I'm one of the people who truly believe the winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year... I grew up in a rather diverse household and when my partner and I started sharing the holidays we incorporated some of our traditions and even made some new ones... The season begins for us at Thanksgiving and we celebrate not only our anniversary, but also Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years and Epiphany in early January. I think the reason I like it so much is because I like decorations and music and special foods but I love the traditions and the memories and feelings some of those traditions bring back... I know many don't like the holidays and the memories they bring--- so maybe start your own traditions on your terms and create new memories for the future... that is part of the magic of the season in my opinion.
Before I start I'm going to share one of my favorite stories... (I've repeated this story so many times I feel like I was there but alas I was not...)... I used to know someone and his father was a professional musician with the New York Philharmonic and was rehearsing George Balanchine's The Nutcracker about 50 years ago at it's then new home in Lincoln Center ( I don't know why my friend and his younger brother were at the theatre watching the rehearsal... I think their mother was busy preparing for the upcoming holidays) ... after the rehearsal was over they climbed into their station wagon and headed home during a December blizzard... and my friends father saw George Balanchine walking and struggling with the storm and pulled over and offered him a lift home...Mr. Balanchine got into the back seat with my friends younger brother and asked him what he thought of the show and he proceeded to explain to Mr. Balanchine what The Nutcracker was about and gave his advice on how he felt it could be better staged and performed and Mr Balanchine was patient, kind and complimentary of his view and advice... I love this story so much because I have only been intimidated by a hand full of people in my entire life and George Balanchine was one of them. I heard this story a few years after his death in 1983 and it has always stayed with me and I think of it every year when The New York City Ballet stages the show.
This week I'm going to give a brief run down on some of my favorite holiday traditions and trivia...
On November 27, 1924, the first Macy’s Christmas Parade stepped off from Convent Avenue and 145th Street in New York City. Four hundred employees accompanied by scores of animals, from camels to elephants, with bands, balloons, and floats in tow, took to the streets to begin an American holiday tradition that has become a part of our lives and a piece of Americana.
Did you ever wonder why we abbreviate Christmas to X-mas?)...
The word X-mas has been in use for more than 600 years and has a special meaning. The X represents the Greek letter Chi Which is the first letter of Christos. So X-mas is not a modern slang as I thought but has an ancient worthy heritage
When the missionaries arrived it is said that the native Hawaiians had difficulty pronouncing Merry Christmas thus the phrase Mele Kalikimaka was coined.
Hawaiians import their Xmas trees long before the season arrives from across the Pacific Ocean, which arrive on the Xmas Tree Ship.(or they do what I did once and go to what used to be Liberty House and buy an artificial tree)
Christmas traditions of Hawaii become surprises each year. This way, Santa wears aloha shirts and the Holiday dinner is a community luau with a kalua roast pig and Xmas leis. One of my favorites is santa in an Outrigger instead of a sleigh and dolphins instead of reindeer.The carols are sung in Hawaiian and accompanied by ukulele or guitar by choirs and bands while families celebrate luaus and picnics on the beach or in their backyards.
Hawaiians didn't celebrate Christmas prior to the arrival of Europeans, but it was during this same time of the year that they traditionally honored the earth for giving them plenty to eat in a celebration called Makahiki with feasts and games.
In the Czech Republic single women perform a very unusual ritual on Christmas Eve Day, to find out if they will marry in the following year. With their backs to the house door, they throw one of their shoes over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, she will definitely stay single for another year, while if the front of the shoe points towards the door, it means she will move out of her parents’ house, and she should start making wedding preparations.
Norwegian legend says that on Christmas Eve witches and evil spirits come out looking for brooms to ride on (a bad omen). To thwart the witches, all brooms in the house are hidden and men go outside and fire a shotgun to scare the bad spirits away.
If luck is what you are seeking, you should take a hint from the folks in Portugal. The Consoada Feast takes place Christmas Day... You set extra places at your dinner table for the souls of the dead... Offer them food and they will bring you luck throughout the year.
In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. In order to get rid of them, salt or an old shoe is burnt. The pungent burning stench drives off, or at least helps discourage, the Kallikantzaroi. Other techniques include hanging a pig’s jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can’t sneak down the chimney.
Ever wonder why we hang stockings at Christmas?
According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood...The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls' plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman's house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.
The origin of the Christmas wreath dates back to the ancient cultures of the Persian Empire. During that time, wreaths were believed to be a symbol of importance as well as success. They were much smaller in size than the present ones and were known as 'diadems'. People used to wear the wreaths as headbands, sometimes along with jewels also. Somewhere around the 776 BC, Greeks started placing wreaths, made of laurel, on the head of the athletes who came first in the Olympic Games.
A form of Christmas card began in England first when young boys practiced their writing skills by creating Christmas greetings for their parents, but it is Sir Henry Cole who is credited with creating the first real Christmas card. The first director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry found himself too busy in the Christmas season of 1843 to compose individual Christmas greetings for his friends.
He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley for the illustration. The card featured three panels, with the center panel depicting a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the card was inscribed with the message "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."
