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History Lesson

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Read the texts


Every December, Christians all over the world look forward to the coming Christmas. It is the most widely celebrated holiday of the year.

It started nearly two thousand years ago, with the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Bible it is said about it, but the Bible never mentioned the date of Christ’s birth. There are no other records to tell us exactly when He was born. Not until the year 325 was December 25 chosen as the day to celebrate His birthday. At the same time, January 6 was selected as the day to remember the visit of the three Magi. (Matthew 2:1-2) Some Christians celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas from December 25 to January 6.

As the centuries went by, more and more Europeans became Christians, and the Christmas holiday became more widely observed.  Gradually, Christmas traditions began to include customs from many winter holidays.

 Every year, many Christians travel to Israel to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve, they worship at the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where it is believed the Christ child was born. After Midnight Mass, many of the visitors walk about a mile east of the church to the Field of the Shepherds. According to tradition, this is where the shepherds lay watching their flocks when the angels appeared to them to tell them of the newborn child.




Christmas would never be Christmas without its many wonderful traditions. Here’s how a few of them began.

Gifts. The tradition of gift giving is as old as Christmas itself.  According to the Bible, the three Magi brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Early gifts were usually homemade.  Parents worked long and hard sewing rag dolls and carving wooden toys.  It is still common in Germany to make a gift for the person you love best.

Santa Claus. The story of Santa Claus began with a kindly bishop named Saint Nicholas. He lived in the fourth century near Turkey, and he often passed out gifts to children and poor people in secret.

Dutch seaman carried tales of this good saint and of his great generosity back to Holland. The legend grew as people pictured Saint Nicholas in bishop’s robes riding on a white horse. They said that he rewarded children who learned their prayers and behaved themselves. On the feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6, Dutch children would receive presents. When Dutch settlers came to America, they brought with them their tales of the man they called “Sinter Klaas.” The English settlers changed his name to Santa Claus.

In 1822, Clement C. Moore wrote a Christmas poem for his children. It introduced the Santa Claus with eight reindeer that we know today. In 1862, the well-known cartoonist Thomas Nast was the first to draw Santa in a fuzzy fur-trimmed suit. Through the years, Santa Claus has become fatter and jollier. In 1930, a red-nosed reindeer named Rudolph became part of the Santa Claus story.


Christmas trees Evergreen trees have been a part of European winter celebrations for many centuries. The trees, sometimes decorated with candles, were thought of as symbols of everlasting life. The custom of decorating trees for Christmas began in Germany. An eighth century monk named Saint Boniface wanted people to stop worshipping their sacred oak, so he suggested that they decorate a fir tree in honor of the Christ Child. By the 1500s, Christmas tree was very popular in Germany, and the idea was spreading to other parts of Europe. Each country developed its own way to decorate the Christmas tree.

German settlers brought the idea of the Christmas tree to America. In the early days of this country’s history, the decorations were simple: popcorn and cranberries strung and draped over paper ornaments, chains, and stars, and wax candles in simple tin holders.

In 1895, a telephone operator named Ralph Morris came up with the truly bright idea of stringing the first set of electric Christmas tree lights.


Christmas Cards Early in the 1800-s, English schoolboys would send  “Christmas Pieces” to their parents, trying to show them their best writing skills.  But only in 1840, the first real Christmas cards appeared in England.  Often, they were hand-colored. Frequently, people would compete in contests for the best card design. In one contest, the top prize was $10,000 - a great deal of money now and a fortune back to the nineteenth century! By 1870, many people in England were sending Christmas cards, and the idea soon caught on in America.  Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the United States, began printing colored cards in his Massachusetts factory in 1875.  Today, Americans send millions of cards to each other every Christmas.


Carols Music has always been an important part of Christmas. The Bible tells of the Angeles’ song over Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. By the fifth century, Christians were writing Christmas hymns in Latin.  During the Middle Ages, troupes of costumed actors traveled from village to village, presenting a Christmas story in songs. Singing and traveling gradually blended into the custom of caroling.

