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Santa Claus is real! (And other strange things)
Truth is stranger than fiction
There's an old saying that "The truth is stranger than fiction" and it's so true! Fiction writers often have to be careful when writing their works that they don't overstep the mark and go off into the realm of the unbelievable but the reality is that those writing true stories don't have that restricwe all knowtion.
This hub is about some of the strangest things that happened either at Christmas or because of Christmas.
(1) Santa Claus is real
(2) When Christmas was made illegal (by act of a 'christian parliament' Christians!)
(3) When the guns fell silent
(4) Why should the devil have all the good music?
(the origins of the carols we all know and love)
These are just a few of the strange facts about the time of the year we call Christmas.
(1) Santa Claus is real (Honest!)
When we were kids we all believed in Santa Claus. Then, from about the age of seven we were led to think that Santa Claus couldn't be real or could he?
Actually 'Santa Claus' is as real as you or I, or at least he was! Santa Claus as we know him wasn't known by that name years ago but by the name of Saint Nicholas and he's buried (believe it or not) in Bari in Italy.
Nicholas lived back in the fourth century in a place called Myra in the Byzantine Empire (Modern day Demra in Turkey) and was from a wealthy family. His family weren't quite in the 'Bill Gates' of the fourth century league but they were rich. Nicholas didn't really think much of the money but he loved his Lord Jesus and he was the bishop.
One night he was walking home through the poor area of the city when he heard crying. Nicholas had a habit of walking through the poor areas without being seen so that he could find out who needed help and then he'd leave a gift for them usually in such a way that they had no idea who left the gift.
It was the oldest daughter of a devout Christian family who were poor, she was pouring out her heart as she wanted to get married, but with no money there would be no dowry and no marriage (custom dictated that the father of the bride pay a dowry for the daughters). Her future would be bleak with no prospects. The family had only daughters so there was no prospect of income from sons which meant that the long term future of the daughters was only prostitution.
Imagine the family's shock the next morning when the woke to find a bag of gold on the window ledge, there was no note but it was enough for the dowry for the girl.
For the next two years each January 6th (the traditional date which orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Christ) each morning a bag of gold would be found on the window ledge of the poor family and eventually all the daughters were able to marry.
The families in the poor district never worked out who gave the gifts but eventually the story came out (after Nicholas had died) and he was made a saint. That is the true story of the real "Santa Claus" and how the bishop became a legend so great we all refuse to believe he did what he did.
No, it's not an advert!
When Christmas was illegal
During Roman times Christmas wasn't celebrated much (naturally) but for most of the time the Christian faith was illegal anyway. The Romans were mostly a fairly tolerant bunch and as long as the population didn't cause too much disruption they tended (mostly) to "live and let live" or at least in the first couple of centuries.
There were times when persecution broke out, but it was usually because of some harebrained scheme by the Emperor and the Christians who were largely tolerated but not liked much (tolerance is very different to liking and accepting) because it was seen as a religion for the poor and slaves. Nero started the first major persecution of the Christians because he set fire to Rome and needed a scapegoat for the crime otherwise the population would lynch him. The time I'm talking about wasn't then but much later.
The year the English civil war ended. King Charles the first had been a catholic king sat on the throne of a protestant nation. England had been protestant for over a hundred years at that point and although there were catholics living in England there was no desire of the English to change back to catholicism. The English parliament was protestant and dominated not by the Church of England but by Puritans like Oliver Cromwell.
The war was over and the King was executed in 1647. But that wasn't enough for the Puritans. They had a genuine desire to serve God and show their devotion to him. To them it was essential to return to the earlier faith that had been so important to their forbears and celebrations were not to be tolerated.
Everyone in both England and America knows the story of the Mayflower and the Puritan fathers, how they set out to create a new world where they would have the freedom to follow their religious beliefs. They did much good. But not all that they did was good, they also (unwittingly) took some of the emotional baggage that Europe was loaded with into their new home, they went to a place that while far away it was still controlled by a power struggling with the reformation and the idea of salvation by faith and not by works.
No one really knows when Christ was born, the date that we celebrate as Christmas wasn't really celebrated in the earliest Christian churches. The Puritans saw Christmas as a catholic invention and as such it had to be gotten rid of
In 1659 Christmas was made illegal throughout all Britain and her colonies! In the Americas this was to last until 1681 and was to have such a profound effect that according to Time magazine even as late as 1789 Congress wouldn't take Christmas day off.
