The Everything Family Christmas Book Stories Songs Recipes Crafts Traditions and More

by Yvonne Jeffrey

Author Yvonne Jeffrey Isbn B0087E35MQ File size 5 Mb Year 2008 Pages 451 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship this is packed with tons of information poems stories recipes and even fun quizzes It is easy to read and well organized There is an exaustive list of holiday movies that is most helpful Cant imagine anything that is not in here This holiday collection is a treasury of Christmas traditions stories songs and recipes that promises to bring readers y

Publisher :

Author : Yvonne Jeffrey

ISBN : B0087E35MQ

Year : 2008

Language: English

File Size : 5 Mb

Category : Family and Friendship


Family Christmas Book

Dear Reader,
When I think of Christmas, I think of family, and the traditions that I grew up
with. When I was quite small, my Auntie Joy sent a gift of money for Christmas, and my
mother and I found a lovely fairy doll—a beautiful, blonde girl dressed in white and
silver, bearing a wand with a little star on top—in a local shop. She became the fairy that,
each December, topped our Christmas tree. When I moved away from home, Mum asked
me if I’d like to take the Christmas fairy with me.
I’m so glad that I said no, that she belonged on my parents’ tree —our family tree.
Today, my two amazing, energetic, and totally loved nephews open presents under the
watchful eye of that very same fairy, a tradition that I’m so grateful to be a part of. And
now my own tree bears a beautiful Christmas angel of its own, handmade by Mum.
It’s memories like these that always make me smile when Christmas comes to
mind. I hope that this book brings memories that will make you smile, too, at any time of
the year—but especially at Christmas.


Welcome to the


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Key Pieces of Christmas Information

Inspirational Ideas


Influential Christmas Icons

Holiday Lore

PUBLISHER Karen Cooper
COPY CHIEF Casey Ebert
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Stories, songs, recipes, crafts, traditions, and more!

Yvonne Jeffery


To my sister Lorraine, for being such
a wonderful and loving inspiration
Copyright © 2008 by F+W Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from
the publisher; exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews.
An Everything® Series Book.
Everything and® are registered trademarks of F+W Publications, Inc.

Published by Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company
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Contains material adapted and abridged from The Everything® Christmas Book,
by Michelle Bevilacqua and Brandon Toropov, copyright © 1996 by Adams Media
Corporation, ISBN 10: 1-55850-697-7, ISBN 13: 978-1-55850-697-8.
ISBN 10: 1-59869-561-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-59869-561-8
Printed in the United States of America.
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As I worked on this guide to Christmas, I kept four people very much in mind: To
William, Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Grace, thank you so much for helping me see the
wonder and joy of Christmas through a child’s eyes once again. As for the adults in the
family: To Mum and Dad, your constant love and support means so much more than I
can say—thank you. To Lorraine, I love our conversations so much—you always
understand me, even when I don’t, and I’m so grateful! And to the Jefferys in
England—thank you for shrinking the Atlantic with your love.
I’m truly blessed to have people who make such a difference in my life: To my
writer friends—Kerrie Etson, Katharine Fletcher, Judith Mulholland, Laura Byrne
Paquet, Linda Poitevin, and Theresa Storm—you’re simply wonderful. And to Susan and
Stephen Yuzwak, thank you so much for always being in my corner.
I’m deeply grateful, too, to Barb Doyen, for her guidance, enthusiasm, and
encouragement. And to the folks at Adams Media, it’s always such a pleasure to work
with you—thank you.


