Christmas Etcetera

Wintertime

Happy Christmas!


Xmas

Xmas in place of Christmas is often maligned in today's world, but it shouldn't be. In the past few decades, Xmas is taken as a removal of Jesus Christ from Christmas, but this is not the case. The 'X' in Greek is called chi (pronounce ki, rhymes with eye.) It is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos. You may have seen this symbol:

chi-rho.

Sometimes you will see this symbol on a Christmon. It is a combination of the chi and rho which are the first two letters in Christos. The X in place of Christos is frequently seen in chrome on the back of SUV's:

Ichthys

FYI, Xmas should be pronounced 'Christmas' and never 'ex-mass'. This has always been the case.



Christmas Cards

About half of all greetings cards are Christmas Cards. As Christmas traditions go, this one is relatively new. The first commercial Christmas Card was commissioned by a British public servant named Sir Henry Cole in 1843. Three years before, Sir Henry had helped introduced the Uniform Penny Post and was searching for a way to make it more popular. He asked a friend, John Callcott Horsley to illustrate a card showing a family "toasting" the card's recipient.

John Callcott Horsley

The depiction of wine at Christmas made the cards a little controversial. The outer edges of the card showed images of people helping the poor with clothing and food. Two batches of one thousand cards each were sold for a shilling apiece (about $3.80 in today's U.S. currency) and were popular enough that we've been printing and sending by post ever since.



Mistletoe

mistletoe

Ah, Christmas memories. Going out with my dad. Freezing Cold. Him shooting trees with a shotgun...

The tradition of hanging mistletoe is an ancient practice predating Christmas by hundreds of years. Mankind has long brought green plants into their houses as a reminder of the coming spring. This is the reason for Christmas trees, Holly wreaths, Rosemary, Laurel, and Ivy, all being ever-green plants used to decorate and lighten the mood in the bleak mid-winter. It is why the Christmas colors are predominately green and red. Mistletoe is a little different, though.

The plant itself is parasitic, attaching to a host tree by a haustorium allowing it to extract the hosts' water. There are several varieties but the type common at Christmas will have woody stems, small green leaves, and green and white berries. The plant is toxic to humans (but not fatal, usually) which is a bit ironic because it was revered in some ancient cultures as medicinal. The Druids used mistletoe in fertility rituals. Druids. Ok, what they did was climb a sacred oak tree, cut the mistletoe off of it and then sacrifice two white bulls and use the misteltoe to make a tea to cure infertility and to guard against poisons. Druids. Romans used mistletoe in their Saturnalia festivals. They connected mistletoe with feelings of love and contentment and would hang some above a doorway to bless the house.

Kissing under the mistletoe would seem to be a natural progression given its fertility enhancing origins, but it is not clear when this tradition began. The earliest references to "kissing under the mistletoe" at Christmas, is from 18th century England. Some traditions said you could kiss any woman standing under the mistletoe and if she refused, she'd have bad luck. Another custom requires you to pick a berry for each kiss and when the berries are gone, you stop kissing. I wonder how long it took for them to realize you can't eat the berries.