God bless us, every one!

The hows and whys of celebrating Christmas raises questions in the minds of people who do not do so. Those of us who do take for granted our actions such as listening to Christmas music during December. Retail shops play Christmas music day in and day out all month. Also, it is the time of year when you find yourself munching on colorfully decorated gingerbread men, sugar cookies and so on.

Most Westerners are familiar with the Christmas carol that goes, “On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” For some of us, in the days before Christmas we will spend some evenings at parties listening to those ever-favorite special songs of Christmas time: “Silent Night,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Joy to the World” and all the popular Christmas songs such as “Sleigh Ride” and, of course, “White Christmas” and more. The tunes focus on the Christmas tradition story and on snow falling, sleigh rides and gift giving.

Turkish people can be very curious and I have been asked on more than one occasion this question: “What is the difference between Christmas Day and Christmas Eve?” I also have been asked, “Why do some people celebrate in December and others in early January?”

If you are not familiar with the tradition it can be confusing! Let me explain that the dates of Christmas differ between Western and Eastern Christianity: The Armenian Apostolic Church observes Christmas on Jan. 6, while certain old-rite or old-style Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. These are the dates on the Julian calendar that correspond to Dec. 25, which is Christmas Day on the Gregorian calendar.

When I was growing up, in my teen years my immediate family came together to celebrate and exchange and open gifts on Christmas Eve. But before that, of course, there were no gifts to open because Santa came on the night of the 24th! In most homes in America, Christmas celebrations begin on the evening of Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, and can be a combination of numerous traditions. For example, if you have a large family, you may begin visiting them on the evening of the 24th. Some families may open presents on Christmas Eve and have a special meal together. Common foods might include ham, duck, goose or turkey and all the trimmings. Delicious puddings and pies are baked on Christmas Eve as well as a fresh batch of gingerbread and other cookies and treats. Some people go to church, as one of the most significant aspects of Christmas Eve is spiritual. Attending Midnight Mass or earlier church services is common for many Christians.

One of my favorite children’s books for Christmas is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In this book, Dr. Seuss associates snow with Christmas, but in my opinion, it is not he who made millions of us associate Christmas with snow. Let me share a favorite passage of mine: The passage goes like this:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Being a book-lover, another title comes to mind: “A Christmas Carol.” Charles Dickens is the one who really makes us think of a white Christmas. Dickens lived in the 1800s, when the winters were particularly cold and snowy, so it is not surprising that snow played an important role in Dickens’ famous Christmas stories. You can find some wonderful lines in this story. You are probably familiar with the quote, “God bless us, every one!”

Thinking of the songs we listen to on the holidays and the words of “On the 12th day of Christmas” and “Away in the Manger” I am reminded of gifts. I came across this list and want to share it with you.

Christmas gift suggestions by Oren Arnold:

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To your friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.

“God bless us, every one!” — Charles Dickens