Top Ten Ways to Make Christmas Meaningful for Your

Find a favorite Christmas story and make it a tradition to read it aloud on
Christmas Eve.
Share your good fortune with others at Christmas by volunteering as a family for
a charity or nonprofit organization that’s close to your hearts.
Decorate your home each year with a special item that you’ve chosen or made as
a family.
Choose your favorite holiday baking recipes and share an afternoon with friends
and family baking up a storm.
Create a calendar with a different family photo each month to send to family and
friends who can’t be with you during the year.
Plan an annual family activity for the Christmas season: It could be picking out
the tree, tobogganing down a nearby hill, even heading to the local zoo—anything that
captures the whole family’s interest.
Light the candles of an Advent wreath in succession every Sunday during
December, talking about their symbolic meanings, such as love, hope, peace, and joy.
Buy or make a special tree ornament each year for the children in your family,
and present them with the whole set when they have their own tree for the first time.
Turn letters to Santa into an event, with hot chocolate, cookies, and plenty of
colorful pens and stickers to help with the letter writing.
Make writing thank-you letters for gifts a much-loved tradition, too, with yummy
treats and a fun reward when the letters are finished.



There’s so much to the Christmas holiday that this book could easily have been
ten books. But really, when you distill the true meaning of the day—whether you
celebrate on December 6, December 25, January 6, or a little bit on each of those
days—it all comes down to a single word: wonder.
It was wonder that led the Magi to follow the Star to Bethlehem. It was wonder
that filled the stable in Bethlehem the night that Jesus was born. It’s wonder that you feel
in church and carol services over Christmas, imagining the more than 2,000 years of
tradition and history that have made Christmas what it is today. And it’s wonder that fills
the eyes of a five year old who starts down the stairs on Christmas morning to see the tree
aglow and then shares the long tradition of exchanging gifts.
Christmas begins in the mists of long-distant history and extends along the future
of the human family. It’s informed by countless Christmases past and the knowledge that,
as long as there are children and a sense of tradition, there are likely to be Christmases in
the future. But the true event, the true day of days, is neither an account of old customs
nor a prediction of the ways in which this holiday will continue to change and to grow.
The true experience of Christmas is wonder.
And so, as you read about where and how Christmas began and how it has
evolved through the years, across Europe to North America and around the world to the
way that you celebrate it today, there’s room not just for rituals, traditions, and customs,
but also for Christmas your way. Using the past as a stepping stone, The Everything®
Family Christmas Book looks at ways you can create a Christmas that fills you and your
family with wonder, from favorite storytellers and songs to much-loved baking recipes.
There are even some gift suggestions thrown in, along with ideas that can help reduce the
stress that many people feel at this very busy time of year.
After all, the wonder of Christmas is tied inextricably to memory. For many,
Christmases past are the standards by which they measure Christmases present and
future. Like the Charles Dickens creation, Ebenezer Scrooge, in “A Christmas Carol,”
you can use your memories as a springboard to make each holiday better and more
meaningful than the last.
Luckily, Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s not about having the best-decorated

house on the block, and it doesn’t matter that the turkey took two extra hours to cook and
the peas were left behind in the microwave (although hopefully not all on the same day).
What matters is the creation of new memories, centered on a sense of family and being
loved, whether you come with a ready-made family or one that you create yourself.
Memory is, ultimately, the basis of tradition—and what is Christmas if not one of the
fundamental traditions of our time? Warm and wonderful memories are certainly what
this book wishes for you, just as it hopes to provide inspiration for the Christmases that
are in your future.
Once a year, on December 25, Christmas reintroduces you to wonder on a scale
that you should never forget. This book is intended as a celebration of that wonder. May
you read it as part of the most precious gift that the holiday brings: the ability to see
things, for a time, through the eyes you once had on Christmas morning.


The History of Christmas

The way in which people celebrate Christmas is a relatively recent development
in the history of the holiday, which of course originates with the birth of Jesus, the Christ
child, some 2,000 years ago. The festivities of December 25 have been shaped by many
people and many cultures—from the early Romans to England’s Queen Victoria—and
they continue to change even today. Whether you celebrate the day as part of Christianity
or simply as a time of family togetherness, the origins and evolution of Christmas span
the globe.

The First Christmas

You might say that Christmas has been celebrated since the very night of Jesus’
birth, when, the Bible says, the angels announced his arrival on the plains of Bethlehem
(in what is now Israel) in an event that was later celebrated in a special Christes Masse, or
Christ’s Mass. The actual birth date is something that scholars still debate; however, a
combination of Bible stories, historical records, and even astronomical events generally
set the year between about 6 B.C. and A.D. 6
Most of the elements of our traditional Christmas story have their origin in the
Bible, in the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew. While the two gospels offer some
historical contradictions, there’s no doubt that together, they have created a picture of the
birth of Jesus that is loved around the world.

