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THE CHRISTMAS TREE 

The decorating of homes for Christmas is very common. Most Australians who observe Christmas have a Christmas tree in their homes. This may be a real evergreen tree or an artificial one. In either case, the tree is decorated and trimmed with small lights and ornaments.

Other decorations such as lights and wreaths of evergreen and signs wishing a "Merry Christmas" can be found inside and outside of many homes. The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years.

Pagans used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it reminds them of the coming spring. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples during the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God. Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably started about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe.

Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks). Other early Christmas Trees, across many part of northern Europe, were cherry or hawthorn plants (or a branch of the plant) that were put into pots and brought inside, so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time. If you couldn't afford a real plant, people made pyramids of woods and they were decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house, rather than being displayed in a home. It's possible that the wooden pyramid trees were meant to be like Paradise Trees.

These were used in medieval German Mystery or Miracle Plays performed in front of Churches on Christmas Eve. In early Church calendar of saints, 24th December was marked as Adam and Eve's day. The Paradise Tree represented the Garden of Eden. It was often paraded around the town as a prelude to the play, as a way of advertising the play. These plays depicted Bible stories to people who could not read.

The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510.  In the square there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Years Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages. The tree might have been a 'Paradise Tree' rather than a 'real' tree. Not much is known about the tree, apart from that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony they burnt the tree. This is like the custom of the Yule Log.









THE SANTA STORY 

Santa Claus has been called by several different names throughout the years. Traditions and legends of Santa Claus for the evolution of the modern-day Santa may have been based on the early Dutch legend of Sinterklaas, originating in the 1600's.

 Santa Claus really started to get famous when American author Washington Irving published stories about Santa Claus, referring to him as Saint Nicholas who arrived on Christmas Eve bringing presents for children.

 Santa Claus changed and became more famous when writer Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1823 about a Christmas Eve visit from Saint Nicholas, better known as "The Night Before Christmas" (listed below). Millions of children  could now have a consistent description of Santa Claus and his eight flying reindeer.

 American magazines picked up on the popularity of Santa Claus, and many different versions of Santa Claus were published over the next 50 years. Santa Claus even began to appear in advertisements for popular products.

The most famous reindeer, red nosed Rudolph started to appear in the late 1930's.

Santa Claus, Rudolph, and the other reindeer would get periodic boosts in popularity when songs, stories, movies, or videos were released about them. Some of the more significant of there were:

Santa Claus is coming to Town

Jolly old St. Nick

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Around the world Santa Claus is known as:

English - Kris Kringle or Father Christmas = The Santa Claus name more likely evolved from the name of Saint Nicholas.

Belgium - De Kerstman (Christmas Man) is celebrated in December.

Note: Sinterklass (which is derived from the Dutch name Sint Nicolaas) is celebrated on December 6th

Italy - Babbo Natale

Germany - Weihnachtsmann or Sankt Nikolaus

Sweden - Jultomten, or Christmas Brownie

Hawaii - Kanakaloka

Chile - Viejo Pascuerro

France - Pere Noel

Japan - Hoteiosho - a priest who bears gifts or Santa Kurohsu

Russia - Ded Moroz - or Grandfather Frost who is accompanied by his grand daughter Snegurochka (Miss Snow or Snow Maiden)  - note: "Babushka" or elderly woman does not appear in Russian Christmas stories.



CHRISTMAS STORY​

Long ago, about 2000 years, when King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel), God sent the angel Gabriel to a young women who lived in the northern town of Nazareth. The girl's name was Mary and she was engaged to marry Joseph.  

The angel Gabriel said to Mary: 'Peace be with you! God has blessed you and is pleased with you.' Mary was very surprised by this and wondered what the angel meant. The angel said to her 'Don't be afraid, God has been very kind to you. You will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a baby boy and you will call him Jesus. He will be God's own Son and his kingdom will never end.' Mary was very afraid but she trusted God. 'Let it happen as God chooses.' She replied to the angel. Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth who everyone thought was too old to have children, would have a baby boy whom God had chosen to prepare the way for Jesus. Mary said goodbye to her family and friends and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was very happy to see Mary. She knew that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. An angel had already told Zechariah that Elizabeth's baby would prepare people to welcome Jesus. He was to be called John. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home to Nazareth.

