Christians worldwide celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. Surrounding Christmas are other celebrations in the December church calendar. Rooted in history, here are five December religious celebrations that remain important to many of the world's Christians.
Advent is the season of expectation. It begins four weeks prior to Christmas Day on the Sunday closest to November 30. The Advent wreath is symbolic of this awaiting of the Christ Child. Four candles surround the wreath -- one for each week prior to Christmas -- and one candle is placed in the wreath's center. Then there are Advent calendars. Many Advent calendars have become secular in nature, but the idea of expectation remains; children enjoy Advent calendars as they open one treat-filled box a day during the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas.
Historically Nicholas was a bishop of Myrna in what is now Turkey. Legend has it that Nicholas gave bags of coins to three young women in need of dowries. Some of these coins may have come down the chimney to land in a stocking hung up to dry. St. Nicholas Day is widely celebrated in Europe as a day of gift-giving. Over the centuries the words Saint Nicholas evolved into the secular Santa Claus. Thus the popular, "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there."
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas. In 1531, Mexican peasant Juan Diego reported that he saw a beautiful woman who identified herself as the Virgin Mary. She asked that a church be built on that very spot, a hill near present-day Mexico City. When the local bishop did not believe Juan Diego, the beautiful woman gave Juan Diego a bouquet of fragrant roses -- an impossibility in December at such a high altitude. The bishop then believed Juan Diego and a church was built. Today the Virgin of Guadalupe remains wildly popular in Mexico and among many Catholics worldwide.
Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden told the story of Saint Lucia. Lucia was a young girl who brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome in the early centuries of Christianity. Over time, St. Lucia Day became a popular holiday in Sweden and other Nordic countries. Young girls wear white dresses with a red sash tied around their waists. On their heads they wear a crown of candles. Under the old, Julian calendar, December 13 was also the date of the winter solstice.
The second day of Christmas celebrates the life of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the ancient church. Saint Stephen's popularity during the Christmas season derives from his mention in the lyrics of the Christmas carol, "Good King Wenceslas," the story of a king giving alms to the poor. "Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even."
I fondly remember the Advent wreath in my family's home, and lighting the candles. I didn't know about some of the other holidays, tho. Informative list!
Thank you for this list of December holidays. Well done.Tweeted.
Very interesting, never knew this!
Just love it! Thanks for sharing this knowledge. I never really knew about two and five. I learned something....again!
GReat idea for a list! December holidays are all wonderful!
select one here...