Christmas Legends – Christian Culture & Tradition
Popular Christmas Legends
Father Christmas or Santa Claus is the favorite of all children on Christmas. The big fat belly, cheerful red color and snow-white beard with that sweet perpetual smile and ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ makes this character instantly lovable to kids and adults alike. Children peep our of windows in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa on his reindeer sleigh with Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer and number of bags full of toys for good children all over the world. They also hope to see Elvin, the favorite and hard-working elf of Santa, who looks after Santa’s Rudolf accompanying him on his ride. They wait for the Christmas presents from Santa, which they believe they will find in their stockings or hanging from pillowcases.
Children take pains to decorate their Christmas present list for Santa and keep it on the windowsill with sugar, cookies, pies and drinks to attract the attention of Santa to it and treat him in return for his kindness. Kids never miss out on checking the gifts Santa brings them on the Christmas night and love to cuddle the big fat Santa in his red suit as he hands candies to the little kids. It is said that the custom of Santa Claus was started after the life of Saint Nicholas, a generous and kind-hearted saint who loved children and was always eager to help poor and the downtrodden. It is said that one Christmas night, he saw a poor father and his three daughters crying for they were so poor that they had eaten nothing for the whole day and could not afford dowry for the girls’ marriage. Thus, Nicholas threw three bags of gold from the chimney that fell in the stocking of each girl and brought happiness into their lives forever.
Martin Luther, the German monk and the famous church reformer has been credited with the indoor tree decorations. It is said that once while he was wandering through the woods, he saw the dew glistening like stars on the fir trees. He was so mesmerized by the beauty that he brought a small tree to his home and tried to recreate the splendor by lighting up little candles on it. In the middle Ages, evergreen trees in home or near home symbolized hope for Spring for Germans and Scandinavians. Later it came to be symbolized as life in Europe and other parts of the world and was thus adopted as Christmas symbol.
There is an interesting legend associating it with the birth of Jesus Christ. On the night when Jesus was born, all creatures contributed gifts to be taken to Bethlehem. While olive tree provided its fruit and palm tree came up with dates, fir tree was at loss and was distressed, as it could offer nothing to the newborn king. So an angel took pity on the poor tree and decorated it with stars. Baby Jesus was pleased to see the lighted tree. Since then, it has become a custom to decorate the fir tree on Christmas.
According to a Mexican legend, a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo were so poor that they had nothing to take as a gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene set up in the village church during the Christmas festival. They were sad and distressed and while on the way to the church to attend the service, they decided to gather a handful of common weeds as a gift to Christ and made them into a small bouquet.
Touched by their sincerity and devotion and the courage with which they took their humble gift to the church, despite of the teasing of other village children, an angel took pity on them and blessed them. Maria and Pablo quietly placed the green plants around the manger with all the heart and to everybody’s surprise, a miracle happened then and there. The green top leaves turned into bright red petals, making beautiful star-like flowers. All who witnessed the scene were touched by the kindness of the great Lord and devotion of the children.
It is said that a brightly shining star that had miraculously appeared in the eastern sky guided the magi (the three wise men from the East) to the newborn king. Astronomers ruled out the possibility of a meteor that burns up in seconds or a comet because according to their calculation, no comets crossed the earth’s path around the time of Christ’s birth. However, since the magi were also the astrologers of their time, they may have made calculations and interpreted them to predict that a divine soul was to be born on the Jewish land. Now, people adorn the churches and homes during Christmas with star as a holy sign that symbolizes high hopes, good fortune and happiness in their lives.
According to some stargazers, if we put the birth of Jesus in springtime of 6 B.C., then perhaps we may account for the said star as the triangle of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn planets that had come close together at that time to form the constellation of Pisces, considered especially auspicious by Jewish rabbis. However, some keep themselves aloof from all logic and just believe it to be a miracle and today; the world usually begins the Christian holiday with the appearance of the first star of Christmas Eve. Poland celebrates the Festival of the Star, where the priest acts as the ‘Star Man’ to test the children’s knowledge of religion just after the Christmas Eve meal. Alaskan boys and girls carry a star shaped figure from house to house singing carols on Christmas and receive treats in turn. In Hungary, a star-shaped pattern is carved on one half of the apple is considered a good luck charm.