 Joseph was worried when he found out that Mary was expecting a baby before their marriage had taken place. He wondered if he should put off the wedding altogether. Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: 'Don't be afraid to have Mary as your wife.' The angel explained that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son and told Joseph that the baby would be named Jesus which means 'Saviour' because he would save people. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel had told him to do and took Mary as his wife.

At this time, the land where Mary and Joseph lived was part of the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Augustus wanted to have a list of all the people in the empire, to make sure they paid their taxes. He ordered everyone to return to the town where their families originally came from, and enter their names in a register (or census) there. Mary and Joseph travelled a long way (about 70 miles) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because that is where Joseph's family came from. Most people walked but some lucky people had a donkey to help carry the goods needed for the journey. Joseph and Mary travelled very slowly because Mary's baby was due to be born soon.

When they reached Bethlehem they had problems finding somewhere to stay. So many people had come to register their names in the census, that every house was full and every bed was taken in all of the Inns. The only shelter that they could find was a stable or cave with the animals. In this poor place Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. In those days it was the custom to wrap newborn babies tightly in a long cloth called 'swaddling clothes'. Jesus' bed was the manger that the animals ate their hay from.

In the hills and fields outside Bethlehem, shepherds looked after their sheep through the long night. As the new day began, suddenly an angel appeared before them and the glory of God shone around them. The shepherds were very, very scared, but the angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I have good news for you and everyone. Today in Bethlehem a Saviour has been born for you. You will find the baby lying in a manger.'.

Then many more angels appeared, lighting up the sky. The shepherds heard them praising God singing: 'Glory to God in highest, and peace to everyone on earth.' When the angels had gone the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem to see what has happened.' So the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus was lying in a manger as they had been told. When they saw him, they told everyone what the angel had said and everyone who heard the story were astonished. Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God for sending his Son to be their Saviour.

When Jesus was born, a brand new bright star appeared in sky. Some Wise Men in faraway countries saw the star and guessed what it meant. They were very clever men that studied the stars and had read in very old writings that a new star would appear when a great king was born. They set out to find the new king and bring him gifts.

The Wise Men followed the star towards the country of Judea and when they got to the capital called Jerusalem they began to ask people: 'Where is the child who is born to be king of the Jews?' Herod, the king of Judea, heard this and it made him very angry to think that someone might be going to take his place as king. Herod sent for the Wise Men to come to him. He told them to go on following the star until they had found the baby king. He said: 'When you have found him, let me know where he is, so that I can go and worship him.'. But Herod did not tell them that he really had an evil plan in mind to kill the new king.

The Wise Men followed the star towards Bethlehem (where it said that the king would be born in the old writings). It seemed to stop and shine directly down upon the place where Jesus was.

The Wise Men entered the house where they now lived and found Jesus with Mary, they bowed down and worshipped him. The Wise Men spread  the gifts they had brought before Jesus. The gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men were warned in a dream, by God, not to go back to Herod. So they returned home to their countries in the East by a different way. After the wise men left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' the angel said, 'take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him.' So Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary and escaped to Eygpt the same night, where he stayed until Herod died.

When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was furious and he gave orders to kill all the boys aged two or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This was to try and kill the new King, as his plan to find the location of the new king from the Wise Men had failed.

After Herod had died, Joseph had another dream in which an angel appeared to him. The angel said, 'Get up, take Jesus and Mary and go back to Israel, for those who were trying kill Jesus are no more.'

So Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary and they went back to Israel. But when he heard that Herod's son was now king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. So instead they went to Galilee, and lived in their old town of Nazareth.

 

Tune  into Radio 360  to listen  Christmas songs daily. 
Scheduled Monday to Sunday  and will run till Christmas at these times - 
7:45am, 9:45am,11:45am, 1:45pm, 3:45pm, 5:45pm, 7:45pm, 8:45pm, 9:45pm, 11:45pm.
Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time .
(The timings are just indicative please allow +10 mins of programming difference)








SANTA'S REINDEER 

Reindeers made good animals to  become a part of this legend, since they lived in very cold northern climates and were therefore unfamiliar to most people in the world. Reindeer can grow up to 6 feet long and about 3 feet high with wide hoofs that spread, allowing them to walk on snow by spreading their weight over a larger area. Their antlers and short legs give them a distinct look.Reindeers have been domesticated and  been used for centuries to pull loads on sledges in snowy regions. Ordinary and flying reindeers are common symbols associated with Christmas because of the association with Santa Claus. This legend of eight flying reindeer most likely originated and was made popular by the poem "Twas the Night before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore.  

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself! A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"




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