The true Christmas carol has its roots with Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy. From Italy, carols spread to France, to Germany, to England and to the rest of Europe. Some of the earliest Christmas carols were folk songs passed down from parents to children. Many of the songs were lullabies about the Baby Jesus.


Ex.1. Translate from Russian into English using the texts above.


Christmas Origin”: во всём мире; с нетерпением ждать; широко отмечается (give 2 examples); простепенно; поклоняться, почитать;


“Christmas Traditions”: волхвы; ладан; мирра; вырезать; епископ; голландский; щедрость; награждать; карикатурист, мультипликатор; вечная жизнь, бессмертие; священный; клюква; нанизывать; наряжать, драпировать; воск; жестянка, оловянный; «Рождественское Произведение»; участвовать в конкурсе; состояние, богатство; Рождественский гимн; труппа наряженных актёров; сливаться, смешиваться; колыбельная.



Read the text



Some of very interesting European customs go back centuries.


Advent preparation. Many Europeans observe Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. In Germany and neighboring countries, children count the days until Christmas on an Advent Calendar. This kind of calendar has a picture of a village with tiny houses filled with doors and windows that actually open! Behind each door or window there is a Christmas scene or symbol. Each day a child opens a door or window of the Advent Calendar.

     In France, children prepare a manger for the Christ Child. They add a piece of straw each night for some prayer they have said or good work they have performed that day.


Gift giving. Christmas has always been a time for giving gifts, especially gifts for children. Each country in Europe has its own special person who delivers the Christmas surprises.

In many European countries, Saint Nicholas knocks on the door carrying a sack full of cookies and fruit. In Holland, Saint Nicholas comes by boat on the 6th of December. After he lands, he mounts a white horse to ride through the streets. Belgian children believe that Saint Nicholas comes with a helper who slides down the chimney to leave toys and gifts in the shoes children leave by the fireplace. In Switzerland, a girl dressed in white represents the Christ Child. She rides in a sleigh pulled by six reindeer. She goes from house to house, passing out gifts.

Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, has many names in Europe: Per Noel in France, Jultomten in Sweden, Father Christmas in England. Italian children wear a blindfold so they will not see the Christ Child deliver their gifts.


Christmas trees. This custom began in Germany. In Germany, Austria, Poland, and England, parents often decorate the tree behind tightly shut doors. The children are not allowed to see the tree until Christmas Eve. Only on Christmas Eve the parents throw open the doors and the children go rushing in to see the shining tree.


Christmas feasts. Christmas dinner is important everywhere in Europe, but each country has its own traditions. People in Denmark and Sweden hide an almond in the Christmas pudding. The lucky person who finds the almond wins a prize. Young Swedes go from door to door asking for treats. This Swedish Christmas custom, very similar to Halloween trick-or-treating, dates back to Viking times.  People in Serbia cover their dining table with straw. The Czechs leave one seat empty at the Christmas feast table for the Christ Child.


Christmas sharing. Christmas is the time to remember others, and many European countries have special sharing customs. The Irish place a candle in the window, inviting all travelers to share the warmth within the house.

One old European tradition says that farm animals gain unusual powers at midnight on Christmas Eve. Based on the belief that farm animals were in the stable when Christ was born, the tradition has it that the animals kneel at midnight in His honor. And in many parts of Europe, people believe that animals gain the power to talk at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve.

Austrian villagers decorate a tree with breadcrumbs to feed wild birds. Scandinavian children treat the birds by trimming a pole with sheaves (bundles) of wheat.

And what Christmas traditions are observed in your country?




Ex.1. Each picture below presents a European Christmas custom. Write some sentences for each picture, describing the custom and identifying the country where the custom is observed.





Read the text.


Christmas is the holiday of my soul.  It is cold outside, and the sky is gloomy, but the flowers burst into bloom deep in my heart. Christmas is the victory of good over evil. All sins disappear on this day like rats, hiding in the deepest holes. They can’t bare that light, that love which is given to us on the day of Christmas.

