Day 19 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Foods


The Christmas season is not just sights and sounds. What is Christmas without the smells and tastes of Christmas cookies, Christmas ham, egg nog, wassail, candy, and other good things coming out of the kitchen during this season?

The history of Christmas Cookies began with the people of the Persian Empire of the 7th century AD. The actual word ‘cookie’ comes from the Dutch word Koeptje [koekje], meaning small cake or bread. Cookies spread all over Europe by 1500. Gingerbread was probably the first cake/cookie to be traditionally related with Christmas. The people of Sweden preferred Papparkakor (spicy ginger and black-pepper delights), while the Norwegians took to the liking of Krumkake (thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers).

Our Christmas cookies are my mother’s old-fashioned tea cookies: 3/4 cup crisco, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 & 1/2 cup Self-rising flour. Mix all together, roll out, cut into shapes, and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.  Ice with butter cream frosting: 1 box confectioner sugar, dash of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup butter.  Making the Christmas cookies is a family tradition that we usually do together each year.

Eggnog is related to various milk and wine punches that had been concocted long ago in the “Old World”. However, in America a new twist was put on the theme. Rum was used in the place of wine. In Colonial America, rum was commonly called “grog”, so the name eggnog is likely derived from the very descriptive term for this drink, “egg-and-grog”, which became egg’n’grog and soon eggnog. Other experts say that the “nog” of eggnog comes from the word “noggin” which was a small, wooden, carved mug. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns.  The true story might be a mixture of the two and eggnog was originally called “egg and grog in a noggin”.  Whatever the name, it was served to enhance your joy 🙂

Wassail is a hot, spiced punch often associated with winter celebrations of northern Europe, such as Christmas, New Year’s and Twelfth Night. The term itself is a contraction of the Old English toast wæs þu hæl, meaning “be in good health”. A popular Christmas song mentions wassailing, which is groups of people either bearing wassail or begging for it, going from house to house singing and reveling. This is believed to be a custom of helping the poor without placing them in the category of, as a version of the song notes, “daily beggars”. It is also a way of preserving a perishable crop – apples, by turning them into something that can be preserved – cider, which is traditionally a central ingredient for Wassail. Today sugar and ale spiced with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon are placed in a bowl, heated, and topped with slices of toast.

For our family, we enjoy ‘Christmas punch’: put half a gallon of lime sherbert in a punch bowl and pour a 2 liter of ginger ale over it.  Let the sherbert melt just a little.  It is delicious.

Yule Ham is a traditional dish in Scandinavian and English celebrations. The tradition is often suggested to have began as a tribute to Freyr, a major German god associated with boars and fertility. The boar’s head with apple in mouth was carried into the banquet hall as a sacrifice with the intent of imploring Freyer to show favor in the new year.

Our family enjoys a Christmas smoked ham (without the head!). The recipe is simple: Trim the fat from a smoked ham. Wrap it in tinfoil and cook all night on Christmas Eve at 325 degrees. Next morning as you awake to a delicious smell, mix 3/4 can of coke, a large can of crushed pineapple, and one box of brown sugar. Pour over the ham and cook for one more hour. During the hour, baste often with the juice and sugar as deep into the meat as you can. Yummm!

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

As you eat the Christmas cookies, remember the time that Jesus gave bread to his disciples as recorded in Mark 14:22, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, “Take, eat: this is my body.” Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life…He will sustain us.

As you drink the eggnog, wassail, or the punch, remember that it is Jesus who will spice up our lives and He is the only source of joy. Remember the verse in Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

As you eat your Christmas ham, remember that Jesus was the once and for all sacrifice. Hebrews 7:27 He does not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross.


Day 18 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Ornaments


The earliest ornaments, in the early 1800’s, were food: apples, onions, pears, nuts, candies, and fruits. These, along with the evergreen trees themselves, represented the certainty that new life would return in the Spring.

As the idea of decorated Christmas trees spread, various countries added their own variations. The Germans, for instance, began hanging other types of food on their trees, such as, gingerbread or other hard cookies, baked in the shape of fruits, stars, hearts, angels, and bells. Americans would string long strands of cranberries or popcorn to circle their trees. In the UK, creative ornaments of lace, paper or other materials showed the variety of interests and talents of their makers.

Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, trees were decorated with the creations of the loving hands of family and friends. In Lauscha, Germany, an area long know for its glass blowing, began to make ornaments that were sold strictly as Christmas ornaments. Initially replicating fruits, nuts and other food items, they soon branched out and began to manufacture hearts, stars and other shapes that had been created out of cookies.

Until the late 1930’s ornaments in America were imported from Europe. The Corning Company of Corning  New York determined a way to make American glass ornaments. These ornaments were lacquered by machine on the outside and were silvered on the inside so they would remain “shiny bright” for longer periods. (An interesting side note: There is a legend that says if you placed a reflective ornament on your tree any evil spirits trying to enter your home would see their reflections and withdraw, terrified of what they saw.)

By 1940 Corning was making about 300,000 ornaments a day, compared with the perhaps 600 for a skilled German glassblower companies. Today, it has became hard to actually see the tree beneath all the various ornaments.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

Keep in mind as you hang your ornaments, that the first ornaments were hung on the tree as a symbol of the certainty that new life would return in the Spring. Think on the certain fact that Christ was born, died, and came back to life to give us new life in Him.

1 Peter 1:3-4 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy. We have been born into a new life that has a confidence which is alive because Jesus Christ has come back to life. We have been born into a new life which has an inheritance that can’t be destroyed or corrupted and can’t fade away. That inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

Have a night of ornament identification:

  • remember who gave the ornaments and pray for them
  • have each family member pick out their favorite ornament and talk about why each ornament is special – where you bought it, what or who it reminds you of, etc. 
  • make sure there are ornaments that represent the true meaning of Christmas.

