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By Tanya Gulevich

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Extra info for Encyclopedia of Christmas & New Year's Celebrations: Over 240 Alphabetically Arranged Entries Covering Christmas, New Year'S, and Related Days of Observance

Sample text

Although Germany’s Lutheran community is credited with popularizing this custom sometime in the nineteenth century, its ultimate origins may lie in the pre-Christian practice of fashioning winter festival decorations from evergreen boughs. Whatever its origins, the symbols and customs connected with today’s Advent wreath represent the spiritual significance of the Christian Advent season. Advent wreaths are used in both home and church observances. Advent wreaths are usually fashioned out of greenery and are meant to lie on a flat surface or to hang horizontally from the ceiling.

The Amish came to this country in the eighteenth century to escape religious persecution in Europe. Here they found the freedom to worship as they wished and live in the manner they chose. Today’s Amish speak English but also 28 Amish Christmas preserve the German dialect of their ancestors. Many Amish live in the state of Pennsylvania, but they can also be found in Ohio and other Midwestern states, as well as Canada. The Amish faith emerged from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century religious reform movement that gave birth to Protestant Christianity.

According to the astronomical calculations used by the ancient Romans, the spring equinox also fell on that day (see also Winter Solstice). By the eighth century the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated on March 25, was firmly established in western Europe. As Mary’s pregnancy marked the beginning of a new era for Christians, many medieval kingdoms also chose March 25 as the day on which they began their new year (see also Kalends; New Year’s Day). In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII called for calendar reforms which included switching New Year’s Day to January 1 (see also Old Christmas Day).

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