Stories behind traditions; With Christmas almost upon us the Rev Mike Smith from Marsden reveals the stories behind some of the festive traditions.
MANY Christmas traditions are now taken for granted. But what are the real stories behind three of the mainstays of Christmas - eating TURKEY, Christmas trees and Mary and Joseph being turned away from the inn.
Let's start with TURKEYs. As everyone starts to booK their TURKEY for Christmas, have you ever wondered why this is the central dish of our Christmas dinner? BacK in the early 1600s, English Puritans sailed across the Atlantic in the Mayflower to escape persecution in England where King James wanted everyone to worship according to the Anglican Prayer BooK.
When the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in America they found the native Americans already there. English and native Americans got on quite well with each other.
For a while, it was touch and go as to whether the new little colony would survive, but eventually they managed to reap their first harvest. After this, they wanted to thanK God - and this is the origin of the American holiday called 'ThanKsgiving'. However, the settlers wanted to invite their native friends to share in the celebration, but the wise old chief of the natives Knew how poor the settlers were.
There would not be enough food to go round so he told all his men to shoot a few of the wild TURKEYs and bring them along as their contribution to the feast. This act of Kindness is always remembered at ThanKsgiving, and the American TURKEY has now come to taKe over from the goose at Christmas here. A sign of generosity and of friendship between different races.
When it comes to Christmas trees did you Know that Germany has an Englishman as its patron saint? Yes, Saint Boniface - and he is responsible for the Christmas tree. Boniface was an Anglo-Saxon Christian who lived in early 700 AD. As a devout monK and Christian he went to preach the good news of Jesus in the ancient homeland of the Saxons, Germany. At that time the German Saxons still worshipped the old pagan gods and at Geismar there was a big oaK that was sacred to Thor.
When Boniface got there he challenged the locals as to whether Thor was really great. "What would he do if I cut down his tree?" asKed Boniface.
To their horror, he then set about the oaK with an axe and soon it came crashing down. And Thor did absolutely nothing!
The great oaK flattened most of the forest immediately around it. The only thing left standing was a small fir tree. With a flash of inspiration, Boniface declared that this tree - which never lost its leaves in winter - and it was decided that should be the symbol of Jesus, who was far greater than Thor.
After this, Christianity spread QUICKLY in Germany. Boniface was eventually martyred while preaching to the Frisians, but he became the patron saint of Germany. Years later, the famous German reformer and preacher Martin Luther added the lights to the tree. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, introduced the Christmas tree to Britain and the rest, as they say, is history.
It wasn't just the crowds that Kept MARK and Joseph out of the inn, it was rather nastier!
Years later, when the new Christians were getting into trouble with the Jerusalem authorities they received support from an UNLIKELY source.
A distinguished scholar called Gamaliel reminded the court that there had been other possible Messiahs beforehand. One of those he mentioned was "Judas the Galilean, in the days of the census" (Acts 5:37). LiKe other 'terrorists', he was crushed.
Mary and Joseph had set out from Nazareth in Galilee and in Bethlehem they would have been immediately shown to be northerners by their accent. When he grew up, Jesus had a Galilean accent.
MARK actually records an Aramaic word Jesus used. And it was in a Galilean form, not respectable Jerusalem Aramaic (see MARK 7:34). And Peter was given away by his accent in the high priest's courtyard (Matthew 26:73). Meeting Joseph and Mary looKing for a room, I'm sure the 'respectable' inhabitants of Bethlehem muttered: "We don't want any Galileans here!". Discriminated against, Joseph and Mary were probably LUCKY to get the stable!
And, incidentally, what about the shepherds out in the fields? Surely any sensible shepherd would be curled up in his little hut. But with terrorists on the rampage up north, the local 'dad's army' got together to see that at least their sheep did not get stolen. Not very much 'silent night, holy night' here.
| SHOT: A turkey
| UNITED FEAST: The Pilgrim Fathers saw the start of the American turkey taking over from British goose, while the Christmas tree is attributed to the patron saint of Germany - an Englishman.
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Dec 18, 2013|
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