HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Where History Meets Mystery! Earlier his week, I talked about one of my all-time favorite Christmas tales from the Victorian period, A Christmas Carol written in 1843 by Charles Dickens, and how it really played into the politics of what was going on in Victorian England at the time. For the remainder of the week, I wanted to talk about 5 historical facts regarding Christmas you might have not known about. I realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas, and for those who don’t, I still hope you find this interesting.
#1. Jolly St. Nick:
Much unlike the stories of Santa Claus who resides at the North Pole, the history of the beloved “jolly old elf” actually has its origins in the Mediterranean in the 4th century. St. Nikolas of Myra, now modern-day Demre, Turkey, was a Greek Bishop known for the many miracles he performed and also for his benevolence toward children. One tale recounts that he saved three young girls from a fate of prostitution when he had 3 bags of gold secretly delivered to their parents. Another story tells of Nikolas entering an inn whose inn keeper had just murdered three boys, sliced them up, and pickled them in barrels. Somehow, Nikolas sensed this horrific crime and resurrected the three boys. For these miracles he was deemed the patron saint of children. Nikolas is also the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.
#2. Oh, Tannenbaum:
By the middle ages, the legend of Jesus’ birth had grown. Although the bible doesn’t state exactly when Jesus was born, ancient peoples associated his birth with the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. After the Christ child was born, he gave new light to the world and it is said that all of the trees throughout the world shook off the ice and snow that had settled on their branches revealing new shoots of green. Many ancient peoples used evergreen branches to decorate their homes, and in the 16th century people started setting up Paradise Trees—associated with Adam and Eve’s Day, December 24—laden with fruits. During that century, some say the first person to bring Christmas Trees into the home was the German preacher Martin Luther. In fact, the Christmas Tree has strong historical roots in Germany with the medieval German Mystery or Miracle Plays that were acted out in front of churches on Christmas Eve. Decorated trees were paraded around town to advertise the play. Christmas Trees became more popular in the Victorian period when the German Prince Albert and his wife Queen Victoria of England erected a Christmas Tree in Windsor Castle for their children. In 1848, a drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle” was published in the London News. In December of 1850 the illustration was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia, giving rise to the popularity of Christmas Trees in America.
Come back tomorrow for more interesting facts about the Christmas tradition.
Have you finished your holiday shopping? If not, what a better gift to give than a book—perhaps a riveting murder mystery? Do you have a person in your life who might like to read a mystery featuring Annie Oakley and set during the hey-day of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, or maybe they might enjoy one set in the theater of Broadway show business during the roaring 1920’s, or what about a mystery set in the American Southwest of the 1950’s? The possibilities are endless! If these options sound like good gift ideas to you, you might want to head over to Amazon to check out my Annie Oakley Mystery series, or my 1920’s novel, Grace in the Wings, or my southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed. Happy shopping!