The Day After Christmas

Lots of people head back to work today, the day after Christmas. You may be thinking about New Year's, resolutions and maybe a few extra holiday pounds. But guess what. Christmas ain't over!

Today is the second day of the TWELVE days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany, which is a celebration of the day that Jesus was made manifest to the gentiles, ie the Wise Men.

Here's an Orthodox Christian icon of the Epiphany:

The Gingerbread House - Conclusion

As he moved closer to investigate, Jeremy’s suspicions were confirmed. There most certainly was smoke rising from the tiny gingerbread chimney. And it smelled like smoke! Jeremy’s eyes grew wider the closer he got. The frosting that crept up the base of the house looked like real snow! It glistened as the tiny crystalline flakes caught the warm golden light shining from the tiny windows, which were no longer solid gingerbread, but real glass.

Now Jeremy thought he could hear voices – little, tiny voices, but real voices! – coming from the gingerbread house. It sounded an awful lot like his mother and father, Jeremy thought. As he snuck up to the table, he peered through the wavy glass; the one gingerbread room was just like the room where he was standing!
In the corner furthest from the window Jeremy looked through, there was a table just like the one under his nose. And to the right of it, just as in his own house, there was the kitchen! And far behind the little gingerbread table stood the Christmas tree, in front of a small, crackling fire. And the voices of his parents were clearly audible from two tiny figures standing in front of the tree. They were talking about their children.

“Howard, Jeremy loves his manger!” the tiny Carol said.
“I loved helping him make it. But he’s getting so big, I can’t believe he’s already nine years-old. Pretty soon he’ll be out with his friends instead of here with us, and asking us to give him the car keys instead of to play catch…”

“You can’t think like that, Howard! He loves you, and he loves spending time with you. You just have to make the time to be with him, no matter what. Like today – what if you’d stayed at the office to finish that silly year-end report?” Carol posited. Howard paused and contemplated, frowning.
“I probably would have gotten that promotion…”
“...but you wouldn’t have these Christmas memories with your family.” Carol plucked the small wooden manger from the tree and held it delicately in the palm of her hand, extending it toward Howard who looked up from sweeping soot into a small pail. Jeremy’s eyes welled with the recollection that he’d broken it to pieces just a few minutes before, and a single tear fell when he blinked.

The tiny Harold set the wrought iron broom back on its hook and paused, looking at his dirty, battered moccasins in the light of the dying fire. He raised misty eyes to his wife as he stepped over a large box, papered with light blue snowmen – Jeremy had picked that wrapping paper because the snowmen reminded him of his father, with their red scarves and brown striped caps. Harold wrapped her up in his arms, “You are my Christmas Carol.” She began to hum “Deck the Halls.” They both laughed, and he joined her, singing aloud.

"Shhh,” Carol said. “We’ll wake the children.” They smiled at one another; Howard took the manger from Carol’s hand and perched it high up the tree. He stood back, examined it, and replaced it about half-way down. Carol looked at him, confused. Then she smiled, the reason dawning on her. It was now sitting just about Jeremy’s height.

Jeremy stood back from the gingerbread house. The light emanating from it was beginning to dim as the fire inside it cooled. He walked backward into the kitchen, still not sure what to make of what he’d seen. Then he noticed that the light from his father’s study down the hall had gone out. The house was silent.

Jeremy went to the bottom drawer next to the sink and pulled out a small bottle of Elmer’s glue. He stole over to the hearth, where the fire was nearly extinguished. He brushed the pieces of his manger ornament onto the edge of his robe and picked up the corner, carrying the remnants carefully to the kitchen floor. He dumped them gently down and began to reassemble the beloved ornament he had almost kicked into the fire and lost forever.

When he was done, Jeremy looked up at the gingerbread house; it was gingerbread again. The snow was once again frosting, and there was neither smoke nor light. He sighed and took the manger ornament over to the tree, balancing it gently among the branches. He glanced back at the darkened gingerbread house, then turned, tip-toeing upstairs.

As he lay in bed, trying to sleep, Jeremy wondered how he could explain to his parents what had happened, if they could believe him. Somehow, he thought, they would. He thought of the warm gingerbread smell, and he thought he could almost smell it once again as he drifted off to sleep.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Yuletide and the Hearth

The term Yuletide came to be synonymous with the Christmas season because of the tradition of burning the Yule log. At the beginning of the holiday season, a large block of oak was cut and hauled into the house. This Yule log would then form the foundation for all fires throughout the holiday season.

The tradition of the Yule log was prevalent in England, France and Germany as recently as the 1800s. The custom of bringing the Yule log into the home at the beginning of the Christmas season was equal in importance to that of bringing in the Christmas tree for many cultures.

The word Yule can be traced back to the Middle English word "Yollen," meaning to cry aloud, and is probably a remnant of the Anglo-Saxon celebrations of the discovery that winter nights were growing shorter after the Winter Solstice.

