04 December 2005
History of Christmas according to http://www.care2.com:
Christmas has been celebrated on December 25 since 336 A.D. The tradition started as a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus and has evolved into an international holiday that embodies family togetherness and good cheer.
Christmas gets it name from "Christ," meaning "Messiah" or "Anointed One," and "Mass," meaning "religious festival." Jesus, born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary, was given the title of "Christ" because he was regarded as a great king who would protect people from all wrong and evil.
So great, in fact, that the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, brought three gifts to honor him: gold, frankincense (a resin burned in the worship of God) and myrrh (a plant oil used to bury the dead and a symbol of mortality). These gifts symbolized Jesus' excellence, his close relationship with God (as His son) and his oneness with the human race.
While some still regard Christmas solely as a religious holiday, Christmas has become, for many, a day to celebrate family and be merry (and to needlessly spend aplenty, as some cynics would note!). In the spirit of holiday cheer, many observe the traditions of Santa Claus, mistletoe, Christmas trees and Christmas cards described below.
Santa Claus gets his origins from St. Nicholas, a generous man from the 4th century A.D. who helped the children and the poor, often throwing gifts through children's windows to make them happy. Brought to America by Dutch immigrants in the 1600s as "Sinter Klaas," Americans soon began calling him "Santa Claus." Through the imagination of various authors and illustrators, Santa evolved into the fat, jolly, red-suited man from the North Pole we know today.
Kissing under the mistletoe, our favorite sprig of green leaves and white berries, dates back to a 17th century English custom. At that time, a berry was removed every time a kiss was made, which meant there were no kisses when there no berries. We seem to have since forgotten about the berry removal - allowing us to fully concentrate on the kissing!
The tradition of Christmas trees was started in 16th century Germany. Martin Luther, a German theologian, is thought to have popularized the concept. On a brisk, clear Christmas Eve, Luther was walking home under a bright, starry sky, which was so beautiful that he wanted to recreate its beauty for his children. His idea was to decorate a large evergreen with glowing candles, a custom we still honor today in more modern forms.
And last but not least: the Christmas card, probably the most popular way to express holiday sentiments, was started in England in 1843. The first Christmas card was printed in the United States in 1875 by Louis Prang, a Massachusetts printer. By running nationwide contests for the best Christmas designs, Prang helped launch Christmas cards into a multibillion dollar industry.
Here is the story of Hanukkah that I got from http://www.care2.com since I am pretty clueless about this holiday and have never celebrated it:
Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated by Jewish people every year between the end of November and the end of December. It begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, a date which varies from year to year on the Western calendar.
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration commemorating a miracle that occurred in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. That year, a small group of Jews known as the Maccabees (which means "hammer") fought for and successfully won religious freedom from the oppressive Syrians. During the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, there was only enough oil to light the N'er Tamid, or eternal light, for one night. By some miracle, however, the sacred lamp burned for eight days. Thus, Hanukkah has come to signify a triumph of a people with a burning determination to preserve its identity. Hanukkah, in fact, means "dedication" in Hebrew and is also known as the "Feast of Dedication" in addition to the "Feast (or Festival) of Lights."
To honor the eight-day oil miracle, Jewish families light one candle for each night of Hanukkah every night - one candle on the first night, two candles on the second night, and so on. A nine-branch menorah holds all of the candles, with the ninth candle used to light the other candles.
In addition to the lighting of the menorah, other traditions include spinning the dreidel, eating oily foods, and giving gifts and Hanukkah gelt. The dreidel, a four-sided top with the Hebrew letters "nun," "gimel," "hey" and "shin," is spun by family members to determine how many nuts, raisins, tokens, or chips are won based on the value assigned to each letter. Nun is nothing, gimel is all, hey is half, and shin requires the player to add a token into the pot.
Oily foods, such as doughnuts, pancakes and latkes, or potato pancakes, are eaten to remember the flask of oil that miraculously burned the sacred lamp for eight days. And small gifts including Hanukkah gelt, or money, are given to children every night.
Again, I have never celebrated Kwanzaa, so I got this information from http://www.care2.com:
Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of African culture, was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University. Celebrated from December 26 through January 1, Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in the African language Kiswahili, is meant to honor African heritage as well as present day life in America.
Contrary to popular belief, Kwanzaa is not a substitute for Christmas. It is a time for families to join together and pledge their commitment to fully participating in and contributing to American society, and a time to unify black Americans as a people.
Kwanzaa is based on seven principles called "Nguzo Saba": unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. During each day of Kwanzaa, one of these principles is celebrated, through gifts that reinforce the daily principle and through a daily candle lighting of the kinara. Typical gifts include books written by and about Africans, cultural and educational toys, and crafts and dolls. The kinara, a seven-branch candelabra, consists of one black, three red and three green candles, symbolizing unity, bloodshed and freedom respectively.
Kwanzaa culminates in a big feast on the last evening of the holiday, on December 31. Called Karamu, it is celebrated with festive songs, dance, toasts, prayers, and a feast of foods.
ok...now lets talk about being careful during the holidays.
My mom called this morning upset because 3 weeks ago, she mailed me my grandmother's jewelry which I never received. My mom had wrapped the jewelry in bubble wrap and put my address on it, and had a return address label on the letter with the jewelry in it. My mom took the envelope to the post office in Hastings, Michigan and set it down on the counter. At the same time, my mom received a package from my grandmother which was a box. So my mom had the box and the postal clerk at the counter took the envelope that was addressed to me. Since the woman just took the envelope, my mom did not think that she needed to do anything else. My mom just did not know. After all, the U.S. postal service has always advertised getting the mail through snow, sleet, ice. And in the U.S., the postal worker is the only one constitutionally able to legally drive through a red light.
Again, I never received the envelope.
My mom is not computer literate, but she had a vision to go to a web site on the computer...it was ebay. I had no idea the U.S. postal service had an ebay account, but I found it myself after my mom told me about it. I also found on http://www.usps.com/auctions that our U.S. Postal Service auctions off stuff that people send that does not reach its destination. This seems very unethical to me.
I was unable to find a list of auctioned stuff, but I know the Auction is in Atlanta, Georgia.
So please be careful when mailing through the U.S. Postal Service...or better yet, use one of the other companies instead. And good luck getting your mail.