December 24, 2011

How old Mary was when she had Jesus, and the answers to other burning Christmas questions

Digging into the definitions of noel, festivus and wassail

Saturday, December 24 2011
Elaine asks George, "What is Festivus?" after reading a greeting card from his father in theSeinfeld episode “The Strike,” which first aired on Dec. 18, 1997.
Elaine asks George, "What is Festivus?" after reading a greeting card from his father in theSeinfeld episode “The Strike,” which first aired on Dec. 18, 1997.
One of the toughest questions parents face from their kids is whether there’s really a Santa Claus. While there’s no quick-fix answer for that, we’ve researched other burning questions that come up this time year.
Among the most popular holiday searches, according to, are “How old was Mary when she had Jesus?,” “What is the Festivus Dinner?,” and “What does Noël mean?”
So if your kid comes to you with one of these questions this weekend, you won’t be stumped.
How old was Mary when she had Jesus?
The Virgin Mary was most likely a teen mom, but that wasn’t taboo back then. Life expectancy was 45 to 50 years, and girls were married off as soon as they hit puberty.
Some accounts say that Mary, a Jewish woman from Nazareth, may have been as young as 12.
But the web site puts her age at 14 or 15.
According to the site, created by Christian parents who make Bible lessons kid-friendly, Mary was engaged to the carpenter Joseph when she was visited by the angel Gabriel. He told her she would be the mother of the Messiah. Joseph was later informed of the Immaculate conception by another angel in a dream, who told Joseph to marry Mary. He did, and her son Jesus was later born in Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem.
What does Noël mean?
It’s a common question after hearing the classical Christmas carol “The First Noël,” and very easily answered. Noël means Christmas in French. And it’s derived from the Latin word “natalis,” meaning “birthday.”
What is the Festivus Dinner?
More than 13 years after “Seinfeld” stopped filming new episodes, the made-up holiday introduced on the show is apparently still celebrated. In the episode, “The Strike,” which first aired on Dec. 18, 1997, Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) explains how he created Festivus as a holiday alternative to Christmas.
It was born out of Frank’s frustration after trying to buy a doll for his son George (Jason Alexander), and fought with another man over the last one. “Out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!” Frank declared.
A dinner back at the Costanza house in Queens showed the characters eating meatloaf. But another meal was served at the real Festivus, invented by “Seinfeld” screenwriter Daniel O’Keefe’s dad Dan. In his book, “The Real Festivus,” O’Keefe details his family’s Festivus dinner. Turkey or ham was served, and then a Pepperidge Farm cake topped with M&M’s.
What is wassail?
It’s a hot, spiced drink, usually containing alcohol that originated in northern European countries in the Middle Ages. Wassail is served during holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s. The word actually means “good health,” and was used during toasts. While it originally was a mulled ale made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, recipes today usually call for a base of wine, juice, or mulled ale, with brandy or sherry mixed in. Slices of apples and oranges are often added. “Wassail” also once described the traditional English ceremony of singing and drinking to cider apple trees to ensure a good harvest.

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