CHRISTMAS Legends and Stories

The Birth of Christ

nativ King August, who ruled Palestine, wanted to know the number of people in his kingdom. For that reason, he requested the names of all the people and everyone had to return to the birthplace of his ancestors. The Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph were of the family of David; therefore, they journeyed to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David.

Exhausted from the long journey, they arrived in Bethlehem at night. There was no available place to sleep at the Inns or at any of the homes as a great number of people had gone there at King's request. Having no place to sleep, Mary and Joseph went to the outskirts of Bethlehem and there found a stable where the shepherds of Bethlehem kept their cattle during stormy weather. It was here that they planned to spend the night. Around midnight, the stars in the heavens lit up the stable and the Most Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to a male child. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the straw in the manger. The little town of Bethlehem slept peacefully, unaware of the blessed event that had taken place.

The first to hear of the birth of Christ were the shepherds of Bethlehem who were watching their sheep. An angel from heaven brought them the joyous tidings and told them to go to the town of Bethlehem where they would find the babe in a straw-filled manger. The heavens shone with a heavenly light and angles began to sing: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth , Peace and Good will toward Men." The shepherds hastened to the stable where they truly found Lord Jesus Christ as a babe in swaddling clothes laying in a manger of straw. They worshiped the new-born Savior, and related to the righteous Joseph and the Most Holy Mother of God what they had seen and heard from the angels in the heavens. The shepherds then left, overjoyed, glorifying and praising God.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was born, there appeared in the Far East an unusually bright star. Seeing this star, three wise men knew that the promised Savior of the world had been born, whom they were anxiously awaiting, so they started out to find him. The star in the heavens showed them the way to Bethlehem, then they came to the stable where Jesus lay in the manger. The wise men entered, and saw the child with his mother, and fell on their knees. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were laid at his feet. And the angels sang....

The Christmas Tree Legends

TREE1 The custom of a Christmas tree, undecorated, is believed to have begun in Germany, in the first half of the 700s.

The earliest story relates how British monk and missionary St. Boniface was preaching a sermon on the Nativity to a tribe of Germanic Druids outside the town of Geismar. To convince the idolaters that the oak tree was not sacred and inviolable, the "Apostle of Germany" felled one on the spot. Toppling, it crushed every shrub in its path except for a small fir sapling. A chance event can lend itself to numerous interpretations, and legend has it that Boniface, attempting to win converts, interpreted the fir's survival as a miracle, concluding, "Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child." Subsequent Christmases in Germany were celebrated by planting fir saplings.

The history of the modern Christmas tree goes back to 16th century Germany. In Alsace (Elsass), dated 1561, states that "no burgher shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoes' length." The decorations hung on a tree in that time, the earliest we have evidence of, were "roses cut of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gilt, sugar." Around Strasbourg there was a widespread practice of bringing trees (evergreens, not necessarily a fir-tree) into houses for decoration during Christmastide.

The modern custom is also connected with the Paradise tree hung with apples, present in the medieval religious plays. The decorations could symbolize the Christian Hosts. Instead of trees, various wooden pyramidal structures were also used. In 17th century the Christmas tree spread through Germany and Scandinavia. Eventually the tree was extensively decorated, first with candles and candies, then with apples and confections, later with anything glittering mass-produced paraphernalia.

The success of Christmas tree in Protestant countries was enhanced by the legend which attributed the tradition to Martin Luther himself. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. In England the tradition was made popular by the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The German immigrants brought the Christmas tree to America in 17th century. Public outdoors Christmas trees with electric candles were introduced in Finland in 1906, and in USA (New York) in 1912. The claim of the Pennsylvania Germans to have initiated the Christmas tree custom in America is undisputed today. And it's in the diary of Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, under the date December 20, 1821, that the Christmas tree and its myriad decorations received their first mention in the New World.

It is no surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The Pilgrims' second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

The Plantings

Santa delivers presents under the "Christmas Trees" every year for all the children around the world. Because not everyone lives near a place that they can go and cut down their own Christmas tree, Santa arrange for a commercial Christmas tree farming to begin in back in 1901 to help him by growing trees, cutting them down and selling them to people for Christmas.