The Night Before Christmas

By Clement Clark Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Swedish Coffee Braid

Every year around Christmas time, my grandmother would get out the ingredients to bake the traditional Swedish Christmas bread.

The scent of the Swedish bread baking in the oven is one of the warmest and most vivid memories of my childhood. The smell of yeast would permeate the house like a bakery, and fill our home with the warmth of the Christmas spirit. All the children loved these treats so much that my grandmother would have to hide them, or they'd disappear!

Here's the recipe she used:

Makes 2 braids

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup margarine
  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 teaspooon cardamom
  • 2 eggs, beaten


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • crystal sugar
  • sliced almonds

HEAT MILK, WATER, and margarine until very warm. Mix about one-third of the flour with the other dry ingredients and beat into liquid. Add 2 eggs and beat. Add more flour until dough can be kneaded. Knead and place in buttered bowl to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down, divide in half, then divide each half in thirds and make 2 braids.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and cover in warm place until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º F. Brush dough with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Make this traditional Swedish Christmas treat your own, and enjoy!

Mistletoe: Did You Know?

The Scandinavian goddess of love has a traditional attachment to mistletoe, hence our tradition of kissing and being kissed while standing beneath it!

The origins of the significance of mistletoe go back to pagan times, to the Dark Ages of Greece, when it is said that the god of Wine and Chaos, Bacchus, came from the east at the head of an entourage consisting of animals and female celebrants of the pagan mysteries.

Mistletoe was especially dear to Bacchus, who benefited from its magical protective properties. As Bacchus came to represent drinking and merrymaking, and less chaos and "bacchic frenzy," so too did mistletoe weave its way into Western consciousness as symbolic of "letting the good times roll."

Outlawed in the Middle Ages and Puritan England because of its pagan past, mistletoe found its way back into the Christmas tradition during the Victorian era, when decorative Christmas trees the way we know them today rose to prominence.

So there you have it, the history of mistletoe. Something to think about next time you find yourself under its red berries and green leaves!

A Child's Christmas in Wales - Part III

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered,
yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take
his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take
it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men,
with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge,
unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away
the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left
but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then
I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others,
the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils,
when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself,
with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as
a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle
to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with
a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high,
so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose,
would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white
echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after
dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their
large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers,
aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who
had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at
the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie
had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in
the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush.
I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when
they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich
and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending,
I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try
to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers,
and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world,
on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through
the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.

"I bet people will think there's been hippos."

"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"

"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him
down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail."

"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding
snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house.

"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."

"Let's write things in the snow."

"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."

Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind
travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks
round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior."
We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled
with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us,
their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock
birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea
the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center
of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum,
because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled
like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not
look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs
and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once,
when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At
the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled
up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one
holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word.
The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe
webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house.
"What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"

"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three."
One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant
in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody
we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas
looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small, dry voice, like
the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing:
a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry
voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our
house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping
gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.

"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said. "

Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.

"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And
we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a
cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's
Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had
got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death,
and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and
then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my
bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow,
I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill
and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I
turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and
holy darkness, and then I slept.

A Child's Christmas in Wales - Part II

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales,
and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped
hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like
Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the
jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before
the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy
hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It
snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and
I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not
only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of
the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of
the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and
grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman,
opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet
they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that
the children could hear was a ringing of bells."

"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"

"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."

"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."

"There were church bells, too."

"Inside them?"

"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops
and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the
frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It
seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks
crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen"

"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas
and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...."

"Ours has got a black knocker...."

"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted
porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged
from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."

"And then the presents?"

"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman,
with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run
of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on
fishmonger's slabs.

"He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner
on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

"Get back to the Presents."

"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach
days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like
silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters
like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims
of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin
there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts
had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from
an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in
which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer
Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about
the wasp, except why."

"Go on the Useless Presents."

"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and
a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets
and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain,
a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a
most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who
wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass,
the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling
sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and
pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels,
humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of
bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And
Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers,
complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make
the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall
with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes:
you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and
you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking
a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast
under the balloons."

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"

"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas
morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched
town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the
Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one
of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with
taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black
jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas
brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled
beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched
the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and
the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without
their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding
them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing,
then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some
few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter,
sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break,
like faded cups and saucers."

A Child's Christmas in Wales - Part I

by Dylan Thomas

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town
corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices
I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether
it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed
for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and
headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at
the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the
snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white
bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea,
and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's
garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always
snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though
there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous,
our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long
as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink
and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim
and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road,
would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats
never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence
of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard
Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or,
if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our
enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.

"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house;
and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was
bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in
Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall
in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at
the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always
slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was
standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!"
and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.