When the guns fell silent
Christmas eve 1914
Behind the birth of Christ this has to be the best Christmas story ever! Far better and far more incredible than Charles Dickens or Tom Clancy could ever write. And it's totally true! Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
It's 100 years since this event took place. The men who took part in this event have all been gone from us for at least thirty years and probably more that fifty years. Yet what they did deserves to be told Christmas to remember it was a day when the common man stood up and the madness stopped for a day as men remembered that those on the 'other side' are men and women with loved ones back home thinking of them.
War had been declared on August 4th 1914. It was a war that no one had wanted and both sides had literally been dragged into it by alliances between small states in Eastern Europe.
In July of that year the Crown Prince Ferdinand of the Austrian/Hungarian Empire had been killed by an assassin of the Serbs who were fighting for independence from Austria. The Empire had retaliated brutally. Russia who had an alliance with the Serbs went to their aid, so Austria turned to their Ally Germany for help, When Germany joined in she also called on her ally the Turkish Ottoman empire. Russia who was also allied with France invoked that alliance and France was dragged in along with her ally Britain. Britain, Germany France all had empires that stretched across the globe. The battle lines would stretch across the globe and fighting would erupt on four continents.
By Christmas eve 1914 the guns had been firing constantly for four months. No real changes had been made and it seemed as if there was a stalemate. Then something really strange happened, at dusk on Christmas eve the guns on the German side fell silent. (This happened all along the front line with the British) The British, not sure what to make of it silenced their own guns and waited to see if it was a trap!
Imagine the scene, there in the trenches, so used to the firing of the guns you don't notice them anymore, but then they stop and the silence is deafening! (Yes silence can be loud, ever heard a pin drop in an exam room? But you're on the battlefield where it isn't supposed to be that quiet!)
Then, out of the mist steps a lone German soldier with a white flag. Are they going to surrender? he comes and says that today is Christmas and they'd like to celebrate it (I have told you this is a true story haven't I?)
According to the records six games of soccer were played in the no mans land that day (between the British and Germans) with Germany winning five of them (no changes there, they've won three soccer world cups to England's one!) along with all the other things going on. men who only the day before were shooting at each other suddenly became friends, they weren't the ones who made the decisions to start the war
The first world war was the last major conflict to be fought using vestiges of what was once called chivalry. The first Christmas at war was an example of that chivalry in action. Sadly the British high command were so incensed at what the men in the trenches had done (fraternizing with the enemy) that they ordered all units replaced in some sectors with units that would not do the same. The result was that the next year when the Germans tried the same they were met with gunfire and no truce happened.
When the guns fell silent
How it all came about
The story goes that when the British High command tried to re-establish authority everything went well until they ordered the soldiers to open fire on the Germans and they refused. How could they open fire on men that a mere day before they were eating sausage and drinking beer with? It just wasn't right!
The High command ordered all the troops from the trenches and replaced them with troops who had a desire for revenge, men who'd lost fiends and brothers but hadn't been at the front when the truce happened.
Why should the devil have all the good Music?
Something I've just found out (via watching the TV) that I found so awesome that I've decided to add it into this Hub. It's also so strange that it belongs in the 'strange but true' hub.
Do you know where we get our Christmas carols from? Actually the 'carol' wasn't originally necessarily anything to do with Christmas but was a medieval song that was sung to remember an event like a birthday or something, but during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they started to die out so someone had the bright idea of changing them a little and giving them a 'new lease of life' as special songs.
It wasn't General Booth but it sounds so much like what the Sallies (Salvation Army for those unfamiliar with Kiwi and Aussie slang) would do that it fits to use a quote from him. The sallies were famous for taking the pub tunes of the day and putting Christian words to them then going round the pubs (read bars and drinking houses for those unfamiliar with the term) singing the new songs to which the people responded enthusiastically.
The local religious leaders were horrified at this and accused him of defiling the songs with 'secular music' to which he replied 'Why should the Devil have all the good Music?' and that kind of fits here as the carols were often medieval drinking tunes that someone put the story of Christ's birth to and created the wonderful tunes that everyone can enjoy.
These are all true stories about things that have happened at Christmas.
This hub is about some different things that took place at this time of year. Not all of us are believers in Christ (some may not even believe in God) but I hope with some of these stories you can take away some of what Christmas is about. Yes, it's about the birth of Christ, but it's also about how man can do good both to and for man at this time of year simply because it's Christmas.
Hope you enjoyed the hub. I'd love to get feedback from you so let me know what you thought by leaving a comment below.
Have a great Christmas. God bless