Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Long ago, about 2000 years, when King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel), God sent the angel Gabriel to a young women who lived in the northern town of Nazareth. The girl's name was Mary and she was engaged to marry Joseph.
The angel Gabriel said to Mary: 'Peace be with you! God has
blessed you and is pleased with you.' Mary was very surprised by
this and wondered what the angel meant. The angel said to her
'Don't be afraid, God has been very kind to you. You will become
pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a baby boy and you
will call him Jesus. He will be God's own Son and his kingdom will never end.' Mary was very afraid but she trusted God. 'Let it happen as God chooses.' She replied to the angel. Gabriel also
told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth who everyone thought was
too old to have children, would have a baby boy whom God had
chosen to prepare the way for Jesus.
Mary said goodbye to her family and friends and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was very happy to see Mary. She knew that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. An angel had already told Zechariah that Elizabeth's baby would prepare people to welcome Jesus. He was to be called John. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home to Nazareth.
Joseph was worried when he found out that Mary was expecting a baby before their marriage had taken place. He wondered if he should put off the wedding altogether. Then an angel appeared to
Joseph in a dream and said: 'Don't be afraid to have Mary as your wife.' The angel explained that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of his Son and told Joseph that the baby would be
named Jesus which means 'Saviour' because he would save people. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel had told him to do and took Mary as his wife.
At this time, the land where Mary and Joseph lived was part of the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Augustus wanted to have a list of all the people in the empire, to make sure they paid
their taxes. He ordered everyone to return to the town where their families originally came from,and enter their names in a register (or census) there. Mary and Joseph traveled a long way (about 70 miles) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because that is where Joseph's family came from. Most people walked but some lucky people had a donkey to help carry the goods needed for the
journey. Joseph and Mary travelled very slowly because Mary's baby was due to be born soon.
When they reached Bethlehem they had problems finding somewhere to stay. So many people had come to register their names in the census, that every house was full and every bed was taken in all of the Inns. The only shelter that they could was a stable or cave with the animals. In this poor place Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God.In those days it was the custom to wrap newborn babies tightly in a long cloth called swaddling clothes'. Jesus' bed was the manger that the animals ate their hay from.
In the hills and fields outside Bethlehem, shepherds looked after their sheep through the long night. As the new day began,suddenly an angel appeared before them and the glory of God shone around them. The shepherds were very, very scared, but the angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I have good news for you and everyone. Today in Bethlehem a Saviour has been born for you. You will find the baby lying in a manger.'.
Then many more angels appeared, lighting up the sky.The shepherds heard them praising God singing: 'Glory to God in highest, and peace to everyone on earth.When the angels had gone the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem to see what has happened.' So the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus was lying in a manger as they had been told. When they saw him, they told everyone what the angel had said and everyone who heard the story were astonished. Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God for sending his Son to be their Saviour.
When Jesus was born, a brand new bright star appeared in sky. Some Wise Men in faraway countries saw the star and guessed what it meant. They were very clever men that studied the stars and had read in very old writings that a new star would appear when a great king was born.They set out to find the new king and bring him gifts.
The Wise Men followed the star towards the country of Judea and when they got to the capital called Jerusalem they began to ask people: 'Where is the child who is born to be king of the Jews?'
Herod, the king of Judea, heard this and it made him very angry to think that someone might be going to take his place as king. Herod sent for the Wise Men to come to him. He told them to go
on following the star until they had found the baby king. He said: 'When you have found him, let me know where he is, so that I can go and worship him.'. But Herod did not tell them that he
really had an evil plan in mind to kill the new king.
The Wise Men followed the star towards Bethlehem (where it said that the king would be born in the old writings). It seemed to stop and shine directly down upon the place where Jesus was.
The Wise Men entered the house where they now lived worshiped him. The Wise Men spread the the gifts they had brought before Jesus. The gifts were gold,frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men were warned in a dream, by God, not to go back to Herod. So they returned home to their countries in the East by a different way.
When the Wise Men had gone, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' the angel said,take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him.'So Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary during the night they left for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died.
When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the Wise Men,he was furious and he gave orders to kill all the boys aged two or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This was to try and kill the new King, as his plan to find the location of the new king from the Wise Men had failed.
After Herod had died, Joseph had another dream in which an angel appeared to him. The angel said,'Get up, take Jesus and Mary and go back to Israel, for those who were trying kill Jesus are dead.'
So Joseph got up,took Jesus and Mary and they went back to Israel. But when he heard that Herod's son was now king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. So instead they went to Galilee,
and lived in their old town of Nazareth.
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India !
One of the largest Indian Christian Communities is in Bombay. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics.
Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
Many different languages are spoken in India. In Hindi Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Bade din ki badhai ho (बड़े दिन की बषाई हो)'; Urdu it's krismas mubarak (کرسمس); in Gujarati it's 'sāl mūbārak (સાલ મુબારક)'; in Sanskrit it's 'Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa'; in Bengali 'shubho bôṛodin (শুভ বড়দিন)'; in Tamil it's 'Christmas matrum puthaandu vaazthukkal (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் மற்றும் இனிய புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்)'; in Punjabi it's karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe (ਕਰਿਸਮ ਤੇ ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ) and in Konkani it's 'Khushal Borit Natala'.
Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated. Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.
Christians in Mumbai often display a manger in a front window, (there's great competition in making the nativity scene). Also families go to great lengths to hang giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. Every household also makes sure that they have a stock of home made sweets ready to visitors.