"There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."

There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing
in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.

"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the
smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the
telephone box.

"Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance."
"And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three
tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out
just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas
Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet,
smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at
them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them.
She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in
their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving
snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?"

Rockwell Christmas

Norman Rockwell is one of the most beloved American painters of all time. In his art, he captured the essence of American culture and tradition.

Included among his paintings are numerous Christmas scenes and reminiscences that are sure to bring back your own childhood memories of the holiday season.

Names of the Wise Men

The Three Wise Men who came to bring gifts to Jesus on the night of his birth were named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar.

A 6th century mosaic at the Basilica of San Apollinare in Ravenna, Italy

Why "X-mas"?

The abbreviation "X-mas" has been around for a long time, and contrary to popular myth it is not an attempt to "take the Christ out of Christmas."

The "X" in X-mas come from the earliest versions of the Greek New Testament, in which X was the first letter in Christ (Χριστός, meaning "anointed one"). Later, the Roman letter X came to represent Christ; hence the abbreviation.

An Amish Christmas

We all know the Amish don't use electricity, automobiles, or telephones. But have you ever wondered what an Amish Christmas is like?

You won't find elaborately decorated Christmas trees, tons of presents or Christmas lights on the front of an Amish home.

But Amish homes are often decorated with pine boughs and candles, children exchange simple gifts like paper products or knitting kits, and families will exchange similar gifts with other families. Special cookies and candy are often made as special Christmas treats, and some Amish will send Christmas cards to their non-Amish friends.

The Amish celebrate both Christmas on December 25th, and "second Christmas" on the 26th. Second Christmas is a day for relaxing and visiting with friends and family. Highlights of the Christmas festivities include gatherings at the small one room school houses to showcase craftwork as the children perform Christmas-themed plays.

Now THAT is an old time Christmas.

Christmas Traditions

Tradition German Nativity Scene

Spanish Nativity Scene

Eastern Orthodox Nativity Icon

Christmas Again

Christmas around the World

The word "Christmas" is a contraction of the words "Christ's mass," which comes from the Middle English "Christemasse" and the Old English "Cristes mæsse", a phrase first recorded in 1038.

In Germany, Christmas is referred to as Weihnachten, or "hallowed night."

In Spanish and French, the two languages most heavily influenced by the Latin languages of Rome, Christmas is referred to as navidad and noel, respectively. Both of these terms derive from Nativity, the birth of Christ.

Maple Snow Candy

Here's a great homemade treat that the kids are sure to love!

Have the kids collect clean snow in aluminum pie plates. Yellow snow should be avoided. Leave the plates outside to chill.

Next, bring one cup of maple syrup to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer for ten minutes (and be sure to keep the kids away from the boiling syrup). Stir all the while with a wooden spoon.

Next, pour the syrup into a measuring cup. Slowly drizzle a thin layer of syrup over the snow.

The snow will cause the syrup to thicken and cool almost instantly.

Now, have the kids take popsicle sticks and dip them in the snow-syrup mix for a chewy maple candy treat! Add more syrup or snow as needed to perfect the mixture.

And there you go! A tasty holiday treat that the kids are gonna love!

White Christmas

Why is a "White Christmas" something everyone dreams about, even those who live in areas where there's no chance of snow?

We can thank Bing Crosby for that. His song, "(I'm Dreaming of a) White Christmas" is one of the best selling songs of all time.

Written by Irving Berling in 1942 for the movie "Holiday Inn," the song quickly became an American holiday classic.

Olde Saint Nicholas

The Original Santa Claus

Christmas at Work

Wondering how you can bring some Christmas spirit and tradition into your workplace to brighten everyone's day?

Try supplying a traditional cultural recipe from your family's heritage, and encourage your coworkers to do the same!

Trial of Father Christmas

Published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holiday in England in 1686.

Christmas: Why the 25th?

The most common answer to the question of why the 25th of December is accepted as the date of Jesus' birth is that it is the symbolic time of light emerging from darkness, a concept which dates back to pagan times with the festival of Sol Invictus, which is Latin for Unconquered Sun.

There's another explanation, however, which has its roots firmly in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This explanation holds that Jesus was thought to have been crucified on the very day that he had been conceived: March 25th by the Gregorian calendar and April 6th by the Julian calendar.

Therefore, we ascertain the date that Jesus was born by adding nine months: January 6th in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and December 25th in the Western tradition.

Christmas trees: Real or Fake?

Fathers and sons have gone trudging through the woods in search of a Christmas tree about this time of the season every year for centuries.

Fragrant pine trees have been a symbol of the season since 16th century Germany, where children collected fruit and candy to decorate the branches of the Tanenbaum in their living rooms and town squares.

