games and shops advertise gift ideas for great aunt Agatha or that rich uncle who seems to have everything. This retail pressure seems to culminate in a near shopping frenzy in the last few days before Christmas when people are buying the food and drink for the Christmas holiday period, at certain times it¡¯s so crowded in the supermarket that it may take 10 or 15 minutes to go from one end of an aisle to the other.

In the light of all this commercialism and ephemera, it is easy to become cynical about the meaning of Christmas, but I do believe that most people do have something of the spirit of Christmas in their hearts trough all these festivities, that of peace and goodwill to all people, or as the angels in St Luke¡¯s gospel sang:
¡°Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.¡±

A happy Christmas to everyone!