From The Gospel According to St. Luke

Luke’s gospel offers us not only a time and place for the birth of Jesus, but a real
human and religious drama. Focusing on the trials of Joseph and Mary, Luke tells us a
story of weary travelers forced to spend the night in a stable because there was “no room
for them at the inn.” With its focus on the humble manger birth, the gathering of
shepherds and angels, and the enduring message of peace on earth, this passage has
given us some of Christianity’s best loved Christmas songs and traditions.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar
Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when
Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up
from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is
called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with
Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she
should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in
swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch
over their flock at night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of
the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of
great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a
Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising
God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the
shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing
which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a
manger. And when they had seen it they made known abroad the saying which was told
them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which
were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds
returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it
was told unto them.

From The Gospel According to St. Matthew

The Gospel accounts of Christ’s birth often surprise readers with the information
that they don’t contain, rather than what they do include. The Gospel of Matthew, for
instance, is the undeniable source for the “Three Kings of Orient”—long celebrated in
song—and yet it makes no mention of any king other than Herod, and it does not specify
any particular number of men following the “star in the east.” The reverence and
devotion of these figures, however, certainly leaves an indelible impression on hearts and
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,
behold, there came Wise Men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is
born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem
with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people
together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, “In
Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the
land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a
Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.'”
Then Herod, when he had privily called the Wise Men, inquired of them
diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and
search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again,
that I may come and worship him also.”
When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in
the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When
they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his
mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of
God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country
another way.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph
in a dream, saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt,
and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy
him.” When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into

Early Christianity

Christmas had to wait more than 300 years after the birth of Jesus before it began
to be popularized in a meaningful way. Instead, the first Christians were focused on
spreading the word about Christianity while avoiding official persecution, which began as
early as A.D. 64 under the Roman emperor Nero. For the next two centuries and more,
Christians endured prison and death at the hands of the Roman Empire, while Egyptian,
Greek, and Persian gods continued to be worshiped freely.


In the first centuries A.D., the Roman Empire extended around the Mediterranean
Sea, encompassing areas we now know as northern Africa (including Egypt), the Middle
East (including present-day Israel, Jordan, and Syria), Europe (including France,
England, Italy, and Greece), and the region where Europe borders Asia (Turkey).
Things began to change when Emperor Constantine, who came to power over the
Roman Empire in 306, gradually converted to Christianity. As a result, Christianity
became the state religion, and public funds were used to build churches. Constantine
commissioned the building of the Church of the Nativity on a spot in Bethlehem that was
believed to be the exact birthplace of Christ. By the end of the fourth century, the old
forms of worship had been banned and Christianity began spreading.

Setting a Date

Scholars don’t just disagree on the year of Jesus’ birth, they also disagree on the
time of year in which he was born. While there is one record of Christmas being
celebrated in Antioch (Turkey) on December 25 in the middle of the second century,
there is no record of its being observed on that date in Rome until the year 336. It wasn’t
until 350 that Pope Julius I declared December 25 the official date.

The Gospels don’t provide specific details about the date, so historians have tried
to use clues from them instead: for example, the fact that shepherds were watching their
flocks by night. Some say that the sheep would not have been exposed during the winter;
others say that the mild Mediterranean nights of December would have been fine for the
In fact, various dates have been proposed for Jesus’ birth—including March and
September—based on a number of different theories. And for many of the early years of
Christianity, it was January 6 that was celebrated to commemorate a number of events,
including both the birth and the baptism of Jesus and the visit of the wise men to the holy

The Winter Solstice

As Christianity established itself, church leaders wanted to move the general
population away from their celebrations of other gods and religions, including the winter
solstice festivals that were important to the cultures of pre-Christian Europe and Asia.
Ancient peoples believed that the days grew shorter in December because the sun
was leaving them, perhaps even dying. Festivals held right before December 21, the
winter solstice, featured rituals designed to appease the sun and make it return. After the
solstice, the shortest day of the year, the days became longer again, and grand
celebrations were held in honor of the sun’s return. Along with the idea of the physical
presence of the sun were underlying themes of harvest, rebirth, and light.

