For a number of years, "St. Nicholas" was a guest at our annual Church Christmas Social. He told stories about great Christians of the past - aka "Saints" - around whom have arisen a variety of legends. Many of these legends have become a part of our traditions and our celebration of Christmas, or other holidays. In preparation for telling these stories, there was plenty of research, and a handout was prepared about one of these saints and the history and the legends about them.
These look at the legends and the real people behind them, and include a number of links for further study. Eventually I hope to add similar pages on other "legendary saints" such as Stephen, George, Christopher, Francis, Augustine, Athenasius, Dominic and Bernard of Clairvaux, and Patrick. For more on researching Saints' Stories, see my Christian Storytelling Resources page
Christmas Services: Programs of Scripture Readings and Carols
Ruth Sawyer was a gifted storyteller and a prolific writer, with a passion for folk-tales and a great affection for Christmas stories. It seems particularly fitting that her first book, This Way to Christmas, was a collection of folk tales, bound together by the surrounding story of a lonely young boy who is separated from his family at Christmas-time. Ruth Sawyer's books include Newberry and Caldecott Award winners. A favorite is Joy to the World: Christmas Legends. Another Christmas story, The Good Night, a Finnish tale, will appeal to astronomers. The Legend of St Elizabeth is a good Medieval Christmas story. Ruth Sawyer's The Way of the Storyteller is a classic volume on the art of telling that continues to inspire storytellers.
Several more I've adapted for use for the holidays:
Christmas is a Time For Singing: Regional Synod of Canada - Reformed Church in America (The rest of this eight part series on The Growth of Sacred Music by Herman Mulder includes also the early Church, Luther, Bach, Handel, the Wesley's, and Newton was found in the Archives forThe Pioneer Christian Monthly archives for 1976-1978) but the site was taken down in 2004.
Books on the Bewildering Origins of Christmas and Its Customs
The Origins of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly PhD (2004) Discusses the origins of the religious customs that have grown around the celebration of Jesus' Birth.
Christmas Customs and Traditions by Clement Miles (1912) A thorough and scholarly study of Christmas customs and traditions in both their pagan and Christian aspects.
The Battle For Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum (1997) Pulls together the case for Christmas as a 19th-century creation, indeed a deliberate reformation and taming of a holiday with wilder pagan origins. How the Victorians hijacked a raucous festival and turned it into the modern family and merchantile holiday.
Christmas in America: A History by Penne L. Restad (1996) Covers the recent evolution of Christmas in America since colonial times in gift-giving customs, the use of evergreen trees, or more poignantly in the nation's portrayal of Santa Claus.