A Web of Christmas Merry Christmas in 100 Languages Around
By: John Shepler
Shinnen Omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto, Froehliche Weihnachten,
Glaedelig Jul, Joyeux Noel, Nollaig Shona Dhuit, Srozhdestvom
Kristovym, Gong Tsok Sing Dan, Bing Ho Sun Hei. No matter how
you say it...Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I've been searching the web for the spirit of Christmas this
year and found some very interesting things. For instance, would
you like to know a hundred languages? How about just being able
to send season's greetings in 100 languages? You'll find a page
of greetings that will help you spread joy to your friends around
the world. "Joy to the world" is something we can all
participate in these days, thanks to web sites and electronic
mail. To all of you in Finland, "Hyvaa joulua".
Do you know that there is another holiday celebrated the day
after Christmas? Boxing Day is celebrated in Canada, Australia,
Britain and New Zealand. No, it has nothing to do with prize
fighting. Boxing Day originated in Medieval England at the castles
and manor houses, where workers would gather for the Christmas
holiday. The day after Christmas, also known as St. Stephen's
day, the lord and lady of the estate would provide the workers
with their annual distribution of cloth, tools, shoes, spices,
meat and cereals. These would be loaded into barrels and boxes.
As society changed, servants in Britain would carry small donation
boxes to their masters, who would deposit coins in lieu of goods,
although some employers observed the tradition by giving boxes
of turkeys or beverages to their staff.
Do you know how the Christmas tree originated? During the
time of Advent in the 11th century, scenes called mysteries were
popular. A common theme included a tree decorated with red apples
to symbolize the tree of Paradise. By the 15th century, people
began putting trees in their houses on the feast day of Adam
and Eve, December 24. The first modern decorated Christmas tree
is said to have appeared in Alsace in 1521 and became popular
in France, Germany and Austria. Prince Albert set one up at Windsor
Castle in 1841, and the custom quickly spread in Victorian England.
The trees included garlands, candies and paper flowers. Most
ornaments were homemade, and candles were used to light the tree.
They had to be careful to not really light the tree with those
Are you aware that it is unlucky to buy a Yule log? It has
to be a very special log, as its mission is to keep the house
safe from fire and lightning during the year. A lucky log must
be brought in from your own land or that of a neighbor and put
into the hearth on Christmas Eve. It better be a dry one, as
it must catch fire on the first attempt or misfortune is sure
to befall you during the next year. No touching with dirty hands.
That would show disrespect for the log and no telling what the
consequences could be. While the log burns for the requisite
twelve hours, it is traditional to sip cider and tell ghost stories
while shadows flicker on the wall. Woe unto you if you cast a
headless shadow. You aren't likely to be around for the lighting
of the next Yule log.
That's spookier than Marley's ghost banging around in those
chains. The French started something more, shall we say, "tasteful"?
It is the "buche de noel", a rolled sponge cake frosted
in chocolate and decorated to look like a Yule log. It is served
after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at a meal called reveillon.
We Americans have taken this one step further and made the entire
Yule log out of ice cream, just about as far as one can get from
How about candy canes? Do you know where they came from? After
Christmas trees became popular in Europe, they were decorated
with cookies and candies, including straight white sticks of
sugar candy. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided to have
some of these made with bent ends to represent shepherd's crooks.
He passed them out to the boys and girls who came to the cathedral,
mostly to keep them quiet during services. Later the canes were
decorated with sugar roses, although it wasn't until the 20th
century that they acquired the red stripes they have today.
One of our most beloved American short stories is O. Henry's
"The Gift of the Magi." With a deadline looming and
no story forthcoming, his editor planted himself on O. Henry's
couch while an illustrator pressed the author for something of
an idea to draw. "Just draw a picture of a poorly furnished
room...on the bed, a man and a girl are sitting side by side.
They're talking about Christmas. The man has a watch fob in his
hand,. The girl's principle feature is her long beautiful hair...
That's all I can think of now, but the story is coming."
It came, no doubt, from the recesses of the man who called himself
O. Henry, William Sydney Porter's own life experiences. He was
bank teller locked up for embezzlement, who rose to literary
fame in just nine years but eventually died in a New York hospital
with 23 cents in his pocket. His story that is so much a part
of our Christmas tradition was written in 3 hours, while the
illustrator drew and the editor waited on the couch... an O.
Henry story in itself.
Best wishes to you and yours for the happiest of holidays.
Selamat Hari Natal, Mele Kalikimaka, Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia,
God Jul, Nadolig Llawen, Sarbatori vesele, Merry Keshmish and