Based on Mithra, the god of light and wisdom, the Mithraic religion was a major
religion of the Roman era, with close similarities to Christianity. Mithra, born from a
rock on December 25, symbolizes the sun. Naturally, his birth was celebrated as a major
holiday by believers.
December 25 was, in the Roman calendar, the day after the solstice, which was
why the solar feast, also known as Natalis inviciti solis, or “birth of the unconquered
sun,” was one of the celebrations associated with the winter solstice. In fact, in the third
century (that is, in the century before Constantine began the Empire’s conversion to
Christianity), Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 Dies Invicti Solis (the Day of the
Invincible Sun).

The Roman Saturnalia

Although the basic concept of the solstice festival was common to all lands, each
area had its unique variations. But the tradition that left its mark most indelibly on
Christmas was the Roman Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was observed in December and was
a nominal celebration of a number of different events, among them Saturn’s triumph over
Jupiter. According to belief, Saturn’s reign had heralded the Golden Age in Rome.
Although the god later lost out to Jupiter, during the Saturnalia he was believed to return,
allowing Rome to relive the Golden Age for a brief time. It is not surprising that the
Romans, who associated Saturn closely with the sun, would celebrate this festival near
the solstice.

During the festivities, no one worked except those who provided food, drink, or
entertainment. Masters and slaves became equals and there was much feasting, dancing,
gambling, and general revelry. Candles were used as decoration to scare away the
darkness and celebrate the sun and light.
Another recognizable ritual was the giving of gifts, which was done in honor of
the goddess of vegetation, Strenia. The people felt that in time of darkness and winter, it
was important to honor someone who had a hand in the harvest. At first, produce and
baked goods were exchanged, but as time went on, inedible gifts became fashionable.

The Saturnalia was followed by the calends of January (the calends marked the
first day of the month). Observed on January 1–3, this period meant still more parties.

Recognizing Christmas

Many early Christian leaders, including Gregory of Nazainzus, spoke out against
combining pagan and Christian ways. This isn’t hard to understand: The celebrations,
after all, could take on orgiastic proportions. After years of mostly futile attempts to
abolish these pagan festivals and rituals, however, the church realized it would be better
served by allowing them—revised so that their focus was to honor Christ.
Incorporating Mithraic or solstice rites into the celebration of Christmas was easy
to justify: Christ represents life, triumph over death and darkness, and restored hope and
light. Rather than celebrating the sun as before, people would be celebrating the Son of
God. Simply put, the birth of Christ replaced the birth of the sun as a cause for
Both church and popular interests were thus satisfied: The people were able to
keep their time of fun, while the church ensured that the birth of Christ would be
celebrated with all due decorum and festivity. In this way, many parts of the old festivals
remained, while others were reformed to honor Christ’s birth. Some of the retained

elements that have remained popular to this day are greenery, candles, singing, tree
decorating, Yule logs, and feasting.

Emperor Justinian declared Christmas a civic holiday in 529. Further legislation
by the Council of Tours in 567 officially made the pre-Christmas Advent period a season
of fasting and preparation. The time from Christmas to Epiphany (the twelve days of
Christmas) was also declared part of the festive season.
Today, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 by Roman Catholics and
Protestants, but not by many Orthodox churches, which continue to combine Epiphany
and Nativity celebrations on January 6. A small portion of English believers also
observed the January 6 tradition until about 1950—not because of any connection with
the rites of Eastern churches, but because some of their own observances followed the old
Julian calendar rather than the current Gregorian version.

