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6 things you may not know about Christmas

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 10:25 AM

Here are six things you may not know about Christmas Dec. 25 wasn't the day when Jesus was born Early Romans used evergreen branches to decorate their homes in winter St. Nicholas dropped gold into the first Christmas stocking People used to open presents on New Year's Day, not Christmas Coca-Cola didn't come up with a completely original look Celtic Druids viewed kissing under the mistletoe as something that could restore fertility

Christmas has many traditions that are so entrenched you probably don't give them much thought. But when you consider why things are done the way they are, you'll find that just about every element of Christmas has an interesting, evolving story behind it.

RELATED: Debate settled: This is the right time to put up your Christmas tree

Here are six things you may not know about Christmas:

Why is Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25?

Dec. 25 probably wasn't the day when Jesus was born, according to History.com. Since shepherds and their sheep were present, it was probably sometime in the spring.

The first record of a holiday honoring Jesus' birthday doesn't appear until after three centuries of Christianity's existence. Church officials decided to recognize Dec. 25 as his birthday, probably to coincide with the date of pagan festivals in an attempt to get pagans to accept Christianity as the official religion.

Close up of christmas tree with baubles and christmas biscuits(Tim Macpherson/Getty Images/Cultura RF)

Why do we put up Christmas trees?

Christianity Today says that early Romans used evergreen branches to decorate their homes in winter and ancient residents of northern Europe planted evergreen trees inside boxes in their homes. Early Christians frowned on these actions, but eventually loosened their view of the practice.

Germans and the Dutch embraced the idea of an indoor Christmas tree and brought it to the New World in the 1800s. The practice spread even more when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Germany, who brought the Christmas tree tradition to England. An American newspaper published a picture of the royal tree and the practice spread more widely in this country, which apparently was interested in news about the royals even back then.

What's the deal with hanging stockings?

This practice is rooted more in myth than fact, according to Time. As the story goes, St. Nicholas found a family in need, where a poor widower was trying to raise three daughters.

The man couldn't provide a dowry, which were money, goods or real estate handed over to a husband from a bried-to-be’s family, for his daughters to get married, so St. Nicholas dropped gold coins down the chimney. They landed in the girls' stockings, which were hung by the fireplace to dry.

Thus, began the practice of hanging stockings by the fireplace to be filled with treats, though if you're like most people, you're more likely to get candy than gold.

Why do we give and receive gifts?

People used to open presents on New Year's Day, not Christmas, according to Live Science. It was supposed to make them feel good as one year ended and another began.

Giving gifts moved to Christmas in the 1800s, and became more popular because of those trend-setting royals – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert again – who bought gifts for their children and also exchanged them with one another. Christians were thought to embrace the practice because they believed it tied in well to the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus.

Did Coca-Cola invent the modern image of Santa Claus?

The popular Coca-Cola Santa image may have helped popularize this "look" for the jolly gift giver – rotund, rosy-cheeked and with a red suit (because that's Coke's color) trimmed with white fur, but the company didn't come up with a completely original look, according to both Snopes and Coca-Cola.

Snopes says that by the time Coke started to use the now-iconic image in their ads, this type of image of Santa Claus was already present.

Are 'Marry Me at Christmas' stars Rachel Skarsten and Trevor Donovan underneath the mistletoe?

Why do we kiss underneath the mistletoe?

Ancient cultures believed mistletoe could cure many ailments, according to History.com. But it wasn't until the first century that the Celtic Druids viewed it as something that could restore fertility since it blossomed even in winter.

By the 18th century, mistletoe had become a part of Christmas celebrations. The kissing tradition apparently started among English servants. Men could get a kiss from a woman standing under the mistletoe, and refusing the kiss was believed to be bad luck. In addition, the kissing couple sometimes picked a berry from the mistletoe for each kiss, stopping when the berries were gone.

Christmas message sparks controversy at fire station

Published: Monday, December 14, 2015 @ 3:27 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 @ 9:43 AM

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The holiday spirit is normally alive and well this time of year in Oakville, Washington, a town of 700 people that is not accustomed to controversy.

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But when volunteer firefighters at Grays Harbor Fire District No.1 put a biblical message on their sign, someone complained.

The fire commissioner ordered that the sign come down and the Christmas tree be turned off. 

“This is just sort of asinine,” said Oakville resident Richard Hawkins.

When the fire station posted the story on Facebook, hundreds of people responded.

"They're all around the world: Australia, Sweden," said firefighter Shawn Burdett. “Merry Christmas is not a bad word.” 

The decision to put up the Christian message was made by five officers at the fire station. While the sign and tree are on public property, they were paid for with private donations.

"No tax dollars (were used), zero,” said Burdett. 

Residents became frustrated, saying that the voice of one should not speak louder than the voices of many. 

"I couldn't believe that one person could deny everybody Christmas," said resident Tim Newby. 

“The reason for Christmas is Jesus Christ, my gosh,” said community member Shirley George. 

On Monday night, about 200 residents met with commissioners.

"I would venture to say they would not get re-elected and I would actually venture to say they would struggle to get a vote," said Burdett.

The sign was restored after a 2-1 vote by the commissioners.

U.S. military members comfort Muslim girl afraid of deportation

Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 @ 3:01 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 @ 3:12 PM

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U.S. military members have a message for a Muslim child who is terrified that she’ll be deported: “I will protect you.”

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Melissa Chance Yassini, founder of the Dallas-based Unity Movement, shared her daughter Sofia’s fears on a public social media post:

“Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8-year-old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the Army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.”

The post has been shared more than 23,000 times.

Talk show host Montel Williams shared Yassini’s post on his officially verified Facebook page and responded with a message of support.

"It's beyond tragic that this young woman worries about being expelled from her own country based on her faith. Let us never forget many of those who founded this country were fleeing religious persecution - for us to now engage in it, to make a child feel like this, is essentially spitting in the face of the Constitution and those who sacrificed so much so that we can be free," Williams wrote. 

U.S. Army veteran Kerri Peek responded to the post and launched a heartwarming movement.

“Salamalakum Melissa!” Peek commented with a photo of herself in uniform. “Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys.”

Peek then wrote a post on her own Facebook asking other U.S. servicemen to show their support for Sofia.

Then #Iwillprotectyou went viral:

Click here to read more and view more tweets.

Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted...

Posted by Melissa Chance Yassini on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I need your help my friends. Will you help me please?? I am asking all my friends in the Armed Forces, Active or...

Posted by Kerri Peek on Thursday, December 17, 2015