Various countries celebrate Christmas in different techniques; however, numerous similarities emerge when traditions are studied. Normally, Americans imagine Christmas to get a single day of loved ones and entertaining, of presents and food, together with standard decorations like evergreen trees which might be covered in brightly colored Christmas balls, garlands, along with other kinds of Christmas tree decorations. But how is Christmas celebrated elsewhere?
In Sweden, the Christmas season normally begins with St. Lucia’s Day around the 13th of December; however, Christmas trees are generally not brought to the residence till two days beforehand.

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Poinsettia is regarded as an important Christmas flower . There are various legends and stories related to the flower , poinsettia. Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They were named after America’s first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. He brought the plants to America in 1828. The Mexicans in the eighteenth century thought the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem . Therefore, the Poinsettia became associated with the Christmas season. The actual flower of the poinsettia is small and yellow. But surrounding the flower are large, bright red leaves, often mistaken for petals. Poinsettias are much-loved Christmas flowers in the United States with its stunning red star-shape. It is called the ‘Flower of the Holy Night’ or the ‘Flame Leaf’ in Central America. The botanical name, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, was assigned to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow. Dazzled by its color, he gave it this name meaning ‘very beautiful.’

The legends associated with the flowers come from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved the festival but were always disappointed because they had no money to buy gifts. They especially wished that they could present something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing. One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, they decorated them into a small bouquet and deciding to take them as their Christmas gift to the new born Christ in the manger scene.

Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers , all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. From that day onwards poinsettias are associated with the festival of Christmas and are known of the most beautiful and significant Christmas flowers .

Mistletoe is one such Christmas flower whose origin dates back to the Pagan origin.The holiday has assimilated a wide range of customs and traditions from many cultures, and mistletoe is one of them. Druid priests used this Christmas flower two hundred years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the flower since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits.

This Christmas flower plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and probably from this belief it may be derived that the custom of kissing under the mistletoe started since it is associated with the goddess of love. It is believed that those who kissed under the mistletoe during Christmas had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

According to the custom they would gather this evergreen Christmas flower that is parasitic upon other trees and use it to decorate their homes as a part of Christmas decoration. Scandinavians also symbolizes mistletoe as a flower of peace and harmony. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because of its pagan origins. Instead, church fathers suggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.

Ivy is an important Christmas Flower . This flower is symbolic in many ways with the festival of Christmas . It symbolizes three facts, it clings; it thrives in the shade; and it is evergreen. Its clinging has made the ivy a traditional symbol of the, albeit now unpopular, image of the helpless female clinging to her man for protection. It also signifies true love, faithfulness, and undying affection – both in marriage and in friendship. Christian symbolists consider the ivy’s need to cling to a support emblematic of frail humanity’s need for divine support. Like most of the other Christmas Flower , the ivy symbolizes eternity and resurrection. It has been associated with the Egyptian god, Osiris, and the Greco-Roman god, Attis; both of whom were resurrected from the dead.

At Christmas time, ivy is used only on the outside of the building, which represents mortality, because Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the giver of everlasting life and destroyer of death. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.

Ingredients:
2 lbs wheat grain, 1 lb sugar, 1 lb walnuts and almonds, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 lb seedless raisins (mix white and red), 2 tbsp cornstarch, 2 qts water. Directions:
Wash the wheat grains and cover in a pot with 2 quarts of water. Cook until the grains split. Remove from the fire and let it stand for one hour. Add sugar, raisins, nuts, and cinnamon to the grain. Soften and dissolve a the cornstarch in a little lukewarm water and stir into the grain mixture. Add more water as needed and cook for another five minutes. Serve cold.

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 3 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 cups buttermilk, 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, or choose your favorite), 1 cup chopped prunes, 1 cup chopped dried figs, 1 cup chopped dried dates, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup currants.

Directions:
Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Slowly add the buttermilk and stir the mixture into a smooth dough. Mix in the nuts and dried fruits. Place into a loaf pan and bake in a hot oven (350 degrees) for about an hour.

Holly is one of the important Christmas Flowers . This flower is associated not only with Christianity but with Romans and Islam. It is regarded as a symbol of good luck in both Islam and Roman. For centuries, holly has been the subject of myths, legends, and customary observances. This Christmas Flower is usually associated with masculinity and a good luck charm. It is used in decoration of home during Christmas time, and is regarded as a symbol of delight and enjoyment that brings up thoughts of celebration and good cheer. The Romans used the Christmas flower to decorate their houses, temples, and deities for Saturnalia, the mid-winter feast. They exchanged holly boughs as symbols of kindness and friendship, which acted as a bond of love and togetherness. This practice is believed to be the predecessor of holly’s use in Christmas celebrations. Later on, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as the festival of Christmas . As Christians increased in number and their customs prevailed, Holly lost its pagan associations and became a symbol of Christmas and a Christmas Flower .

