It’s no secret I’m very traditional and love a good tradition. In a recent blog on St. Nicholas, I explained why we hang stockings on our fireplaces, which is just one of many traditions of the Christmas season, so today I thought I’d write about three additional ones and a little bonus trivia. Enjoy!
Tis the season for seeing “Merry Christmas” and all things Christmas everywhere. Sadly, you also often see the word “Christmas” shortened and referred to as “Xmas,” which has always irked me. In my thinking, doing so literally removes the real meaning of Christmas: Christ. But, I’m happy to report that there’s a somewhat acceptable explanation for it.
Apparently the X in Xmas doesn’t replace “Christ” from the word with the English letter X, but rather with the Greek letter “chi,” which looks like the English letter X. Chi is the first letter in the Greek word that we translate as “Christmas” and ancient Christians would abbreviate it by using only the first letter of it. They meant no offense and coincidentally, the letter also resembles a cross. In addition, the word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah” and both mean “anointed.”
I still much prefer “Christmas” over “Xmas,” but am happy to learn the origins of the latter meant no disrespect to why we celebrate Christmas. Amen!
You don’t need to look very far this time of year to see those beloved red-and-white-striped treasures, candy canes. You see real ones hanging on trees, created and grouped onto wreaths, decorating packages, and all sorts of red-and-white themed Christmas decorations. They’re fun and they’re festive and they have an interesting story behind them.
On that very first Christmas morn, who were the first people to visit and meet Baby Jesus? That would be the shepherds and as they paid homage to the newborn Savior, they carried with them their crooks, which they used in the fields to round up sheep. It’s no coincidence that candy canes resemble those curved rods and that if you turn one upside down, you get the letter J for Jesus. The traditional colors of a candy, red and white, are also significant as they represent our Lord’s sacrifice and purity. Lastly, candy canes are just that: candy. They are sweet and meant for sharing so do so!
Candy canes can also be somewhat healing too, depending on how much actual peppermint they have in them. Peppermint, as many know, is great for taming tummy troubles like nausea to menstrual cramps and recent evidence shows it may also be a powerful response to irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is also known to curb cravings, with one study reporting that by just smelling peppermint oil every two hours, participants were less hungry and less liable to overeat.
In addition to merriment and giving, the holidays are also known for bringing on headaches caused by tension, anxiety, and alcohol, but did you know that rubbing peppermint oil on your forehead and temples can be just as effective as acetaminophen at relieving the pain? Plus it smells so good!
Speaking of smell, tis the season for many a stuffy nose and congestion and yes, peppermint can help here too as it is chalk-full of menthol, the compound found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.
Peppermint oil is one of my favorites, and I use it in many ways, including:
- Inflammation/arthritis/tendonitis: massage on inflamed area or joints
- Headaches – rub on temples, forehead, sinuses, and neck
- Respiratory – rub on sinuses
- Appetite – inhale to curb
- Diffuse for mental clarity
- Itching – rub on area
I also use it in combination with other essential oils to relieve joints and muscle aches, sciatica, arthritis, inflammation, and tendinitis.
There are many versions of peppermint oil out there, so just make sure you get a pure and natural variety. I personally swear by Young Living and highly recommend its Peppermint Oil, along with all of its other essential oils and products.
Finally, the scent of peppermint can also improve concentration and has been linked to improved alertness, motivation, and even performance.
There are so many benefits and so many uses of sweet peppermint and who doesn’t love a festive candy cane?
We’ve all heard the song, have sang it many times, and probably know all the words by heart but what in the world are we talking about with “calling birds,” “maids a milking,” and “lords a leaping?” They’re all part of the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol but they don’t signify the 12 days before Christmas as many believe and they have a Christian origin.
The celebration behind the tune started back in the Middle Ages as a way to mark the days between Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. From 1558 to 1829, Catholics in England were forbidden from openly practicing their faith so a song of 12 days was written as a catechetical tune that included hidden meanings of the faith. Secretly and on the down low, the verses reminded believers of some of the tenets of their faith without being overtly religious. This way, they could be sung without fear of punishment.
On that “note,” here are what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” symbols symbolize:
First Day: A partridge in a pear true. Jesus. Mother partridges are known to pretend they are injured as a way of keeping predators from their helpless nestlings, much like our Lord protects us.
Second Day: 2 turtledoves. Mary and Joseph and the Old and New Testaments.
Third Day: 3 French hens. The 3 Wise Men; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the 3 Theological Virtues; faith, hope, and love.
Fourth Day: 4 calling birds. The four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and their four gospels.
Fifth Day: 5 golden rings. The first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Also called the Pentateuch, from the Greek words for “five” and “books,” they are meant to answer the basic questions of life and its origins.
Sixth Day: 6 geese-a-laying. The six days of Creation as written in the Book of Genesis.
Seventh Day: 7 swans-a-swimming. The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord as well as the seven Sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.
Eight Day: 8 maids-a-milking. The eight Beatitudes given to us through Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Guidelines for true happiness, they have the power to turn the values of a secular world upside down.
Ninth Day: 9 ladies dancing. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
Tenth Day: 10 lords-a-leaping. The 10 Commandments.
Eleventh Day: 11 pipers piping. The 11 faithful apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon, and Jude.
Twelfth Day: 12 drummers drumming. The 12 points of the apostles’ beliefs and their creed.
And finally, just for grins, how about some fun reindeer trivia and facts?
All of Santa’s reindeer were female because only female reindeer keep their antlers in December.
Reindeer are one of the only mammals that can see UV light, allowing them to see predatory polar bears against the snow and lichen, that fungi, moss-like plant they eat.
Caribou is simply the North American name for reindeer.
As the name suggests, reindeer are a species of deer and the only deer species in which both males and females can grow antlers. Yes dear…um deer!
The Sámi people, those famous reindeer herders of northern Norway, really do use reindeer to pull sleighs through the snow.
And now that you know all the 12 Days of Christmas meaning, do you know the names of all nine Santa’s reindeer?
And just to be safe, here’s a fun “Reindeer Food” idea to do with your kids: combine oats, “snow” glitter, and silver glitter in a bowl and have your children sprinkle it on the lawn or your porch on Christmas Eve. Tell them it will attract Santa’s sleigh with food and sparkle!
So there you have it and now you know. I love this kind of stuff and I hope you do too!
Merry Christmas everyone!