The Wonders of Christmas | Sunday Observer

The Wonders of Christmas

28 November, 2021

The Christmas season is a time of the year that many children just can’t wait for, much like birthdays. They impatiently await the gifts from Santa and the immense Christmas dinner.

This article, features some Christmas traditions which have become timeless.

Santa Claus and Christmas stockings

Santa Claus is a legendary character, mostly based on Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Bishop from the fourth century. Saint Nicholas was known and respected due to his generous gift-giving to the poor. Santa is depicted as a fat, white-bearded person, often with spectacles, wearing a red coat with a white fur collar.

According to myths, Santa Claus spends the year making toys in his workshop at the North Pole with the help of his elves.

On the night of Christmas Eve, he flies on his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, to distribute the toys to good children. Once he comes to a home, he climbs down the chimney and puts the children’s presents in their stockings, which are hung up by the fireplace. Children keep a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa Claus to refresh himself with.

The Advent calendar

The Advent calendar is a calendar used by Christians during the period of Advent (expectant waiting for the celebration of Christmas). It was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th century.

There are many variations of the Advent calendar. Most take the form of a large rectangular card with windows, one for each of the days leading up to Christmas day. The numbers and the windows are distributed on the card in no particular order. A window opens to reveal a prayer or a section of verse from the Holy Bible.

There is a version of the Advent calendar which consists of a wooden box with small compartments, covered by windows. The compartments are used to store small gifts, such as toys and chocolates.

Christmas tree

A Christmas tree is a tree of the evergreen conifer group. Some examples for this are firs, spruce trees or pines. An artificial tree is used as a Christmas tree, because they are easier to maintain than natural trees.

Modern Christmas trees were first used during the Renaissance in 15th and 16th century Germany. Early Christmas trees were traditionally decorated with paper roses, apples, wafers, tinsel and sweetmeats.

After the discovery of electricity, Christmas lights were used to illuminate trees. Today, modern ornaments such as garlands, baubles, and candy canes are placed on Christmas trees. Sometimes, an angel or a star may be placed on top to represent respectively, the angel Gabriel, or the Star of Bethlehem. Food such as ginger bread, chocolate and other sweets and candy are hung from the Christmas tree’s branches with ribbons or strings.

Christmas card

A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the Christmas celebrations. Cards are exchanged during the weeks before Christmas, between Christians and non-Christians alike.

Some Christmas cards express more religious wishes such as a prayer or a verse from the Holy Bible. However, most cards express an all-inclusive message such as ‘Season’s greetings’, because the card can be used to express wishes for the general holiday season.

The first recorded Christmas card in 1611 was sent by Michael Maier, a German physician, to the then King of England, James the First.

It has been a tradition for the White House (the office of the US President) to give post cards to its employees. The first official Christmas card from the White House was sent in 1953 by the then President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It contained a portrait of the great US President Abraham Lincoln, painted by President Eisenhower himself. Over two billion Christmas cards are sent around the United States of America each year, as well as 500 million e-cards (cards sent through electronic methods).

Candy cane

The candy cane is a stick of candy in the shape of a cane. It is very popular during the Christmas season and on. Nicholas Day on December 6. The traditional candy cane is white with red stripes, and tastes of peppermint.

But there are other variants of the candy cane, in different colours and flavours. The candy cane has a history of over 150 years.

It is mentioned in a written record of the Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, held in 1837 in the USA.

The section where confections (sweets and candy) were judged competitively, mentions ‘stick candy’. At St. Nicholas Day celebrations, candy canes are given to children as they are said to represent the ‘crosier’ (the staff that symbolises the office of Christian bishops) of St. Nicholas.


The common holly, or the English/Christmas holly is a species of flowering plant. It is found in the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. There is evidence that holly has been hung up in homes even before Christianity was founded.

Members of the ancient Greek and Roman empires decorated their homes with it to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

The tough, prickly leaves of holly trees represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The holly berries are similar to the drops of Jesus’ blood which he shed because of the thorns. Holly berries are poisonous for humans.

In the Scandinavian region, the holly tree is known as the Christ thorn.


Mistletoe is the name for parasitic plants in the order Santalales.

Since the Christian era, mistletoe has been associated with Christmas as a decoration which offered protection from witches and demons.

A special fact about the mistletoe plant is that the white berries of the tree, contain sticky seeds.

They attach themselves to birds and mammals, and hitch a ride to new sites for growing.

The ripe white berries of dwarf mistletoe, native to the Americas, can explode, ejecting seeds at about 100 kmph. They can scatter up to a distance as far as 50 feet.

Once they land on a suitable tree, or host, the mistletoe seed sends out roots that go inside the tree and suck out its nutrients and water.

Since it is taking nutrition from a host, the mistletoe plant is regarded as a parasitic plant.

I hope you learnt something new about the traditions of Christmas by reading this article, and hope you will stay with us, like the mistletoe seeds, and continue to develop your knowledge.


Dinara Hettiarachchi

Grade 8

Ananda College