This planting tradition has caught on and sometimes people will buy live trees for Christmas, decorate them and then after Christmas they replant them in their yards or around their homes. This then not only makes the yards and landscape around their house look nice, but it also save the trees.


"The" Santa Claus

santakid The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was born in the ancient southeastern Turkish town of Lycia early in the fourth century. His generosity was legend, and he was particularly fond of children. We know this primarily through Roman accounts of his patronage of youth, which eventually led to his becoming the patron saint of children. Throughout the Middle Ages, and well beyond, he was referred to by many names none of them Santa Claus.

Children today would not at all recognize the St. Nick who brought gifts to European children hundreds of years ago except perhaps for his cascading white beard. He made his rounds in full red-and-white bishop's robes, complete with twin-peaked miter and crooked crozier. He was pulled by no fleet-footed reindeer, but coaxed in indolent donkey. And he arrived not late on Christmas Eve, but on his Christian feast day, December 6. The gifts he left beside the hearth were usually small: fruit, nuts, hard candies, wood and clay figurines.

During the Protestant of the sixteenth century, St. Nicholas was banished from most European countries. Replacing him were more secular figures, who in general were not at center stage at that point in history.

The Dutch kept the St. Nicholas tradition alive. As the "protector of sailors," St. Nicholas graced the prow of the first Dutch ship that arrived in America. And the first church built in New York City was named after him. The Dutch brought with them to the New World two Christmas items that were quickly Americanized.

In sixteenth-century Holland, children placed wooden shoes by the hearth the night of St. Nicholas's arrival. The shoes were filled with straw, a meal for the saint's gift-laden donkey. In return, Nicholas would insert a small treat into each clog. In America, the shoe was replaced with the stocking, hung by the chimney.

Sint Nikolaas's helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) who on the night before Dec 6, would go around town opening doors and throwing handfulls of candy into the rooms. Also in Holland, Sint Nikolaas would arrive on a ship riding a large white horse.

The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas "Sint Nikolass," which in the New World became "Sinterklass". later changed to "Santa Claus".

Much of modern-day Santa Claus lore, including the reindeer-drawn sleigh, originated in America. Dr. Clement Clarke Moore composed "The Night Before Christmas" in 1822, to read to his children on Christmas Eve. The poem might have remained privately in the Moore family if a friend had not mailed a copy of it (without authorial attribution) to a newspaper and became part of the Santa legend.

It was in America that Santa put on weight. The rosy-cheeked, roly-poly Santa is credited to the influential nineteenth-century cartoonist Thomas Nast. From 1863 until 1886, Nast created a series of Christmas drawings for Harper's Weekly. These drawings, executed over twenty years, exhibit a gradual evolution in Santa from the pudgy, diminutive, elf-like creature of Dr. Moore's immortal poem to the bearded, potbellied, life-size bell ringer familiar on street corners across America today. Nast's cartoons also showed the world how Santa spent his entire year constructing toys, checking on children's behavior, reading their requests for special gifts. His images were incorporated into the Santa lore.

Santa is known throughout the world in many different names, such as:

Saint Nikolaas (Sinter Klaas), from the Dutch Father Christmas, from the English Kris Kringle, Christkind from the Germans , Befana from the Italians, Bobouschka, from the Russians (a grand motherly figure instead of a male)

Santa's Long Journey

Santa checks his list to make sure that all the children's names are on it and that all the presents are packed.

First Santa and his reindeer have to make sure that their ready to go. Santa checks the sleigh and make sure that all the reindeer have eaten enough to make this long journey, they can't stop off at Mc Donalds you know! Santa makes sure he has all the directions to everyone homes.

santa33 Santa starts out from his home at the North Pole where all the elves and Mrs. Claus live along with Santa and the reindeer. Here is where all the letter come to from all around the world. Santa has to have helpers to gather the mail to make sure everyone's letter gets to him. Thank goodness that we don't have to depend on just the U. S. Mail any more. Santa has the Internet!

As Santa starts off on the Journey he has some pleasant scenery to view and here are some sights he like the best.

