The following article originally appeared in one of the Christmas editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and is now reprinted by permission from that journal.
In many lands there is still expressed the beautiful sentiment that the gates of heaven stand wide open on Christmas Eve, and that he whose soul takes flight during its hallowed hours arrives straightway at the throne of grace.
A time-honored custom in Norway and Sweden is that of fastening a sheaf of wheat to a long pole on the barn or house-top, for the wild birds' holiday cheer; and in Holland the young men of the towns sometimes bear a large silver star through the snowy streets, collecting alms from pedestrians for the helpless or the aged sick.
Russia has no Santa Claus or Christmas tree, although the festival is celebrated by church services and by ceremonies similar to those of our Hallowe'en.
In some of the villages in Wales a Christmas pudding is boiled for each of the disciples, with the exception of Judas, and in the rural districts of Scotland bread baked on Christmas Eve is said to indefinitely retain its freshness.
"The Fatherland" is the home of the Christmas tree, which is thought to be symbolical of the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil," in the Garden of Eden; and ca