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What Christmas Means To Me

TUMIE MODISE
Yay, we made it in one piece! By God’s grace every one of us will celebrate Christmas in a few days.

Christmas can be crazy and chaotic, but it is also a beautiful and meaningful time of the year. Personally, my favourite part of this period is the part where I finally get a long break from work, eat as much as I want (calories can and should wait) and I also love the time together with family and friends. When I think of Christmas I only think of good times because Christmas is supposed to be time for loving one another, giving and generally having a nice time together.

The countdown started mid-year around June and Christmas lights long wet up in many establishments while Christmas parties are underway all round. We must have missed the memo somewhere because this festive the camouflage seems to be a hit and the main theme at most themed parties. I like the concept, it reads, ‘fearless and daring’ and of course survivors! To me, Christmas means a time of merriment and of all things salty and bubbly. Even Coca-Cola and Sprite are bubbly. It is a time associated with the birth of Christ and although there is still no proof of his actual birth day, we celebrate it on December 25 nevertheless. As a child, Christmas was the most exhilarating time for me.

As a typical Motswana child, we celebrated Christmas the same way other homesteads and families celebrated theirs, albeit with a mix of both Western and Setswana culture. I have very fond memories of those times and I have adopted and have hopefully passed that culture to my own children. In our homestead, Christmas meant a real Christmas tree inside the house, which we will then decoratet (we had two of those planted at home, they are still there). A very smelly tree, I still believe it is the culprit behind my sinuses, it just cannot be an irony that they are worse every December until January. Early Christmas morning was the best time ever. The morning meant Christmas presents, and believe it, even goodie socks, which we believed were really from that fat white bearded man called Santa Claus.

 Only there was no snow here and the only chimney we had at home was the stove one, not an actual fireplace. Afternoons were the best of times, a time where we will all jump in the family car and join the rest of our extended family members at masimo, a couple of kilometers from our home village. Before doing that though, we would take baths in anticipation for the best of all treats; new Christmas clothes! Which child did not like that? Who cared that the only real clothes shop in the village was Pep Stores? That long 12 months wait was worth everything! New clothes on our scrubbed backs, new toys on our hands, the icing on the cake was seeing long lost cousins, which meant long nights around the fireplace and then at nightfall when all of us, male and female, would pile up on mattresses in one hut for the night. No sleep happened at all.

The afternoon of the Christmas day was reserved for Christmas choir festivals known as dikhwaere in vernacular. Now this particular highlight of the Christmas even New Year celebrations were not and still is not exactly my cup of coffee. Mingling with dozens of drunk people has always unsettled me. Fast forward to today, now as a mother, I pretty much celebrate Christmas the same way, except for the dikhwaere part. My children have long unmasked Santa but the Christmas tree still goes up every year without fail.

The new clothes and toy/present thing also long fell off when I replaced that with holidays, and the ones out of the country, funds permitting are still a big hit! The one thing I like about Christmas it is how it brings families together. Some people get to visit their childhood homes and families only during this time due to several personal reasons and for many families, it is also a time of happy reunions, never ending feasts, really priceless moments. Christmas is also the season to be...well informed. We all love Christmas, but how much do any of us actually know about why Christmas is the way it is? Here are 31 facts about Christmas, the

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decorations, myths and other things you (probably) did not know.

l Christmas supposedly marks the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. But there is no mention of December 25 in the Bible and most historians actually believe he was born in the spring.

l December 25 was probably chosen because it coincided with the ancient pagan festival Saturnalia, which celebrated the agricultural god Saturn with partying, gambling, and gift-giving.

l Many of the popular Christmas traditions today found their roots in Saturnalia: Branches from evergreen trees were used during winter solstice as a reminder of the green plants that would grow in spring when the sun gods grew strong.

l These evergreen branches became the foundation of our Christmas tree. Germans are thought to be the first to bring “Christmas trees” into their homes at the holidays and decorate them with cookies and lights.

l The Christmas tree made its way to America in the 1830s but was not popular until 1846, after Germany’s Prince Albert brought it to England when he married Queen Victoria. The two were sketched in front of a Christmas tree and the tradition instantly became popular. Royal fever was real even back then.

l The well-known reason we give presents at Christmas is to symbolise the gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise men. But it may also stem from the Saturnalia tradition that required revellers to offer up rituals to the gods.

l Because of its roots in pagan festivals, Christmas was not immediately accepted by the religious. In fact, from 1659 to 1681, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas in Boston. You were fined if you were caught celebrating. 8. The look of Santa Claus we have today was created at an 1804 meeting of the New York Historical Society, where member John Pintard handed out wooden cutouts of jolly old St. Nick in front of stockings filled with toys.

l Though Santa Claus has worn blue and white and green in the past, his traditional red suit came from a 1930s ad by Coca Cola.

l And the image of Santa Claus flying in a sleigh started in 1819...and was dreamt up by the same author who created the Headless Horseman, Washington Irving.

l Rudolph was actually conceived by a department store, Montgomery Ward, as a marketing gimmick to get kids to buy holiday colouring books.

l Rudolph almost did not have a red nose either: At the time, a red nose was a sign of chronic alcoholism and Montgomery Ward thought he would look like a drunkard.

l Rudolph was almost named Rollo or Reginald. Reginald the Red-Nosed Reindeer does not quite have the same ring to it.

l The poem that introduced us to the other eight reindeer, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” actually named dropped Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Duner and Blixem. (Which, like Donner and Blitzen, come from the German words for thunder and lightning.)

l Over the years, other reindeers have been name checked on Santa’s sleigh team, such as Flossie, Glossie, Racer, Pacer, Scratcher, Feckless, Ready, Steady, and Fireball (no relation to the whiskey).

l The first batch of eggnog in America was crafted at Captain John Smith’s Jameston settlement in 1607, and the name eggnog comes from the word “grog,” which refers to any drink made with rum.

l “Silent Night” is the most recorded Christmas song in history, with over 733 different versions copyrighted since 1978.

l Legend has it that “Silent Night” was written by a Father Joseph Mohr in Austria, who was determined to have music at his Christmas service after his organ broke. In reality, a priest wrote it while stationed at a pilgrim church in Austria.

l Meanwhile, “White Christmas” is the best-selling song of all time. 20. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” actually has a truly depressing back-story: songwriter James “Haven” Gillespie was broke, jobless, and his brother had just died when he was asked to write a Christmas song. He was originally too overcome with grief, but eventually found inspiration in his brother’s death and the Christmas memories they had together.

l The original lyrics to “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” were “Hark! How the Welkin rings!” Welkin is an old English term for Heaven.

Here is wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe prosperous 2017.

 



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