Today, however, artificial trees take the place of the real thing in many living rooms across America. There are some real advantages to fake Christmas trees, including:

  • less expensive in the long run than real trees

  • no needles to sweep up

  • nothing to water

  • minimized fire hazard

  • easy setup

  • easy storage

  • save a tree

That said, we here at Old Time Christmas think there are some obvious advantages to a real Christmas tree, like the authentic pine scent, the look and the ambience of a real tree, and the novelty of having a pine tree from the forest in your living room.

Plus, if you're concerned about sparing a tree from being cut down, you can rent a living Christmas tree which will then be replanted!

Five Golden Rings

Letters from Santa!

Children love receiving letters from Santa Claus himself!

A Letter from Santa

And now they can get a phone call from Santa, too!

Wow  a Phone Call from Santa

Steamed Cranberry Pudding

This delightful holiday tradition is an offbeat version of traditional English holiday fare. Wow your friends and family with this deliciously different treat!

Serves 12

  • Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅓ cups unsalted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 ½ tsps. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped (optional)
  • aluminum foil
  • kitchen string
  • 1 cup purchased eggnog
  • 1 Tbsp. rum


Combine 6 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl. Beat together with an electric mixer until creamy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and add half of this to the creamed mixture. Add half the milk and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining milk and mix. Stir in cranberries and pecans (if omitting the pecans, add another ¼ cup cranberries).

Pour into a buttered mold (large enough to hold 6 cups). Cover tightly with foil and secure with string. Place mold on a rack in a large pot and pour enough water into pot to come halfway up the sides of the mold.

Bring water to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low and steam 2 hours. Remove mold from pot and let cool 10 minutes before trying to unmold. Combine remaining butter, sugar, eggnog and rum in a bowl with an electric mixer. Mix until smooth. Serve pudding drizzled with eggnog sauce.


A Puggle in the Stocking?

Puggles are the breed of choice for many celebrities today, making them the hottest new breed in America. But choosing a dog is never something that should be taken lightly.

That's why we here at Old Time Christmas recommend taking a look at specialty pages about particular dog breeds, like the Puggle Blog. They'll help you decide if a dog is right for you and your family!

Longfellow on Christmas

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Downtown

A scene of a hometown Christmas by Norman Rockwell

Amish Christmas Sugar Cookies

Part I


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 eggs


  • Mix well.

Part II


  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups flour

Part Two Preparation:

  • Mix part two well.
  • Blend ingredients together, then chill.
  • Flour hands, then shape into balls and place on cookie sheet.
  • Flatten with bottom of chilled glass dipped in sugar.
  • Sprinkle with colored sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees farenheit until edges are golden.
Enjoy these delicious Amish sugar cookies this holiday season!

Christmas Carols

Groups of hat-and-mitten-clad singers walking house to house and singing Christmas carols by candlelight is a time honored tradition that evokes the warmest of Christmas memories.

In Medieval France and England, the carol was a particular kind of group dance in the round. In time, however, the meaning of the term changed to include particular kinds of songs.

The Anglo Saxons developed a Christmas tradition of gathering a small choir on the village green to entertain passersby with Christmas songs. As the "village green" began to lose its place as the communal center of a town, these choirs began roaming the streets with their carols, bringing Christmas songs and spirit to the front doors of fortunate families.

Christmas Cabin

Christmas in Literature

Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Christmas Cards

The tradition of sending Christmas cards originated in London in 1843. In 1846 the custom was imported to America and became popular nearly overnight.

Today, around 2 billion Christmas cards are exchanged in America every year!

Christmas Fact

Did you know?

The first electrically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882.

The History of The 12 Days Of Christmas

There is one Christmas Carol that has always been somewhat of a mystery. What could leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge sitting in the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtle doves were the Old and NewTestaments.

Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit-Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

Kind of puts the classic song in a new light, doesn't it?

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

The twelve days of Christmas include the time from Christmas day on December 25th to Epiphany on January 6th.

January 6th marks the Baptism of Jesus for some churches and the day on which the Three Wisemen arrived for others.

In olden times, it was a tradition to give gifts over the entire period of twelve days rather than all on Christmas day.
Check back later for an interesting history of the 12 Days of Christmas lyrics!

Australian Christmas

No chestnuts on an open fire, no snow. Picnic dinners, sun and sailing!

Ghost of Christmas Present

Scrooge meets the second ghost, the ghost of Christmas present, from A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol

This famous Christmas story by Charles Dickens is a holiday favorite, owing to its vivid imagery and compelling themes of greed, sin, redemption and hope.

As Scrooge undergoes a transformation during a long, spirit-filled Christmas Eve, so too for us the Christmas season can be a time of growth and renewal as we seek to broaden our horizons and give to those less fortunate.

And since A Christmas Carol is in the public domain, you can read the entire text online for free!

Puggle Christmas

Merry Christmas from!

Old Harper's Weekly

Santa hands out gifts during the Civil War.