The Yule Connection

The so-called “barbarian invasions” of the Roman Empire that began in the fifth
century brought the Nordic and Germanic peoples into direct contact with Christianity,
and therefore with Christmas. In northern and western Europe, the Germanic and Celtic
peoples had their own solstice rituals, which were later incorporated into Christmas.
The December Julmond festival, for example (Jul later became Yule), was a
celebration of harvest and rebirth, with wheat representing life triumphing over death.
Anything made of wheat, such as bread or liquor, was consumed heartily, and also given
as gifts. Evergreens were used as a symbol of life, and what we would later call the Yule
log was lit to symbolize the eventual triumph of light over dark. The festive meal was
boar’s head. These traditions have been presented in centuries-old carols, including
wassail songs, holly carols, and boar’s-head carols still sung today.

The Dawn of Christmas in Europe


Christianity gradually made its way across Europe, bringing Christmas with it.
The holiday came to England, for example, via St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of
Canterbury, who reportedly baptized more than 10,000 English people on December 25,
598. Acting under the direction of Pope Gregory I, Augustine was also instrumental in
bringing the celebration of Christmas to the area.
At the end of the sixth century, the pope instructed Augustine to make over the
midwinter Yule festival into Christmas observances, emphasizing the importance of
condoning any customs from the festival that could be found to contain Christian
significance. It was a well-tested strategy, and it worked.
In ninth-century England, Alfred the Great declared that the twelve days between
Christmas and Epiphany should be reserved for seasonal festivities, thus formalizing
observation of the twelve days of Christmas in England.
Alfred was serious about celebrating: As part of his declaration, he made working
during this period illegal. He followed his own rules, even at great cost. In 878, he
refused to go to war during the twelve days of Christmas. His failure to do so is said to
have caused England to lose the Battle of Chippenham to the Danes.
Christmas arrived in Germany in 813, via the Synod of Mainz, and was brought to
Norway in the mid-900s by King Hakon the Good. By the end of the ninth century,
Christmas was observed all over Europe with trees, lights, gifts, and feasts. The items that
had held significance for the old religions were either tossed aside or altered to fit within
a Christian context. Over the centuries, the holiday was increasingly reformed to contain
fewer of the old pagan elements.

There are some who believe that King Arthur celebrated the first English
Christmas in 521 with his Knights of the Round Table, without the input of either
Augustine or Gregory. Given the legends surrounding King Arthur, however, this
remains the territory of myth, rather than fact.

Medieval Celebrations

While Christmas today is thought of as a time of joy and peace, Christmas in
medieval England after 1066 instead achieved heights of extravagance and rowdiness.

Celebrating the season for the full twelve days was no problem: People would attend
church in masks and costumes as on Halloween, and churchgoers would sing off-color
songs and even roll dice on the altar.
Christmas during this period was a time for some good-natured ribbing of the
church’s solemnity. A touch of comedy was added to the sermons, which were so serious
during the rest of the year. The festivities weren’t entirely irreverent, however: There was
also devout caroling and Nativity plays, although in the latter Herod was often portrayed
in a comic vein.
The king and court had a grand time trying to outdo each other with outrageous
abundance. Henry III had 600 oxen killed and prepared for a single feast—and that was
just the main course. Merchants and other higher ups paid their respects to the king by
giving him gifts and cash, and there were guidelines for gift giving based on one’s social
position. Henry once closed merchants until they paid their proper dues, although in 1248
he seemed to regain a bit of his Christmas spirit when he established a custom of giving
food to the needy for the holiday.
Gambling was also a big part of the festivities around the court; stories of royalty
using loaded dice to insure against losing seem to capture the spirit of the age. But royal
excess at Christmas surely reached its height in 1377. In that year, Richard II had a
Christmas feast for more than 10,000 people. Records don’t indicate whether the 2,000
employed at the feast enjoyed the holiday.
The fourteenth century also saw the beginning of widespread caroling. Carols had
been used in Roman churches as early as the second century, but they came to England
much later, by way of France. In the Middle Ages, they were used in conjunction with
Nativity plays to convey the Christmas story to those who could not read. By the 1500s,
the mummers, a traveling band of costumed carousers somewhat like street actors, were
out and about.


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