Picking up where I left off last week, we’re back to another semi-history post because I couldn’t include reindeers or nativity scenes in the last post.
Welcome to the second part of Christmas Cafe! Today, I’m going to be sharing a little more about the day we have all come to associate with joy these days! Akin to the previous post, I’ve included a few Christmas themed (*ahem*) sketches as well! I think they turned out slightly better than the previous ones. Hehe.
Known by different names like Christmas ornaments, baubles, “christmas bulbs” or “Christmas bubbles” or Christmas “ball balls, these are typically made of wood, blown glass or more commonly, plastic. It is also quite interesting to note that apples, white candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers were used as ornaments to decorate trees initially.
Christmas baubles first originated in Germany inspired by the red apples that were used to decorate the ‘tress of paradise’ for miracle plays which would take place on Christmas Eve. First invented, by local man Hans Greiner in Lauscha in the mid-16th century, the first baubles were fruit and nut shaped glass, eventually turning into a more spherical shape. Interestingly, these baubles were considered expensive as they were handcrafted and purchased only by the wealthy until affordable plastic versions were introduced.
Showcasing roots in German mythology and folklore, elves are considered to be humanlike beings with supernatural powers capable of both helping or hindering people. They have a rich and fascinating history in a plethora of cultures and various countries. It was William Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that popularised them as small, impish beings.
Christmas elves however, a relatively recent notion gained popularity in the United States. Elves came to be to be first associated with Christmas presents in the first half of the 19th century with the Tomte and Nisse( mythological creatures from Nordic folklore today typically associated with the winter solstice and the Christmas season) in Sweden and Denmark respectively.
First introduced in literature by Louisa May Alcott around 1850 in a book she never published, a parallel was drawn with Santa Claus in the 1823 poem by Clement Moore, which describes St.Nicholas himself as a ‘jolly, old elf‘. Their position as Santa’s helpers was popularised by Godey’s Lady’s Book, whose cover illustration showed them in a workshop. The folktale, The Elves and the Shoemaker also played a role in supporting their image as Santa’s helpers. The elves names are Alabaster Snowball • Bushy Evergreen • Pepper Minstix • Shinny Upatree • Sugarplum Mary • and Wunorse Openslae.
According to Wikipedia, “The first reference to Santa’s sleigh being pulled by a reindeer appears in “Old Santeclaus with Much Delight“, an 1821 illustrated children’s poem published in New York.” Santa Claus is believed to have nine reindeer, since the mid-20th century.
Of these nine reindeer eight are known as, Dasher • Dancer • Prancer • Vixen •Comet • Cupid • Donder (also called Donner) • and Blitzen. These are based off the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (commonly called “T’was The Night Before Christmas”) by Clement Clarke Moore, which is also recognised as the basis of the reindeers’ popularity. The ninth reindeer, Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store in America.
Rudolph, well- known for his bright red, glowing nose for which he was made fun of by other reindeer, came to Santa’s rescue by leading the sleigh with the light his nose gave off on a foggy Christmas Eve!
The Nativity Scene
Taking its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, setting up a crib also known as a manger scene, nativity scene, crèche or in Italian presepio or presepe, is yet another widely observed Christmas tradition. It is specifically an exhibition of models of both humans and animals who have gathered to pay their respects to the infant Jesus. Apart from Mother Mary and St. Joseph, an angel, a donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, with the Magi and their camels, commonly included.
According to Wikipedia, “Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223 in order to cultivate the worship of Christ to place the emphasis of Christmas upon the worship of Christ rather than upon secular materialism and gift giving. He himself had recently been inspired by his visit to the Holy Land, where he’d been shown Jesus’s traditional birthplace.”
Nativity scenes are often set up around Christmas time in both churches and homes. While manger scenes with human participants are common, statues are used more frequently to keep cribs throughout the month. Speaking of the animal components, the ox traditionally represents patience, the nation of Israel, and Old Testament sacrificial worship while the ass represents humility, readiness to serve, and the Gentiles. Pope John Paul II inaugurated the annual tradition of placing a nativity scene on display in the Vatican City before the Christmas Tree in 1982.
And that was all for today! I find it quite interesting how rich a history every single Christmas element has; I didn’t know elves had such a wonderful and rich history where they weren’t associated with Santa. I haven’t mentioned it all here but check this out when you have time!
Speaking of time, seems like it really is flying; there is just 1 week till Christmas!! Can you believe it’s Christmas next Friday?!
And a quick reminder that my feedback form is open all throughout December! If you haven’t taken the survey, please consider doing so here! I’ll be compiling an acknowledgement post with all your lovely responses in January!