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WINTER HOLIDAYS

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS EVE


Christmas or Christmas Day is a holiday observed generally on December 25 to
commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. The date is not known
to be the actual birthday of Jesus, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with
either the day exactly nine months after some early Christians believed Jesus had been
conceived, the date of the winter solstice on the ancient Roman calendar, or one of
various ancient winter festivals. Christmas is central to the Christmas and holiday season,
and in Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts
twelve days. Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated
by many non-Christians, and many of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian
or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving,
music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display
of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity
scenes, and holly. In addition, several similar mythological figures, known as Saint
Nicholas, Father Christmas and Santa Claus among other names, are associated with
bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season. Because gift-giving and many
other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both
Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales
period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has
grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary as a fulfillment of the
Old Testament's Messianic prophecy. There are two differing accounts which describe the
events surrounding Jesus' birth. These biblical accounts are found in the Gospel of
Matthew, namely Matthew 1:18, and the Gospel of Luke, specifically Luke 1:26 and
2:40. According to these accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband
Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem. According to popular tradition, the birth took place in a
stable, surrounded by farm animals, though neither the stable nor the animals are
specifically mentioned in the Biblical accounts. However, a manger is mentioned in Luke
2:7, where it states, "She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because
there was no room for them in the inn." Early iconographic representations of the nativity
placed the animals and manger within a cave (located, according to tradition, under the
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem). Shepherds from the fields surrounding Bethlehem
were told of the birth by an angel, and were the first to see the child. The Gospel of
Matthew also describes a visit by several Magi, or astrologers, who bring gifts of gold,
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frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The visitors were said to be following a
mysterious star, commonly known as the Star of Bethlehem, believing it to announce the
birth of a king of the Jews. The commemoration of this visit, the Feast of Epiphany
celebrated on January 6, is the formal end of the Christmas season in some churches.
Christians celebrate Christmas in many ways. In addition to this day being one of
the most important and popular for the attendance of church services, there are numerous
other devotions and popular traditions. In some Christian denominations, children
perform plays re-telling the events of the Nativity, or sing carols that reference the event.
Some Christians also display a small re-creation of the Nativity, known as a Nativity
scene or crib, in their homes, using figurines to portray the key characters of the event.
Live Nativity scenes and tableaux vivants are also performed, using actors and animals to
portray the event with more realism.[26] Prior to Christmas Day, the Eastern Orthodox
Church practises the 40-day Nativity Fast in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, while much
of Western Christianity celebrates four weeks of Advent. The final preparations for
Christmas are made on Christmas Eve.
A long artistic tradition has grown of producing painted depictions of the nativity in art.
Nativity scenes are traditionally set in a barn or stable and include Mary, Joseph, the child
Jesus, angels, shepherds and the Three Wise Men: Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, who
are said to have followed a star, known as the Star of Bethlehem, and arrived after his
birth.
The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history.
From pre-Christian times, people in the Roman Empire brought branches from evergreen
plants indoors in the winter. Decorating with greenery was also part of Jewish tradition :
"Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm
branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before
the LORD your God for seven days. " (Leviticus 23:40)
Christian people incorporated such customs in their developing practices. In the 15th
century, it was recorded that in London it was the custom at Christmas for every house
and all the parish churches to be "decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season
of the year afforded to be green". The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolise
the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and
witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at
the crucifixion and the blood he shed.
Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome. They were popularised by Saint
Francis of Asissi from 1223, quickly spreading across Europe Many different types of
decorations developed across the Christian world, dependent on local tradition and
available resources. The first commercially produced decorations appeared in Germany in
the 1860s, inspired by paper chains made by children.

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianisation of pagan tradition and


ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and
an adaptation of pagan tree worship. The English language phrase "Christmas tree" is
first recorded in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language. The
modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century
though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. From
Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George
III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. By
1841 the Christmas tree had become even more widespread throughout Britain. By the
1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree.
Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments.
Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated
with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and
Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated
with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.
In Australia, North and South America, and Europe, it is traditional to decorate the
outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and
other Christmas figures. Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas
banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square.
In the Western world, rolls of brightly colored paper with secular or religious Christmas
motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. The display of Christmas
villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. Other traditional
decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels.
In many countries, a representation of the Nativity Scene is very popular and people are
encouraged to compete and create the most original or realistic ones. Within some
families, the pieces used to make the representation are considered a valuable family
heirloom. In some countries, Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on
Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5. The traditional colors of Christmas are green
and red.
A special Christmas family meal is an important part of the holiday's celebration
for many, and the food that is served varies greatly from country to country. Some
regions, such as Sicily, have special meals for Christmas Eve, when 12 kinds of fish are
served. In England and countries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmas meal
includes turkey (brought from North America), potatoes, vegetables, sausages and gravy,
followed by Christmas pudding, mince pies and fruit cake. In Poland and other parts of
eastern Europe and Scandinavia, fish often is used for the traditional main course, but
richer meat such as lamb is increasingly served. In Germany, France and Austria, goose
and pork are favored. Beef, ham and chicken in various recipes are popular throughout
the world. Ham is the main meal in the Philippines.Around the world, Christmas
celebrations can vary markedly in form, reflecting differing cultural and national
traditions.
The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas
celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers
and businesses throughout the Western world. Gift giving was common in the Roman
celebration of Saturnalia, an ancient festival which took place on December 25 and may
have influenced Christmas customs. Christmas gift giving was banned by the Catholic
Church in the Middle Ages due to its suspected pagan origins. It was later rationalized by
the Church on the basis that it associated St. Nicholas with Christmas, and that gifts of
frankincense and myrrh were given to the infant Jesus by the Biblical Magi.
The most famous and pervasive of these figures in modern celebration worldwide
is Santa Claus, a mythical gift bringer, dressed in red, whose origins have diverse
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sources. The name Santa Claus is a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means
simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the
4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of Children,
generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on the 6th of December came to be
celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally
appeared in bishoply attire, accompanied by helpers, and enquired about the behaviour of
children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the
13th century Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of giftgiving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the
Reformation in 16th17th century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to
the Christ Child or Christkindl, corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of
giving gifts changed from December the 6th to Christmas Eve.

