Double Decker Christmas
One of the most rewarding occasions in my life appeared to be growing up in a multicultural home and environment, a home that had their roots in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is splendidly quiet and peaceful fasting 40 days period prior to Christmas for those in the Orthodox churches, who'd take the personal duty to enter such an observance as a particular spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord. A pleasant tradition during that time, we pay a double respect at home, is the St Nicholas day which is held on December, the 6th or 19th depending what country we happen to celebrate it in...or, as it is with me, from what country the tradition bearers, usually disguised as grandmas and aunts, are coming from. Naturally, this would be the day when people give small gifts to their children and neighbours. And we? We prepare a fish meal and raise our glasses to my brother's health, as for him it would fall to be the second day in a row to celebrate his name's day after the usual "heavy" birthday party on the previous day.
In the 7th century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God. He did many good works there, and spent much time in Thuringia, an area which was to become the cradle of the Christmas Decoration Industry. Legend has it that he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God's Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity. The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510.
…May I have it twice, please?
With almost every major holiday doubled and our personal celebrations in the family, it isn't a surprise to have a very busy all-year round festive calendar. As it came from my grandma, in such an overbooked schedule Christmas and Easter holidays rule, with Easter being the VIP ruler of them. My grandmother used to spend 3 to 4 days in holiday preparations, moving ably like a shuttle between the cooker and the set table, while skillfully fending unreasonable remarks on Who would eat these piles of food ... Grandma was an Old School. She was nifty, a 50's housewife gold standard - such models can not be found in stores nowadays - and she new that holidays are not about the food she reluctantly prepared to please us.
How come we make it a double score? You probably know of the Eastern churches and how there still are countries where Christmas is celebrated according to the traditional Julian Calendar, which falls on January, the 7th. This is something I am particularly fond of, as previously we have, normally, joined the world that follows the Gregorian calendar and whose choice fell on December, the 25th as a preferable date to celebrate. Then you have the Armenians, the Serbians, the Russians, the Macedonians, and the lovely people in Ukraine, Georgia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and ...my family who'd set the lights on Christmas Eve on January, the 6th. All roads leads to Rome and this one is not an exception either: it was the Roman church that changed the date from January, the 6th to December, the 25th, to show their disapproval of the pagan holiday “Yule”. Whilst Yule was a tradition respected by the Germanic people, some nations felt bound to end up with these slight differences in the date. This is effecting my family in a very charming way as we simply can not stop gathering together starting at the end of October, moving through all Saints red letter days in the winter calendar to eventually see the end of it on Easter, or the St. George's day in May.
Deck the Halls
As it is natural with most traditions, nobody in my family would be clear on where did this one come from: back in my early days, the Christmas tree would be decorated on the Christmas Eve...accompanied by some smooth jazz music and a glass of fine red wine in later years when my age would be appropriate for this, and the decoration would be kept until January, the 14th - The New Year in the Julian Calendar. In my mind, Christmas is not officially over until 40 days after, and this usually would be February, the 2nd. In some countries, I have good friends to report from, the Christmas tree does not come down until the end of January. Fair enough.
Figural glass Christmas ornaments originated in the small town of Lauscha, Germany in the latter half of the 19th century. The town had long produced fine glassware. The production of Christmas ornaments became a family affair for many people. Some families invested 16 hours a day in production. For some, it was their sole source of income. Sometimes competitions were held. Prizes were awarded to the family producing the finest examples. Santa Clauses, angels, birds, animals, and other traditional Yuletide subjects were favorites.
Mentioning the Germanic people in this story, I wouldn't have the heart to skip the Dresdeners - a paper, card, or cardboard three-dimensional ornaments produced mainly between the 1860s and the World War I. Nevertheless, my choice falls every year on the good old glass ornaments that create an exquisite splendor of the celebrations in that time of the year. It is a common truth that the the holiday season in Europe is one of the most unique in the world. From late November through the New Year, wooden chalets in 13th-century towns, snow-capped cathedrals, seasonal cookies and cakes in display windows makes people eager to walk around the Christmas markets with a glass of hot mulled wine to drink. All the towns twinkle with fairy-tale festiveness. Christmas is at home across the continent, and to get you closer to that feeling I have picked Cynthia's hand made crafts. It's the time of the year to bathe in sparkling lights, to MAKE THE FUN and get together with the ones you love. Treasure the Time shared as it is the Time you'd remember when the lights go down.
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