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Christmas - the festive season
The ancient Pagan festival of YULE was originally created to celebrate the point of midwinter and the change from increasing darkness to increasing light. It was important to know that the darkness and winterliness would not go on getting worse, and that we were once again moving towards summer. It's for that reason that evergreen things are significant in the celebration of xmas, for example Christmas Trees. Holly too. As with most Pagan festivals, it's usual to have much merriment, singing, feasting, and lighting of big fires. Xmas is no exception, and this whole business of Yule, with the burning of yule logs, is all part of this ancient tradition. Traditional Yule is on December 21st.
Romans also had a festivity of much merriment pre 200 BCE, Saturnalia, festival of Saturn, during a period of a few weeks in which there was much feasting, boozing, and the giving of presents.
Christianity, some would say being a bit short of anything to celebrate, hijacked the festival date and decided to put a sombre event on at that time of year. (Incidentally, no one really knows when Jesus's birthday really was (although it's very unlikely to have been in December if the behaviour of shepherds is anything to go by)). In later centuries, the resulting mishmash was a combination of Pagan and Christian elements. This is often the way culture and belief develops, and it's also typical to find cathedrals with a variety of iconography from many different philosophies with bits borrowed from a variety of sources.
Father Christmas or Santa Claus was added later, the story coming partly from a behaviour-based rewards system used by Saint Nicholas is his home town, and also from various Northerly and East-European traditions. At that time in some cultures the house entrance was also the chimney, so it was obvious that Santa Claus would come down the chimney as that was the usual way people would arrive into the house. I'm not exactly sure of the architecture involved, but I imagine it might have been something like an underground igloo in some kind of Siberian setting. Incidentally, reindeer in Lapland sometimes actually believe they can fly. It's because they eat the fly-agaric mushrooms.
Later, there was an explorer who discovered Christmas Turkey. It's a bit like the idea of Raleigh discovering the potato. Christmas Turkey is great! (Let's hope the idea of free range catches on). It's a big bird and it provides an excellent variety of food well into the New Year. Hence the expression: Flaming Turkey Wings!
Christmas pudding is another tradition. These are variously set on fire and/or have money hidden in them. Hint: Coinage is better for this than banknotes for the practical implementation of this tradition.
Later still the Coca Cola company added an extra part of Christmas by designing the red Santa Claus outfit.
The legend of Christmas continued to be developed and just as Christianity tried to take over the original Paganism, Commercialism tried to take over from Christianity. The resulting Christmas in the early 20 zero-zeros decade was about 35% Commercialism, 20% Christianism, and 35% Paganism. with an extra 10% generously fitted in to include anything else. Update: Now in the Teens decade, Christianism takes and even smaller percentage, but the jolly old traditions of Xmas carry on, with a glorious mixed-bag of folk-ethos, and plenty of good sales figures.
In the Commercialist Xmas, it's all a matter of hyping up the selling of stuff in a great extravaganza of salesmanship starting in August and going on until the mad stampede on Christmas Eve. People are persuaded by sheer mass hypnosis to buy extravagantly all kinds of stuff, not just stuff for celebrating Christmas or things to give to other people as presents, but just generally to buy buy buy in an unthinking surge. It's hard to comprehend, but I've seen the buying frenzy going on with people even stocking up by buying loads of regular essentials such as toilet rolls and cans of beans, as if the shops are going to be shut for six weeks or more. It works, too, for better or worse, causing a seasonal boom in world economy after which there is the corresponding bust in the new year, a lot of people being hard-up for a month or two. My advice is to avoid the fuss and to buy online well in advance (see GIFTS) and to store stuff on top of the wardrobe or in other "secret" locations. Christmas Hampers are a way to help save up. These vary in price very considerably, and you can consider yourself affluent if you can afford to stock up for Christmas with a Fortnum & Mason Christmas hamper, or have a glamorous Christmas with Fortnum & Mason crackers and decorations. Goodheart Gifts are a place that puts in charitable donations when you buy gifts there.
Christmas stockings are great fun for children and you can make as cheap or as expensive as you like. One site to help you with this is Stocking Fillers
Another of the Christmas traditions is the Naivety Play, where children act out scenes from mythology. Because of the style of this, and the historical accuracy of the retelling of the myths, you can see why it is termed "Naivety Play".
It's nice to have a great many Christmas Cards, and the number you get tends to have some relationship to the number you send. However, although it's interesting to count how many you have it's impolite to compare the number with other folks'! Another sign of the festive season is Festive Lights, which are quite decorative, and can be used for a variety of celebrations in addition to Xmas. However, Christmas Jumpers are something particular to the Christmas time of year.
If your kids are lucky enough they might even get a letter from Santa. This privilege can be bought at the site Imaginary Greetings
What can't you celebrate Christmas without? Christmas Trees and Lights! Even if it's just a small one to sit on top of the telly!
Did you know? Xmas presents should be fun! (regardless of age!)
On TV, the television companies compete with each other to cram as many top-rated programmes in as possible, almost as if it's an attempt to reduce the chance of many people seeing them. (Like fish shoaling to avoid the chance of them being captured). However, there are a few programmes that are traditional in the UK. These are: "The Queen" (Her Majesty's annual dignified broadcast to cheer everyone up), The Great Escape, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Doctor Who, and The Weather (which gives people an insight into what unusual meteorological phenomena are going to occur worthy of going to the Bookies for).
After Christmas, in the New Year, a great many people are hard up and some even need to look at Loans to save themselves from being in shtuck.
The legend of Christmas lives on and continues to be augmented this way and that. It'll probably go through many new phases in the future.