CHRISTMAS IN ROMANIA
Christmas is popularly known as 'Craciun' in Romania. The festival was once
observed in the country with much fanfare. But after the surrender of Romania to the
USSR during World War II, the country was declared a communist republic in 1947 and
its citizens were forced to abandon many of their Christmas traditions. However, the
festival has again begun to be observed in the country, since the country regained its
independence in 1989. Following the overthrow of the communist regime with armysupported countrywide revolts and the subsequent break of Romania from the Soviet
bloc, the country has slowly gone back to many of the earlier ways and traditions. Once
again is the Christmas season being observed with joyous celebrations by the citizens of
Romania. Young adults are now experiencing the Yuletide traditions they previously
heard their parents and grandparents discuss.
Christmas in Romania falls on December 25 and is generally considered one of
the most important religious holiday. A very important Christmas custom practiced in
Romanian villages is 'Ignatius', the sacrifice of a pig in every house in the honor of Saint
Ignatius. A pig is specially chosen for this purpose and fed to make it grow fat, often
around 300 pounds. Five days before Christmas, on 20th of December, a very sharp knife
is used to cut the throat of the pig. Thissacrificial ceremony is performed in the back yard
of houses. Thereafter, the matriarch puts the straws in the pig's snout, covers it with
burning straws and singes it. Then, the patriarch makes a sign of the cross on the pig's
head and announces to the family - "Let's eat the pig!". Then, a small portion of the pig's
meat is immediately fried and a feast is held. All the extended members of the family,
friends and neighbors are invited to the feast and the meat is then shared with them, along
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with bacon and plum brandy. This feast is known as the pig's funeral feast. The 'Ignatius'
ceremony is looked down as a barbaric custom in countries like U.S., but Romanians
insist that it is performed to ensure that the soul of the pig receives ample gratitude for
the nourishment that it provides to all in the family.
But the real celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree on
"Ajunul Craciunului" (Christmas Eve). Fir trees happen to be the main Christmas trees
here. Gift exchanges take place in Romania in the evening of Christmas Eve, contrary to
the American way of opening gifts on Christmas morning. Romanian children believe
that 'Mos Craciun' (the Romanian equivalent of Santa Claus) is the one who delivers
them their presents. Unlike in the U.S., the Romanian children do not leave milk and
cookies out for 'Mos Craciun'. Economic conditions are harsh in the country and the gifts
vary too. While urban children receive expensive gifts and money, those in the villages
have to settle with sweets, fruit, nuts, and pastries as Christmas gifts. A common and
popular gift is knot-shaped bread, which, in Romania, symbolizes an abundant harvest.
The singing of carols is a very important part of Romanian Christmas festivities.
Throughout the Christmas season, little Romanian children (especially those in the
villages) visit every house in the locality singing carols such as Steaua ('The Star'), Trei
Pastori ('The Three Shepherds') and Mos Craciun ('Santa Claus') and reciting poems and
legends tied to the festival. On the first day of Christmas, many carolers walk through the
streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which
are depicted various scenes from the Bible. The leader of the group carries a large
wooden star called "Steaua", which is wrapped up with metal foil and adorned with bells
and coloured ribbons. An image of the Nativity is pasted on the center of the star, and the
entire handcraft is attached to the end of a broom or stout pole. The singing is taken up
first by young children, then the adolescents and lastly the adults, who join in often after
midnight). In return for such performances, carolers recieve apples, nuts, traditional cakes
('cozonaci') and sometimes even money from each house. Romanian folklores abound
with Christmas carols which lend a religious mood to the festival. Churches specially
organize concerts to celebrate the occassion.

In Romanian familes, all the women cook for three days leading up to 'Craciun'.
Christmas dinner in Romania is a rich, multi-course meal. On the top of the menu comes
various kinds of pork sausages, along with plum brandy and home made pickles.
'Sarmale' , an indispensable item for the festive dinner, comes next. This dish consists of
pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a combination of pork and beef, along with rice,
pepper, thyme and other spices. Other dishes to follow are roasted pork and turkey with
red wine. The wine is consumed to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The last item is 'cozonaci',
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a cake filled with nuts and raisins. All the members of the extended family enjoy the feast
together.

New Year's Eve or Old Year's Night is on 31


December, the final day of the Gregorian year, and the day before New Year's Day.
New Year's Eve is a separate observance from the observance of New Year's Day. In
modern Western practice, New Year's Eve is celebrated with parties and social gatherings
spanning the transition of the year at midnight.
Many cultures use fireworks and other forms of noise making in part of the celebration.
New Year's Eve is observed universally on 31 December according to the year numbering
of the Common Era, or A.D. Anno Domini convention, even in non-Christian nations.
New Year's Eve is also the seventh day of Christmas in western Christianity. Traditional
and religious celebrations for e.g. the Chinese, Muslim and Jewish new year, which occur
on different dates, are still celebrated separately in the cultures that observe them, on the
appropriate dates each year.
The celebration of the New Year's Eve in Romania has a totally traditional flavor.
Romanians welcome the New Year with the customs, rituals and conventions that have
been around for centuries. The children as well as the adults, take part in the joyous
celebrations with great enthusiasm. On New Year's Eve in Romania, small school going
children sing Plugusorul and Sorcova. The songs wish good luck, happiness and success.

HAPPY NEW YEAR


2011 !!!!!