Christmas is the most exciting time of the year. Greetings of Merry Christmas fill the air with joy. As the season of joy begins let’s deep dive into the history of Christmas and see learn something new.
The year was 1626 when the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England for America. It carried 102 passengers. Among them were families like the Brewsters and Masons who started their own settlements in America, and men like Miles Standish whose courage helped to make peace with the Indians. But there was another person aboard ship who was not a Pilgrim. In fact, he wasn’t even an American. His name was John Smith and he was a writer from London.
John Smith and his book
In those days, books were written by hand, which meant it took a long time to make one copy. But as soon as the Mayflower reached America, John Smith got busy and wrote a book about his experiences as a young man in the New World. In his book, he told about how Pocahontas carried food from her father’s village to help them when they first settled at Plymouth. He also told about the first Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims celebrated with Indians who had helped them survive that terrible first winter.
After John Smith finished his book, it was time for him to return to London where he took his manuscript to a printer named Robert Baker. On November 8th, 1629, just five years after landing at Plymouth Rock, Mr. Baker printed 1,000 copies of The General History of Virginia by John Smith. It was one of America’s earliest books and soon became very popular because people liked hearing stories from other lands. It also helped them to understand the kind of life people were living in America.
Charles coffin’s contributions
One hundred and fifty years later, an American named Charles Coffin was traveling through Europe looking for new stories he could bring back home to young readers. He came across a Spanish book called Cuentos Popularos Clasicos Espanoles (Popular Spanish Stories) by a writer named Cervantes Saavedra. When Mr. Coffin found out that General John Smith’s book was going out of print, he decided to change the title and write a new introduction for it so that The History of the Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe would become one of his first “Gift Books” as they were called at the time. In this way, Charles Coffin introduced American readers to one of the most popular stories ever written.
Merry Christmas celebrations in America
Now, let us go back to 1626 once more and imagine what this early American author might have wished for the children who would read his book 250 years later. Would John Smith have wanted them to celebrate Indian corn festivals? Or maybe give gifts to each other? Maybe even take a day off from school? Unlikely! The Pilgrims were always very busy working hard in their new country. They lived by strict rules and traditions that helped them survive in America where things were very different than they had been across the sea in England. When Merry Christmas came around that first year at Plymouth, it was probably just another day without presents or feasts like those they had celebrated at home.
But by the mid-1600’s, the Pilgrims were becoming good friends with many of the local tribes and were exchanging gifts with them on Merry Christmas Day each year. This tradition continued through the early 1700s. As time passed, however, some things began to change in America. For example, there was a war taking place between Britain and France so Americans couldn’t trade as easily with other countries anymore. They also became suspicious of their neighbors who they thought might be loyal to Britain instead of America. And so it happened that Merry Christmas celebrations changed for everyone as people started spending less time making presents or playing games and more time trying to fight one another or “preaching” about how much better life would be if everyone believed the same things.
But despite all of their differences, everyone continued to celebrate Merry Christmas and bring presents to each other on that special day. Now it was not just Indians or English settlers who were celebrating, but also Presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who had legends about them that gave Americans a new way to imagine Indian heroes like Pocahontas. And so today, we can enjoy many different stories about Christmas in America because we all live here together and we represent many different cultures and traditions. Let us hope this will be a Merry Christmas for all!
– March 19th 2014 by Demi
Nathan Hale and his exceptional accomplishments
Nathan Hale (1755 – 1776) an American patriot during the Revolutionary War, is considered one of the first spies in American history. He volunteered to gather intelligence about the British military near New York City, but was captured. He is remembered for his alleged last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Samuel Woodworth (n.d.) is an American poet most famous for writing “The Old Oaken Bucket” (1835), which takes place during the Revolutionary War and tells the story of a young American boy who tells his father all about life at war, with hopes of making him comfortable enough to return home.
On September 21, 2009 it was announced that Susan Campbell Bartoletti would write a biographical novelized account of Hale entitled “Traitor: The Case of Nathan Hale” for young adult audiences. The novel was published by Atheneum Books in 2010 and became a New York Times Bestseller.
Following the release of “Traitor”, Bartoletti authored several biographical works on Hale, including an updated edition of her earlier book entitled “Nathan Hale: The Life, Death, and Legend.” Since then, she has authored biographies on other significant historical figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Maria Montessori and others. She also co-authored the nonfiction books “Sundown Towns” with Richard Peck, which won the 2012 Christopher Award; “Every Four Minutes”; “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela”; and “The Japanese Internment Camp Letters.” She also wrote the fiction book, “Shades of Gray”, with John N. Backderf.
Hale is best known for his activities as a spy for the newborn United States Army during the Revolutionary War, when he was executed by hanging after being captured by British forces near occupied New York City. The circumstances surrounding Hale’s capture and death have been shrouded in mystery. This has led to many alternative explanations about why he was hanged, ranging from allegations that he had engaged in espionage against the Continental Army to claims that Hale was not even involved in spying at all but rather killed accidentally while engaging in reconnaissance around the British garrison at Westchester County’s Haarlem House following its occupation earlier that summer.
Richard Hale and Elizabeth Sherman Hale were the parents of Hale, who was born in Coventry, Connecticut. He was the fifth kid in a family of ten. Richard Hale died when Nathan was just two years old, leaving his mother with quite a large family to support on her own. A few months after Richard’s death, the Hales moved from Coventry to New London, Connecticut where they opened up a tavern. They remained there until 1744 when Nathan’s older brother Thomas signed on for a sloop bound for St Eustatius in the Caribbean as an indentured servant so that he could pay off some of Richard Hale’s debts left over from his business dealings before his death. There he became friends with Horatio Sharpe who remained loyal throughout the American Revolution. Thomas Hales’s sloop was captured by an English privateer and he was sold into slavery for a few years before being able to return home to New London in 1748.