People go home loaded down with toys and Christmas presents, which will be hidden under the Christmas tree or in the knitted stockings.

The tables are set. Christmas goose, potatoes, salads, cakes... There is a delicious smell in every house! People sit down at the tables, and grace is said. Candles flare up on the Christmas tree, and people wish happiness to each other.

Christmas is the time to forget all the offenses you had to bear, and to forgive everyone who hurt you and was unfair to you, who was not kind to you. To forgive and to forget... It is not very easy. But you should try. Just do it. That’s what Christ did. He died on the cross to save us. He forgave our sins. Why shouldn’t we try to forgive? But if you say, “I can forgive, but I cannot forget,” it is only another way of saying, “I will not forgive.” To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. Every person should have a special cemetery lot in which to bury the faults of friends and loved ones. This is the main meaning of the spirit of Christmas. I wish you to get to know it, and live with this spirit not only at Christmas time, but all during the year. God bless us, everyone!


Ex.1. Answer the questions.


  1. Christmas is the victory of good over evil, isn’t it?

  2. Why do all sins disappear on this day?

  3. Is it a tradition in your family to put presents under the Christmas tree?

  4. Do you have a big Christmas feast? If you do, what do you eat?

  5. Is it difficult or easy for you to forget all the offences you had to bear?

  6. Can you easily forgive those people who hurt you?

  7. Do you agree that if you forget your offenders, you yourself become happier?

  8. What do you think the main meaning of the spirit of Christmas is?


Enjoy the poem by Helen Rice


Let Us Live Christmas Every Day


Christmas is more than a day at the end of the year,

more than a season

of joy and good cheer.

Christmas is really

God’s pattern for living

to be followed all year

by unselfish giving...

For the holiday season

awakens good cheer

and draws us closer

to those we hold dear.

And we open our hearts

and find it is good

to live among men

as we always should...

But as soon as the tinsel

is stripped from the tree,

the spirit of Christmas

fades silently

into the background

of daily routine,

and is lost in the whirl

of life’s busy scene.

And all unawares

we miss and forego

the greatest blessing

that mankind can know...

For if we lived Christmas

each day as we should,


and made it our aim

to always do good,

we’d find the lost key

to meaningful living

that comes not from getting,

but from unselfish giving.

And we’d know the great joy

of Peace upon Earth,

which was the real purpose

of our Savor’s birth.

For in the glad tidings

of the first Christmas Night

God showed us the Way

and the Truth  and the Light!



Songs and Carols


Away in a manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;

The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.

Away in manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;

The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.;

I love Thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh. A hay.

The little Lord Jesus. asleep on the Hay.


Martin Luther




I'll be Home for Christmas


I'll be home for Christmas

You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

and presents on the tree


Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams



Santa Claus is coming to town


I just came back from a lovely trip Along the Milky Way,
I stopped off at the North Pole To spend a holiday;
I called on dear old Santa Claus To see what I could see.
He took me to his workshop And told his plans to me.
So you better watch out, you better not cry, Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin' to town.
His making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice, Santa Claus is comin' to town.
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're a awake;
He knows if you've been bad or good, So be good, for goodness' sake!
Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

Now, Santa is a busy man, He has no time to play.
He's got millions of stocking To fill on Christmas day;
You'd better write your letter now,
And mail it right away,
Because, he's getting ready His reideer and his sleigh.
With little tin horns and little toy drums,
Rooty toot-toots and rummy tums, Santa Claus is comin' to town.
And curly head dolls that cuddle and coo,
Elephants, boats, and kiddy cars, too,
Santa Claus is comin' to town.
The kids in girl and boyland, Will have a jubilee;
They're going to build a Toyland All around the Christmas tree.
So you better watch out, you better not cry, Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

Haven Gillespie




White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.

Irving Berlin, 1942


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