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Christmas Message: Few facts about Christmas

by Major Rajam Daniel

Xmas, the common abbreviation for Christmas is derived from the Greek alphabet. X is letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek alphabet.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.

Some priests in Australia advise to say “Happy Christmas”, not “Merry Christmas”, because Merry has connotations of getting drunk which bring its own problems. One should say “Happy” instead.

Oliver Cromwell in England banned Christmas carols between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he banned carols and parties. The only celebration was a sermon and a prayer service.

In 1643, the British Parliament officially abolished the celebration of Christmas.

The Puritans in America tried to make “Thanksgiving Day” the most important annual festival instead of Christmas.

“Silent Night” was written in 1818 by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas.

In Christmas tree decorations, angels are usually portrayed as blondes in blouses and sandals. In the Bible, however, angels are muscular bullies who frequently goad humans into fistfights. Life isn't all harps and heavenly choirs, for angel there's a strict career structure. The only angels mentioned by name in the Bible are archangels, the eighth ranking order of angels.

A goose was customary Christmas fare until Henry VIII took it upon himself to tuck into a turkey.

If you're wondering why men may have not flocked to kiss you under the mistletoe, the answer may be that it was said that it will only work if the person you are kissing is a virgin. On the sixth day of the new moon, a Druid priest used to cut mistletoe from an oak tree with a sacred sickle. A passing virgin was called upon to catch the falling plant, which was not allowed to touch the ground.

Santa's reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

The Christmas tree was first decorated with lights in the 16th century.

It is believed that Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to the tree. He was so taken with the Christmas night sky that he wished to bring “the lights of the stars” into the home of his family. From this, decorating the tree with ornaments, messages and notes and small gifts emerged in later centuries, leading to our custom today.

Major Rajam Daniel is the Assistant of Communications Office for India, Kolkata

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