Not that it needed it, but the Christmas story is getting new life — on the Internet. The medium has spawned a number of websites devoted not just to the commercial aspects of the holiday season (and there are plenty of those), but encouraging celebrants to remember “the reason for the season.”
A good place to start is the Religious Christmas website. It promises a cyberspace journey reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas. The site features music, Scripture, colouring pages for children to print out, even links to Christmas dramas and art. You might want to view this one without frames, as frames keep you in its site even when you click another link.
A similar destination is Christmas in Cyberspace 1998, which promises to be a Santa- and Frosty the Snowman-free website. It is packed with links, resources and graphics.
Forget the words to one of those lesser-known Christmas songs? Oremus, an Anglican website which provides an online format of the Daily Office, also has an online hymnal with more than 40 Christmas hymns listed.
Not that you could forget the words to this one, but Christmas.com has a neat little feature on the 180th anniversary of Silent Night.
A fun site to visit is Perkins Home Christmas Page, a “Jesus is the reason for the season” Christmas site maintained by an ordinary family. It offers children’s bible study, crafts, games, colouring, the Christmas story, and plenty of links to other Christmas sites.
In the same vein is Annie’s Christmas Ideas Page. It features thoughts and activities for each day in December and suggestions for making your own Christmas home page. Annie also has a separate “How to Cope with Grief and the Holidays” Page.
The Christian Resource Institute offers daily readings for Christmas, adapted from The Book of Common Prayer.
The online version of Episcopal Life, the national newspaper of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., has as its monthly forum question “How can we insure that Christmas remains a religious holiday.” The answers are worth looking at.
In the somewhat frivolous category, watch the lighting of virtual Advent candles at the website of Old St. Paul’s Church, an Anglican church in Edinburgh, Scotland. The page includes an explanation of the meaning of the candles.
Everything you want to know about the birthplace of Jesus can be found at a number of Bethlehem websites: the Bethlehem 2000 Home Page is a commercial site encouraging travel to the Holy Land for the dawn of the new millennium; a similar fact-filled site about the city is found at the Israeli United Travel site or another maintained by the Franciscans, The Nativity at Bethlehem.
And while we’re on the topic of Bethlehem, the Holy Land provided one of the more novel concepts: for that person in your life who has everything, how about a symbolic parcel of land in Bethlehem? Or, plant a tree of life “in your name and perpetuate the fertility of the soil upon which Jesus once walked.”
History buffs might want to peruse a page on the website of the Canadian Diocese of Fredericton. Writer David Goss researched Christmas in the 19th century and tells us that marking Christmas was not universal among North American churches. Many churches, believing there was no biblical support for the selection of December 25 as Christ’s birthday, did not celebrate Christmas, writes Goss. His article is a good read.
While we’re at it, a scientific theory on the star of Bethlehem (the star which led the three magi to the place of Christ’s birth) appears at http://listserv.american.edu/catholic/other/wise.men.
Written by an astronomer a few years ago, the theory might be a bit dense for some readers, but there are some interesting ideas.
Did you hear the one about….? We’ll add another site purely for fun. It’s the Christmas page of an urban legends website. Read for the real goods on whether Japanese department store really tried to capitalize on the Western Christmas concept by displaying Santa crucified to a cross and whether poinsettias are actually poisonous.
And as long as we’re in fun mode, Christmas.com, a totally commercial Christmas site (not surprising, considering its name) mentioned earlier, has a Java-based colouring book so children can colour online using their mouse.
Finally, practise your diphthongs and wish your neighbours and colleagues Merry Christmas in their own tongues.
So, “Nollaig Shona Dhuit” (Irish), “La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou” (Samoan), “Meri Chrismas Hepi Niuyia Lukin Yu” (New Guinea Pidgin), Merry Christmas and Happy Surfing.
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