In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He's known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi, 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil and 'Christmas Thatha' in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and 'Natal Bua' (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi.
Christmas in Australia
In Australia, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from early to mid December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas !
Because it's so hot at Christmas time in Australia, there are quite often massive bush fires across the country. Many volunteer bush fire fighters are involved in saving people and property and travel from all over Australia to help in other states.
Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go out Christmas carol singing on Christmas eve. People also decorate their houses and gardens with and Christmas lights. Neighbors sometimes have little competitions as to who has got the best light display. The neighbors often visit each other to look at the light displays at night. Sometimes the displays are put out as early as December 1st. One street in Sydney raises over $(AUS)35,000 every year for charity with their co-ordinated street display !
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks (generally by the week of Christmas in Sydney).
In each State capital city there is a large by Candlelight service. Famous Australian singers like The Wiggles, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Colin Gery, Niki Webster and many more help to sing the carols. These carol services, held in different cities, are broadcast on TV across Australia. There are also huge Christmas pageants in each state capital city, that are also broadcast across the country. Most towns and cities have festivals and parades. In some places, there is a fireworks display at the local park.
Many towns, cities and schools also hold their own Carols by Candlelight services, with local bands and choirs sometimes helping to perform the Christmas Carols and songs. As it is the middle of Summer in Australia at Christmas time, the words to the Carols about snow and the cold winter are sometimes changed to special Australian words! There are also some original Australian Carols.
When he gets to Australia, gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or 'six white boomers' (a popular Australian Christmas song!). He also changes his clothes for less 'hot' ones!
On most people go and visit their friends and often have barbecues at the beach. A famous Yacht race from Sydney to Hobart in Tasmania is also held on Boxing Day.
The Flying Doctor Service has to work all though-out Christmas. On Christmas Day the people who live in the outback send Christmas greetings to each other over the radio network.
Most families try to be home together for Christmas and the main meal is eaten at lunch time. Most people now have a cold Christmas dinner, or a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the 'traditional english' food. On Christmas Eve, fish-markets are often full of people queuing to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day.
Australians often have at Christmas meal times.
Thank you to the students at Georgiana Molloy Anglican School for their help in giving me information on Christmas in Australia!
Christmas in Brazil
In Brazil, is called Papai Noel & Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man). Many Christmas customs are similar to ones in the or
Favorite Christmas foods in Brazil include chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork and fresh and dried fruits.
Many people start the Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve with fireworks and a big churrasco (barbecue).
Sometimes children leave a sock near a window. If Papai Noel finds your sock, he'll exchange it for a present !
Christmas in Argentina
In Argentina the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and so also celebrate
House are beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of houses. are also very popular and they are often decorated by 8th December (the feast of the Annunciation - when Christians remember when Mary was told she would have the baby Jesus). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow! Any tree might be made into a Christmas Tree - not just the traditional fir tree !
The or 'pesebre' is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is put near to the Christmas tree.The main Christmas meal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. It might be served in the garden or be a barbecue! Some popular dishes include roasted turkey, roasted pork, stuffed tomatoes and Christmas bread and puddings like 'Pan Dulce' and Panetone.
At midnight there will be the sound of lots of fireworks! People also like to 'toast' the start of Christmas day. Some people like to go to midnight services, but other prefer to stay at home and let off fireworks and then open their presents under the tree.
Another Christmas Eve night tradition are 'globos', paper decorations with a light inside that float into the sky (like Chinese Lanterns). The sky is filled with them on Christmas Eve after midnight !
Some people stay awake all the night chatting and seeing friends and family and then spend most of Christmas Day sleeping..!
In Argentina the main language spoken is Spanish (called castellano by Argentines), so Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Feliz Navidad'.
Christmas in Pakistan
In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Like in , Christians make up a very small part of the population. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live the country and are quite poor.
At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place, in Lahore, from St. Anthony's Church to the Cathedral. It takes hours to reach the Cathedral for the services. These are then celebrated with lots of enthusiasm! Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas or 'Bara Din' (which in Urdu and Punjabi means the 'Big Day'). This expression is very popular, even among Muslims in Pakistan.
During the last week of Advent, in many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church.
In the big Christian areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The streets are also decorated and lit. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes.
On Christmas eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing very special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks which help celebrate the start of Bara Din. People dance, exchange presents and enjoy the special night.
On Bara Din or Christmas day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various food from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents.
The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is 'Bara Din Mubarrak Ho', which means, 'the blessing of Christmas on you'.
In Pakistan Santa Claus/Father Christmas is known as 'Christmas Baba'.
Christmas in Egypt
In Egypt about 15% of people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.
For the 40 days before Christmas Coptic Orthodox Christians fast (don't eat any meat products except for fish). This is called 'The Holy Nativity Fast'. The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the Sunday Service.
Christmas Day isn't celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in and by some Orthodox Christians in and ). On Christmas eve (on 6th January), Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or Service. On the Orthodox Christmas Day (7th) people come together in homes for parties and festivities.
Even though not many in Egypt are Christians, a lot of people in the country like to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Christmas is becoming very commercial and most major supermarkets sell Christmas trees, Christmas food and decorations. Hotels, parks and streets are decorated for Christmas.
In Egypt, Santa is called Baba Noël (meaning Father Christmas).