At the age of 18, Hale enrolled at Yale College, later transferring to Princeton after his family moved to Coventry, Connecticut when he was 19. At both schools, Hale studied theology and within six months at each school had earned himself quite a name as one who would be committed in his faith. He graduated from Princeton on September 16, 1775 along with seven others who were seen as future leaders by Samuel Blair (American Revolutionary War chaplain) while three others including Hale’s friend David Brewer received honorary degrees at the same time. Blair recommended Hale for a preaching position to the “North Parish” of Coventry and helped him get accepted into Yale Divinity School. Upon graduation, Hale was ordained as pastor at North Parish and was given charge over its flock not long after.
These events would seem unremarkable if it were not for Hale’s decision to abandon his post as pastor in New London in October 1775 in order to enlist in the Continental Army following the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington and Concord. Many questions remain unanswered regarding his motivation for becoming an intelligence officer instead of serving as a chaplain like Samuel Blair recommended he do when he first entered Yale. Some historians suggest that Hale may have been motivated by the belief that America’s cause might be God’s cause while others speculate that he may have been attempting to live up to the legacy of his father, who died in service as a Connecticut soldier during King Philip’s War. The American Revolution was only the latest event in a series of wars that pitted New England against Indian tribes on the frontier and Hale had personal experience with efforts by colonial governments to claim land from the Indians.
Hale first served as chaplain for Thomas Knowlton’s Ranger Company, which included many men from New London County including two of Hale’s brothers, Elisha and Hezekiah. However, he soon left this post when General George Washington asked him to serve as an aide-de-camp on his staff due to his abilities at oratory and knowledge of military tactics. After learning that Hale was preaching in Rhode Island, Washington wrote to him asking for his assistance. At the time, Hale was trying to secure a more stable position for himself by gaining admission to Yale Divinity School which would have opened up several opportunities for him throughout Connecticut and beyond had he succeeded. But when General Washington asked Hale to return to service on his staff, Hale turned down the offer of admission into the school in order “to follow my duty.”
On April 27, 1776, Hale accepted an appointment as First Lieutenant in command of 12 men who were recommended by Knowlton for their skills at scouting. That same day saw Hale’s unit assigned under Colonel Thomas Knowlton whose Ranger company would be renamed after him following its successful engagement at Harlem Heights. Hale’s company was involved in the battle at Fort Washington, New York on November 16, 1776 during which he suffered a gunshot wound to his right shoulder that required doctoring by none other than Dr. Benjamin Rush who later served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army and signed the Declaration of Independence.
Despite this injury, Hale continued serving until July 4, 1777 when he was placed under arrest after being accused by Colonel Thomas Proctor of disloyalty to General George Washington based on comments made about him by Lieutenant William Hull following an argument between them over outstanding pay.
Events and activities for Christmas
This is a list of Christmas activities that you can enjoy with your families over the festive season.
- There are many schools (both public and private) that organize special programs for their students like choirs, plays, concerts, games, decorating competitions and others to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A list of these schools will be available in the school office or at the bulletin boards inside the campus. If you want more information about these festivities (like schedules), ask someone or call the headteacher directly.
- During this coming holiday season, there will also be community groups who have planned various events all over Metro Manila to give gifts to kids in orphanages or in slum areas so they won’t feel left when others will be celebrating Christmas with their families.
- You can sponsor a child in an orphanage and spend Christmas with them. Many groups are doing this; you can find out more information in newspaper advertisements or in the bulletin boards of churches.
- For college students, there are also organizations (like your university’s student councils) that organize activities like caroling and giving gifts to kids in orphanages. It is not only for the sake of spreading the love of Christ but it helps you to meet new friends as well. For example, when I was still studying in college, one of my greatest blessings was that I met my best friend during our first year because we were both assigned at the same department where we encountered each other during one of the caroling activities. Fast-forward to today, she is still one of my closest friends who I can call anytime because we are connected not only through Facebook but also in person.
- You can join any of these volunteer organizations or you could start one with your schoolmates if there isn’t already an existing group in your school’s campus.
- There are also Christmas parties being held at different churches for the Christians around Metro Manila so you can attend these celebrations especially if it is hosted by a church near where you live or work (which doesn’t mean that you should go to every single party available; choose wisely). I like to go to different places when it comes to celebrating Christmases because this gives me an opportunity to meet new people, find something new to learn and also strengthen my faith in Christ.
- If you are not into partying (or if you don’t like the people who will attend the parties), you can use this time to be more productive at home by doing things that you always wanted to do but haven’t had the chance to yet like painting Christmas cards or crafting gifts for your family members. You could also prepare food which you can give during any of these parties (like brownies, cakes, cookies, Hamonada, turon, putong ube, cassava cake, Lumpiang Shanghai etc. You can make an oven full of baked goods) or just cook extra because this would help both your family members and other people feel excited about the season of giving.
- You can also ask your friends to join you if they are not yet working so you can bond with them and prepare some food together.
- If you feel like you don’t know how to cook or bake, there are countless numbers of Internet tutorials created by different people who would love to help others succeed in the kitchen; just Google it! Some groups even organize cooking workshops for free (so you can learn without spending money) where they teach participants not only useful recipes but also basic skills on how things should be done in culinary arts which is very helpful especially if this will be your first time to try something that requires cooking. I highly recommend checking out Facebook’s group called Mga Pinoy na Nagsusulat ng Damit (you’ll get to know lots of local artists and designers), if you like wearing handmade clothes then this is the best group for you
- You will also meet more people who has a passion on design and art, and they might even offer their services to create different designs for you or your family/friend as gifts such as rosaries, bracelets, necklaces etc…