Dec. 25, 1998

This Holy Night

by Eleanor Farjeon

FRIDAY 12/25

Poem: "This Holy Night," by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), from Poems for Christmas, ed. Neil Philip (St. Martinís Press, 1995).

Itís CHRISTMAS DAY. Many modern Christmas traditions are a mixture of pagan and Christian elements, such as the use of evergreen, holly, ivy, and mistletoe as symbols of good luck and peace. Many modern Christmas traditions date from the 19th century, such as sending Christmas cards and the modern version of Santa Claus. The poinsettia comes to us from Mexico, where it is called the "flower of the blessed night" because it resembles the Star of Bethlehem and because it blooms in the winter months. It was introduced into the United States in 1828 by the American ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, after whom it is named.

According to tradition the FIRST NATIVITY SCENE is said to have been created by St. Francis of Assisi in the Umbrian village of Greccio, Italy in 1223. St. Francis is also credited with introducing Christmas carols at this nativity mass.

It was on Christmas in 1914 that soldiers fighting in the trenches of France in World War I began an unofficial CHRISTMAS TRUCE. It started with Christmas carols, in a sort of contest between the two sides, food was thrown back and forth, and then the soldiers climbed out of the trenches, shook hands, and exchanged food, badges, cigarettes, and other items. The war had only been going on for a few months.

Itís the birthday of CAB CALLOWAY, born in Rochester, New York, in 1907, the American jazz composer, band-leader and singer, known as the "King of Hi-De-Ho" and the tune "Minne the Moocher."

Itís the birthday of LOUIS CHEVROLET, the automobile designer, born in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, in 1878, who built the first Chevrolet car in 1911.

Itís the birthday of the businesswoman HELENA RUBINSTEIN, born in Krakow, Poland in 1870, founder of the cosmetics company that bears her name.

Itís the birthday of COSIMA WAGNER, wife of composer Richard Wagner, born in 1837 in Bellagio, in the state of Lombardy.

Itís the birthday of CLARA BARTON, born in 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts, founder of the American Red Cross.

Itís the birthday of writer DOROTHY WORDSWORTH, born in 1771 in Cockermouth, in the district of Cumberland, England. She wrote journals describing local scenery and life at Dove Cottage as an inspiration to her brother William Wordsworth and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Her journals, Alfoxden Journal (1798) and the Grasmere Journals (1800-03), were later published after her death.

It was on this day in 1066 that William I—WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR—was crowned King at Westminster Abbey after defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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