Have you ever wondered about the origin of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer?...The Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company, department store operators, had been purchasing and distributing children's coloring books as Christmas gifts for their customers for several years. In 1939, Montgomery Ward tapped one of their own employees to create a book for them, thus saving money... 34-year old copywriter Robert L. May wrote the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in 1939, and 2.4 million copies were handed out that year. Despite the wartime paper shortage, over 6 million copies had been distributed by 1946.
May drew in part on the story "The Ugly Duckling" and in part from his own experiences as an often taunted, small, frail youth to create the story of the misfit reindeer. Though Rollo and Reginald were considered, May settled on Rudolph as his reindeer's name.
Writing in verse as a series of rhyming couplets, May tested the story as he went along on his 4-year old daughter Barbara, who loved the story
Sadly, Robert Mays wife died around the time he was creating Rudolph, leaving Mays deeply in debt due to medical bills. However, he was able to persuade Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward's corporate president, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947, thus ensuring May's financial security.
In Sweden, the Christmas festivities begin on December 13 with St. Lucia's Day, which celebrates the patron saint of light. The eldest daughter gets up before dawn and dresses as the "Queen of Light" in a long white dress. She wears a crown of leaves. Singing "Santa Lucia," the Lucia Queen goes to every bedroom to serve coffee and treats to each member of the family. The younger children in the family help, too. The whole family helps to select the Christmas tree just a day or two before Christmas.
Mistletoe, which was sacred because it mysteriously grew on the most sacred tree, the oak, was ceremoniously cut and a spray given to each family, to be hung in the doorways as good luck. The celtic Druids also regarded mistletoe as sacred. Druid priests cut it from the tree on which it grew with a golden sickle and handed it to the people, calling it All-Heal. To hang it over a doorway or in a room was to offer goodwill to visitors. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship. Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations, but it has continued to have a special place in home celebrations.
In Poland traditionally on Christmas, families carry oplatek (a special bread) to their friends, family and neighbors to share. As each person shares the bread, they would have to forgive any wrongdoings of the person from the past year as well as wish them lots of happiness for the upcoming year. This practice is still done, but is more limited to family involvement.
In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.
One of the first American mass merchandisers, F.W.Woolworth, began importing German glass ornaments into the US in the 1880s and by 1890, according to one source; he was selling $25 million worth of them. (Need I remind anyone that the name of his stores were Woolworth's Five and Dime?)...That's a lot of ornaments.
I used to drive myself crazy trying to have the holidays be perfect in every way... and I finally learned the best and most perfect holidays are spending them with the people we love and being less concerned with appearance.... So no matter where you are in the world... and how ever you pronounce it may I be one of the first to wish you ...
Afrikaans: Geseënde Kersfees
Afrikander: Een Plesierige Kerfees
African/ Eritrean/ Tigrinja: Rehus-Beal-Ledeats
Arabic: Milad Majid
Argentine: Feliz Navidad
Armenian: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri: Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Natal
Basque: Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Bengali: Shuvo Naba Barsha
Bohemian: Vesele Vanoce
Bosnian: (BOSANSKI) Cestit Bozic i Sretna Nova godina
Brazilian: Feliz Natal
Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
Catalan: Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou!
Chile: Feliz Navidad
Chinese: (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Choctaw: Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Columbia: Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo
Cornish: Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Corsian: Pace e salute
Crazanian: Rot Yikji Dol La Roo
Cree: Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish: Glædelig Jul
Duri: Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak
Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast
English: Merry Christmas
Eskimo: (inupik) Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
Ethiopian: (Amharic) Melkin Yelidet Beaal
Faeroese: Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar!
Farsi: Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish: Hyvaa joulua
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar
French: Joyeux Noel
Frisian: Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
Galician: Bo Nada
Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christouyenna!
Haiti: (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri'cho o Rish D'Shato Brichto
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaiian Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi: Shub Naya Baras (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit, or Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Iroquois: Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay.
Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Jiberish: Mithag Crithagsigathmithags
Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Lao: souksan van Christmas
Latin: Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!
Latvian: Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!
Lausitzian:Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Low Saxon: Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar
Luxembourgish: Schèine Chreschtdaag an e gudde Rutsch
Macedonian: Sreken Bozhik
Maltese: IL-Milied It-tajjeb
Manx: Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori: Meri Kirihimete
Marathi: Shub Naya Varsh (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Navajo: Merry Keshmish
Norwegian: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul
Occitan: Pulit nadal e bona annado
Papiamento: Bon Pasco
Papua New Guinea: Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu
Pennsylvania German: En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Peru: Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo
Philippines: Maligayang Pasko!
Polish: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie
Pushto: Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha
Rapa-Nui (Easter Island): Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Rhetian: Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn
Romanche: (sursilvan dialect): Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele or Craciun fericit
Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Sami: Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Scots Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil huibh
Serbian: Hristos se rodi.
Singhalese: Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak: Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene: Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto or Vesel Bozic in srecno Novo leto
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År
Tagalog: Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil: (Tamizh) Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Trukeese: (Micronesian) Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech!
Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Srozhdestvom Kristovym or Z RIZDVOM HRYSTOVYM
Urdu: Naya Saal Mubarak Ho (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Vietnamese: Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen
Yoruba: E ku odun, e ku iye'dun!