The Christmas season

Image by Aaron Burden-unsplash.com

Christmas is the time for celebration, merriment, snow covered mountains and also spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts while marking the birth of Jesus by hanging wealth’s, carol singing and decorating the tree for many countries around the globe.
The first Christmas trees took form in Germany in the 8th century by St Boniface to convert pagans to change their beliefs to Christianity by dedicating the fir tree to the birth of baby Jesus, an alternative to the great oak tree sacred to Odin in Norse mythology.  The Christmas tree in medieval Germany at Christians was to honour and remember Adam and Eve, the first humans created on Earth and the ancestors of our civilization, plays were also performed on the run up to Christmas with a fir tree which would be covered with apples and other decorations to portray the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Later in the mid sixteenth century Christmas trees were decorated with small boxes, fruits and sweets that hung from the fir branches, Tannenbaum ballads would be played around the trees, with songs such as ‘oh Christmas tree’.
St Nicholas, the patron of children is believed to have been a bishop of Myra (now modern day Turkey) who lived during the 4th century and he was known for his compassion & kindness helping those in poverty. The saint is based on the legend Sinterklass which is Dutch for St. Nicholas with a feast day on the 6th December.

It is believed that Dutch Colonists brought the Sinterklaas tradition with them to New York in the 1600’s then known as New Amsterdam the capital town of a Dutch colony on the southern edge of manhattan Island, the word Sinterklaas was later  changed to St. Claus and then formed into an English equivalent Santa Claus which over time had became increasingly popular around the United States.
In modern times these ancient customs are now taking place around the world, interpreted differently in many cultures.

In Australia the home is usually decorated with  native Christmas bushes or small trees, the New South Wales Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is hung around the home and has lovely cream coloured blooms that turns reddish pink in late December with small green leaves. Another is the woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) which has brush like, deeply divided leaves, silvery on the ends that  resembles snow and small  red flowers, it is often used as a decorative tree during the festive season.
In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

Image by Zoo monkey-unsplash.com

On the fifth of December the day before St Nicholas’s day in Croatia, children would leave their well polished boots by the window and while they were a sleep St Nicholas would put a present inside their boot, but if they misbehaved a Krampus (a giant horned beast) would instead only put twigs of gold inside.

China is one of the leading producers of plastic Christmas trees & decorations which has become increasing popular in recent times especially in shopping centres around China as well as paper lights and ornaments. It is also a tradition to give out apples on the day before Christmas to represent harmony and peace interpreted from silent night Christmas carol.
Santa  is said to reside at Lapland known as Korvatunturi, in the Northern regions of Finland, which includes an entertainment park, children’s letters from countries around the globe are sent  there to prepare their wishes for gifts on Christmas day. In Lapland Santa is also characterized as an xmas goat called Joulupukki who would lay presents under the Christmas tree or for mischievous households a sack of coal.

It is the custom in France at Christmas to place a crib in the home which symbolizes the birth of Christ, then it is filled with characters in clay that represents various occupations in an urban or town setting such as a priest, baker, policeman etc. A Cherry wood log would also be brought inside on the night before Christmas and spattered with red wine then it is added to the fire or stove giving a lovely aroma though out the home.
In Georgia  the outer covering of a Christmas tree would be traditionally cut downwards to create long curling pieces forming an imaginative tree, possibly to represent the beard of St Basil, which is usually made of walnut or hazelnut known as the Chichilaki.
At Christmas eve in Hungry the tree would be decorated in the evening by family members in secret, then when they have finished, the children would then be overjoyed to see the beautiful embellished tree that brightens up the room. Christmas presents are said to be brought by Christ who leaves them underneath the tree, children would then remain patiently in the next room and when on hearing a bell would immediately rush over to the presents and open them.

In Greece the first Christmas tree arrived in 1833 by king Otto and now every year a magnificent tree decorated with illuminated lights is erected at Aristotelous square, Thessaloniki usually along side a ship that is also lit up by vibrant lights a custom that represents seafarers who had come back home from a long voyage. Traditionally Children would call on each house in the town or village and sing carols along with triangles or drums on Christmas eve.

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Popular plants grown for their elegant display during the Christmas celebrations include: Christmas rose which has large white elegant rose like flowers with a tint of pink that can add colour to dull surroundings in winter, it is a member of the buttercup family known as Ranunculaceae,  there is also a number of cultivars with larger flowers and double blooms as well as pink varieties and cut flowers can also be purchased for the home. It is believed that this plant was given the common name Christmas rose because of a fable, when a little female child did not have a present to give to Jesus in the stable after his birth and so she wept, her tears fell on to the snow covered ground and up sprung a Christmas rose. Poinsettia is a well known favourite especially at Christmas because of its striking bright red flower/leaf bracts, although there are many other colours which can range from orange, pink, cream and also marbled. This plant occurs naturally in Mexico known as the Christmas eve flower where it was first grown by the Aztecs & also in Central America, in the 1820’s the diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett grew them in his greenhouse and has now became extremely popular all over the United States.

Image by Jerry Wang-unsplash.com

The Christmas cactus Sehlumbergara is an attractive cacti with small fleshy leaves that join together to form long stems, the flower areoles, contains long cylinder shaped purple pink petals that hang downwards and grows at the joints and stem tips. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it grows on mountains usually by the coast. Others include Snowdrops, holly, ivy and mistletoe.
Unfortunately the main computer broke down during lock down so I don’t have so much time as I would like to write the newsletter this month & partly last month, but I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas at this difficult time and that you will soon be reunited with Family and friends.

Image by Aaron Burden-unsplash.com

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