Day 17 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Cards



Christmas cards connect us to family and friends. Cards remind us that someone cares and, more importantly, has taken the time to remember us.

Christmas cards originated in England over 150 years ago. In 1843 Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, had so many Christmas greetings to send that handwriting them was impossible. Yet he wanted to make his friends aware of the need to help the destitute on that holiday. His answer was to commission John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities, and the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You was printed on that first card. Although he had the best intentions, the card drew criticism for showing a child enjoying a sip of wine and Sir Henry was considered to be”fostering the moral corruption of children.” ” Legend says Sir Henry didn’t send any cards the following year, but the custom became popular anyway.

From this first-known Christmas card a flourishing card industry has evolved. That early card was hand-colored and lithographed on stiff cardboard, then delivered by hand, a far cry from today’s mass production and almost instant delivery of internet e-cards.

Still, the overriding purpose and custom of exchanging Christmas cards grows out of that very human need to connect. Christmas is that special time of year that makes us feel that we are all a part of the same family and being part of the same family we owe each other some measure of good. Christmas cards are one way we convey this to others and make them feel special?

How do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

As Christians, we are all part of Jesus’ family. The world should know us by our love. Jesus came to show us how to love one another, care for one another, and encourage one another, not just at Christmas but all year through. John 17:11 (Msg) For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world; they’ll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, So they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind.


Day 16 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Yule Log


This is a tradition I knew nothing about except that it is mentioned in some Christmas songs.  Yule is a Winter Solstice festival that has been celebrated in Northern Europe since ancient times. Many of the symbols associated with Christmas are derived from this traditional pagan Yule celebration. The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe, etc. are all historically practices associated with Yule. Burning a Yule log is probably the oldest Christmas tradition.

The burning of the Yule log marked the beginning of Yule which ran from several weeks before the winter solstice to a couple weeks after, which was the darkest time of year. There was quite a bit of ritual tied to the Yule log as it marked the sun’s rebirth from its southern reaches.

As the big log was brought into a home or large hall, songs were sung, stories told, and children danced. Personal mistakes were said to be burned in the flame so everyone’s new year would start with a clean slate.

The log was never allowed to burn completely; a bit was kept in the house to start next year’s log. The log was said to predict bad luck; if the fire went out during the night, tragedy would strike the home in the coming year. The log also brought good luck; any pieces that were kept, protected a house. Ashes of the log would be placed in wells to keep the water good or placed at the roots of fruit trees and vines to help them bear a good harvest.

In Appalachia, as long as the log burned, you could celebrate, therefore a very large log was chosen and soaked in a stream to ensure a nice long celebration. In the early nineteenth century, American slaves didn’t have to work as long as the Yule log burned, so they would choose the biggest, greenest log they could find. If they did have to work while it burned, their master had to pay them for the work.

In England the log was supposed to burn for the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas eve on December 24th to Epiphany on January 6th. Some English Yule logs were large enough that a team of horses were required to drag it to the castle or manor. Some English preferred a log from an ash tree. In the Slavic and other countries oak was the wood of choice. Almost everywhere, the fire was started with that bit of the last year’s log, to symbolize continuity and the eternal light of heaven.

In some parts of France, a special carol was sung when the log was brought into the home. The carol prayed for health and fertility of mothers, nanny-goats, ewes, and an abundant harvest. The French were probably the first to eat their Yule logs. They started out burning them like everyone else, but when big open fireplaces began to disappear in France, they moved the tradition to the table by making a cake roll that looked like a Yule log, called a “Buche de Noel”.

In the fourth century AD, Pope Julius I started the process of Christianizing the celebration and  Yule was placed on December 25, in order to correspond with the Christian celebration. Thus, the terms “Yule” and “Christmas” are often used interchangeably especially in Christmas carols.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

The Yule log was to take away the mistakes of the last year. We know that Jesus came to take away our mistakes. Romans 3:22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

The Yule log was not allowed to burn up completely. Be reminded from this that Jesus Christ is eternal. Rev. 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come, the Almighty One.”

The Yule log represented the light of the sun during the dark winter: Remember that Jesus is our light in a dark world. John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”



Day 15 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Wreath



Some people think that the Christmas wreath is a symbol of Christ’s crown of thorns. There may be some connection, but the actual origin of the wreath dates back to ancient Greece where the Greeks rewarded Olympic victors and other high achievers with laurel crowns. It’s unclear how such headgear was transformed into wall decor, but perhaps people just hung their crowns up as souvenirs. Neither Christmas nor Advent wreaths are worn as headbands, though for the Swedish festival of St. Lucia, on December 13, the family’s eldest daughter wears a headpiece decorated with greenery and nine lighted candles.

Though early Roman Christians used laurel in their Christmas decorations because it symbolized victory, glory, and cleansing from guilt, Europeans largely favored evergreens. In cold, northern climates, people latched onto anything that represented light and life against darkness and despair. As a result, their favorite winter symbols included plants that stayed green all year. The evergreen plant can symbolize the everlasting love of God.

The Advent wreath possibly originated in pre-Christian Germanic culture. During the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, wreaths of evergreen were gathered as signs of hope in a coming spring. Christians incorporated this popular tradition, and by the 16th century, Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used evergreen wreaths with candles to celebrate the coming of Christ, the everlasting Light. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Each day the candles are lit, one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. The last candle is the middle candle. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve. It represents Jesus Christ being born.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

As you look at all the Christmas wreaths this year, think of how the Greeks used wreaths as a sign of victory and remember this verse about the Ultimate Victor 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.