The flower Holly has come to stand for tranquility, joy and enjoyment. People often settle disputes under a holly tree. This Christmas Flower is believed to frighten off witches and evil spirits and protect the home from thunder and lightning. In Western England it is believed that twigs of holly around a young girl’s bed on Christmas Eve would keep away naughty little goblins. In Germany, a piece that has been used in church decorations is regarded as magic against lightning. The English also mention the “he holly and the she holly” as being the deciding factor in who will dominate the household in the following year, the “he holly” have thorny leaves while a “she holly” have smooth ones. Other beliefs include, putting a sprig of holly on the bedpost would bring sweet dreams and also making a tonic from holly could be a cure for cold it has medicinal properties also.

Ingredients:
10 average sized potatoes 4 x 5ml spoons of crushed dried rosemary 4 Crushed Garlic cloves 1 wine glass of olive oil (extra virgin)

Directions:
Clean the potatoes in their skins and chop into four. Cook for twenty minutes, and then toss in olive oil, crushed garlic and rosemary. Place the potatoes on a warmed baking tray and roast in hot oven for about 35 minutes at 375°F /190°C /Gas Mark

5. Serve immediately, the outside should be crispy.

The Christmas rose is also known as snow rose or winter rose. The Christmas rose is a European evergreen plant with white or purple and pink winter blooming flowers. Other names for this include pink and black hellebore Helleborus niger.

The association of Christmas flowers with the celebration of Christmas is something, which is permanent. Christmas Rose is a celebrated English plant that is regarded as a true Christmas flower . It is sometimes called the Snow or Winter Rose. It blooms during the winter season in the mountains of Central Europe. According to legends the Christmas flower is linked with the birth of Christ and a modest shepherd maiden named Madelon. As Madelon tented her sheep one cold and wintry night, wise men and other shepherds passed by the snow-covered field where she was with their gifts for the Christ Child. The wise men carried the rich gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense and the shepherds, fruits, honey and doves. Poor Madelon began to weep at the thought of having nothing to offer, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King, as she was very poor indeed. And as she stood there weeping, an angel passing saw her sorrow, and stooping he brushed aside the snow at her feet revealing a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink – the Christmas rose. Also in northern and central Europe it is a tradition to break off a branch of a cherry tree at the beginning of the Advent and keep it in water in a warm room; the flowers should burst into bloom at Christmas time.

Ingredients:
225g bulgar wheat 3 x 15ml spoons Soya sauce 330ml hot water 175g pine nuts 175g pistachio nuts 175g cashew nuts 225g blanched almonds 110g sunflower seeds 110g hazel nuts 250g onion, finely chopped 110g poppy seeds 2 x 15ml spoons dried thyme 4 x 15ml spoons fresh and finely chopped parsley 4 x 15ml spoons olive oil 4 large free-range eggs, lightly whisked A little oil for pouring on roast

Directions:
1. Put the wheat in a mixing bowl and pour on the hot water and soya sauce.
Cover and let it puff up for 20-25 minutes. Crush nuts and seeds to a medium fine consistency. Mix together with the wheat. Stir in the parsley, thyme, eggs, onions and oil. Mix thoroughly and allow standing.

2. Oil a large baking sheet and line with greaseproof paper. Form a loaf shaped structure with the nut mixture, about 12cm wide, press firmly together and pierce the top with a fork. Pour on a little oil and drop some extra nuts and cap loosely with a foil hood. Bake in oven 375°F/190°CGas Mark 5 for about 40-45 minutes.

3. Take off hood, baste with oil on baking sheet and continue to bake for a further about 15 minutes. Place in a large serving dish, then cool, easing off the paper as you do so.
Cover with the hood until ready to decorate.

For preparing sauce
Ingredients:
275g cranberries 150ml apple juice concentrate 275g cooking apples, cored and thinly chopped 60ml brandy 50ml water

Directions:
4. Cook all the ingredients together excluding the brandy for about 25 minutes. Add the brandy and re-heat for about 45 seconds. Serve as a supplement

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