Customs: donkeys, angels, Christmas trees: a Christmas ABC

Christmas can mean many things.

Customs: donkeys, angels, Christmas trees: a Christmas ABC

Christmas can mean many things. If you just take the first letters, the carousel of thoughts can circle. A few ideas:

W for Christmas carols

Almost every song has its own story. One of the best known is the steep career of "Silent Night", which was conceived by an assistant priest and an elementary school teacher around 1818 in a small village near Salzburg. The song reached North America through singing groups in the mid-19th century - and around the world via missionaries. The song also accompanied ceasefires in the middle of the war, for example at Christmas 1914 on the Western Front in Flanders. Today, translations are known in around 300 languages ​​and dialects.

E for donkey

When nativity scenes are set up in Germany, they often contain animals that do not appear in the biblical Christmas story. The Gospel according to Luke only mentions shepherds looking after their flocks - probably sheep or goats. There are many attempts to explain the idea of ​​a kind of mini zoo in the stable near the manger. The ox and donkey could go back to the Old Testament, which says: "The ox knows its owner, and the donkey knows its master's manger." Sheep are a symbol for believers. The lamb was a classic sacrificial animal in biblical times. Jesus is therefore symbolized as the “Lamb of God” through his death on the cross. Herding dogs are symbols of vigilance. Camels, horses and elephants are associated with the idea of ​​the wise men from the East.

I like Idyll

Today's idea of ​​Christmas mostly dates back to the 19th century, when the celebration moved into the living room of the middle class. Thomas Mann offers a good description in his novel “Buddenbrooks”. In his 1978 sketch "Christmas at Hoppenstedts", Loriot describes with a lot of humor how difficult it is to take into account all the expectations of the holiday. And that still applies today: 30 percent of families reported arguments, says author Wolfgang Krüger. A third of all separations take place after Christmas. What helps? The psychotherapist advises that you talk a lot about your design wishes before the party - and avoid critical topics or leave the living room before something goes wrong.

H for Three Kings

Bad luck for star singers! Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar do not exist in the Bible. The Gospel of Matthew only speaks of wise men from the East, but does not mention their names, their number or a rank. The legend is said to have begun around the third century AD. The names also represent the three continents that were known at the time: Europe, Africa and Asia.

N for Nutcracker

Tools in the form of figures for breaking open nutshells have been around for centuries. But the traditional figure in the usually colorful habit of a soldier, king or miner has its cradle in the Erzgebirge in the late 19th century. Friedrich Wilhelm Füchtner from the toy-making town of Seiffen is considered the father of the turned nutcracker. He is said to have been inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann's fairy tale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" from 1816, in which the girl Marie receives a nutcracker as a Christmas present. The figure later became world famous through Peter Tchaikovsky's ballet. Today it is hard to imagine Christmas markets between Tokyo and Texas without it, alongside candle arches and pyramids.

A like every year again

Christmas again, wasn't it just now? Scientists have investigated why older people often have a different sense of time - as if time passes faster than when they were young. One explanation for this is processing patterns in the brain. The perceived duration of past events is strongly related to the amount of new experiences. The more new emotions or unusual sensations are involved, the more "memory space" the brain needs to record memories. So they take up a lot of space and the associated event seems longer. As we get older, there are usually fewer events that leave such a strong impression on the brain. That's why time seems to fly by.

C for Christ child

Blonde curls, girlish and angelic, white dress, wings and halo: Apparently it was the reformer Martin Luther who, as an opponent of the Catholic veneration of saints, replaced St. Nicholas with the Protestant counterpart of the Christ child. In Luther's time at the beginning of the 16th century, Saint Nicholas alone was responsible for the gifts on December 6th. But since the Reformation, the Christ Child has taken on this task and secretly brings the gifts on Christmas Night. Today, children in Catholic regions tend to write wish lists to the originally Protestant Christ child, while in Protestant regions Santa Claus, who is derived from St. Nicholas, usually takes on his task.

H for Christmas Eve

According to the Jewish and ancient Christian calendars, a day ends at sunset. According to the church, the evening of December 24th (Christmas Eve) is already part of Christmas Day. Through the birth of Jesus, the night becomes a holy, consecrated night - "Christmas". Originally a day for fasting and praying, Christmas Eve with the gift giving is now more important for many than the actual Christmas on December 25th. The Christian festival is close to the winter solstice, which different cultures celebrated as a new beginning: From December 23rd, the nights in the northern hemisphere of the earth will be shorter again and the days will be correspondingly longer.

T for Christmas tree

Who doesn't know the catchy tune "O Tannenbaum"? The curious story of this song is less known. In its first version it was the lament of a disappointed lover who, around 1820, placed the text "O Mägdelein, o Mägdelein, how wrong is your mind" over a well-known melody. The Christmas tree, which kept its needles even in winter, appeared to him as a symbol of loyalty compared to the little girl. But unhappy love disappeared from the text. Since the First World War at the latest, only the version of the cheerful Christmas song for children has been known.

E for angel

The term is derived from the Greek word “angelos,” which translates to messenger or envoy. They are already mentioned as messengers of God in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, an angel announces the birth of Jesus to Mary. Angels are familiar to Jews, Christians and Muslims - often in the imagination of immortal beings with wings. But the peoples of the ancient Near East already knew of supernatural beings who controlled destinies. They continue to inspire painters, poets, writers, musicians and filmmakers. In Wim Wender's modern masterpiece "The Sky Over Berlin," for example, an angel gives up his immortality out of love for a woman.

N for Nazareth

The Christmas story based on the Gospel of Luke tells how Joseph sets out from the city of Nazareth with his pregnant wife Mary. On the orders of Emperor Augustus, he wants to register himself on a tax list in the town of Bethlehem. According to the biblical story, her son Jesus later grows up in Nazareth. Today the town in northern Israel with its picturesque streets and an oriental market in the old town has almost 80,000 inhabitants. Nazareth is one of the largest Arab cities in the country. Most of the residents are Muslims, followed by Christians.