Close to his take off sight he usually can see some polar bear just "hanging out". Santa lives around some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, just a short few minutes away. When Santa arrives at twightlight, the children are already asleep and are dreaming of all the presents and candy that they will get when they wake up in the morning.

Santa arrives on your roof top and makes sure that his list is correct and that all the presents are in his bag. As he starts down the chimney with his bag of presents on his shoulder, he slips down the chimney and makes sure that he fire is not burning as to not hurt him. As he reaches the bottom and climbs out of the fireplace, Santa makes sure that everyone is asleep and he is quite as a mouse as he put the present under the tree and fills the stacks.

If your house does not have a fireplace don't worry Santa is pretty slick, he finds a way in, because Santa is "cool".

Santa's Arrival

Santa delivers presents to all good children and in accordance to tradition. The legend of the traditional hanging of the Christmas stocking began when Saint Nicholas dropped gold cions down a poor family's chimney and the cions landed in stockings hung by the fire to dry.

When Santa is out he also takes care of the animals at Christmas time. As legend has it, the animals are also visited by Santa to make sure that their are being taken care of. Even the Polar bears at the North Pole are waiting for Santa's arrival. The baby Polar bears, like little children can't wait for Santa to stop by on Christmas Eve, but just like with little children all around the world Santa only arrives after they fall asleep.

santa2 But like the wise cat, who knows that Santa will come as soon as they are asleep, is asleep early. However, this not trick for cats because as everyone knows that cats don't have a problem with going to sleep because this is their favorite past time.

Santa is always kind to all God's creatures. In addition to bring presents to all the children in the world, Santa also observes the European Christmas Eve tradition of placing grain outside for the wild animals. All year long Santa takes care of his reindeer herd and all the animal friends around his home by playing and feeding them and being kind and a friend to them.

The Reindeer Legend

rain1rain2 Ordinary (Rangifer tarandus) and flying ones play a role in Santa Claus story. The legend of flying reindeers (eight of them) was probably originated by Clement Clarke Moore in early 19th century poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas".

The reindeer are sturdy, short-legged animals, having a brownish coat that is dark in the summer and light in winter; the long hairs under the neck, the fur just above the hoofs, and the region about the tail are almost white. The stag measures about 1.8 m (about 6 ft) in length and is about 91 cm (about 36 in) tall, measured at the shoulder; the doe is somewhat smaller. The animals have large, spreading hoofs that enable them to travel on snow-covered areas. They feed on vegetation such as grasses, leaves, mosses, and lichens, obtained by scraping away the snow cover with their antlers and hoofs.

For many centuries reindeer have been domesticated in their original habitat, which ranges from Norway into northern Asia. They have been trained to wear harnesses because of their strength, speed, and endurance in pulling sleds over snow.

The Origins of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Perhaps most significantly, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has been called by sociologists the only new addition to the folklore of Santa Claus in the twentieth century.

In 1939, Robert May an advertising copywriter for, the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago sought something novel for its Santa Claus to distribute to parents and children. May conceived the idea of a shiny-nosed reindeer, a Santa's helper. And an artist friend, Denver Gillen, spent hours at a local zoo creating whimsical sketches of reindeer at rest and at play. May considered many names and finally settled on Rudolph, the preference of his four-year-old daughter. That Christmas of 1939, 2.4 million copies of the "Rudolph" booklet were handed out in Montgomery Ward stores across the country.

"Rudolph" was reprinted as a Christmas booklet sporadically until 1947. That year, a friend of May's, Johnny Marks, decided to put the poem to music. One professional singer after another declined the opportunity to record the song, but in 1949, Gene Autry consented. The Autry recording rocketed to the top of the Hit Parade. Since then, three hundred different recordings have been made, and more than eighty million records sold. The original Gene Autry version is second only to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" as the best-selling record of all time.

Rudolph became an annual television star, and a familiar Christmas image in many of the countries whose own lore had enriched the international St. Nicholas legend.


Last Update: 12/10/97
Web Author: Nick Zelinsky
Copyright 1998 by Nick Zelinsky - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED