Christmas is finally here and it has brought with it the joys of the holiday season. Christmas, which is one of the most pious days for Christians, is the religious and the cultural celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Every year, it is celebrated on December 25. On this day people gather in large numbers with family and friends to commemorate the birth and also remember the sacrifices of Jesus Christ. Christmas season is the ideal time to spread the words of Jesus and celebrate the occasion with merriment and mirth.
What is Christmas and why is it celebrated?
Christmas is one of the most popular festivals celebrated by Christians across the world. It is the festival which is celebrated worldwide in more than 160 countries of the world. It is basically the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the man who is known as “The Son of God”. The name “Christmas” from the Mass of Christ. A mass service is conducted in which it is believed that Jesus has died for the people and he will come back to life. The service was known as “Christ-Mass” and was allowed to take place only after Sunset. So, people started calling it Christmas and started celebrating it in the evening or at midnight.
Why Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December?
Christmas, for the first three centuries of Christianity's existence, was not celebrated on 25th December. In fact, there was no certain day so people celebrated it as per their personal beliefs. It was in 336 AD that the Christmas celebrations were first recorded on December 25 during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine. After a few years, Pope Julius I declared that the birth of Jesus would finally be celebrated on December 25.
Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
The tradition of exchanging gifts basically exists since ancient times. As per popular beliefs, gifts are exchanged to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the wise men – Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh. Also, in modern times it is interpreted as a custom of showing gratitude and love to your loved ones. Also, this reminds people of serving humanity from time to time.
How did Santa Claus get started?
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to around 280 AD in Turkey. It is associated to a monk named St. Nicholas. The man whom we know as a happy jolly man dressed in red with a long beard was not always this way. There is a legend behind the existence of Santa Claus. There was a Saint named Nicholas who was well-known because of his piety and kind nature. It is said that whatever wealth Nicholas inherited he traveled along the countryside and donated it to the poor and sick. There are several stories depicting his helpful nature. One of them is the story of three sisters whom Nicholas prevented from going into prostitution by helping them arrange the money for the dowry. Even today all his legends are alive in the hearts of people and Saint Nicholas is still the most popular saint in Europe.
After Saint Nicholas served the people of Europe it is said that he made his inroad towards America. At the end of 18th century, Saint Nicholas arrived in America. He was called Sint Nikolas and Sinter Klass by local people because which finally the final name evolved as Santa Claus. Since that time “Santa Claus” started existing.
- The character of Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas, the early Church Bishop. He was born in the Patara village of Turkey in 270 A.D.
- Saint Nicholas was known to be generous toward the poor whom he used to offer gifts of money.
- The modern image of the Santa Claus as a jolly good person dressed in red has its origin in the 1823 poem titled "A visit from St. Nicholas" which is also known as "The Night before Christmas".
- It is believed that Santa Claus would bring exciting gifts for children during this festival.
Is Christmas celebrated all over the world?
Every year there is a tradition of wearing red hats and decorating trees which can be seen all around the globe. There are no cultures and traditions which can be restricted to Christmas only. Not all countries but yes, many countries around the world celebrate Christmas.
What religion doesn't celebrate Christmas?
Several religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Judaism don't recognize Christmas as a festival as per their religious values so they don't celebrate Christmas.
Which countries do not celebrate Christmas?
Several countries like Mongolia, Turkey, Qatar, Laos, Japan, Tunisia, China, Thailand, Morocco, Maldives, and Russia don't celebrate Christmas.
- The Christmas celebrations were originated by the Roman Catholics but the non-Catholics also observe this festival.
- In U.S, the celebrations started in the first half of the 19th century when the Sunday schools observed the festival.
- Among all U.S. states, Alabama was the first to declare this festive occasion as a legal holiday. By 1893, all states and territories had acknowledged the observance of this festival.
- The history of Christmas celebrations goes back to the New Year festival celebrated by the Mesopotamians around 4000 years back. This festival was known as Zagmuth.
- Through Zagmuth, the Mesopotamians honored their deity, Marduk. It is believed that celebrations of Christmas originated from this 12-day festival.
- The people of Europe too participated in festivities during the end of winter. Fermented wine, beer, and fresh meat were included in the feasts they had during this time period.
- Even the Germans worshipped Oden, the Pagan God during the mid-winter holiday with the belief that he would protect them from nocturnal sky flights.
- During winter, a week-long celebration was held in places like Saturnalia in early Rome, where people observed a festival in honor of Saturn, the God of agriculture. People enjoyed the festival with bountiful food, drinks, fun, and frolic.
- Another festival observed in winter was Juvenalia, a Roman feast through which children were honored.
- The people of the upper class in Rome observed December 25 as the birthday of their infant God, Mithra. They considered it as the holiest time of the year.
- The Romans initially celebrated Easter but Christmas was not observed during that time. However, the exchange of gifts during Christmas originated from the Roman tradition of gifting presents in Easter.
- An important feature of this festival is the Christmas tree decoration.
- The tree is adorned with lights, glitters, and embellishments to brighten one's celebration during this occasion.
- The Christmas tree has been used since the 17th Century. It was first utilized in Strasbourg in France and then in Germany and Northern Europe. Know about Christmas tree decorations.
- Exchange of gifts is a special feature of Christmas celebrations.
- Gift giving was prohibited by the Catholic Church in the middle ages. However, it was later on allowed by the Church.
- Many believe that the gift-giving tradition started from the offerings made by the Three Kings to infant Jesus Christ when they visited Bethlehem.
- If you would like to gift presents to your dear ones on this occasion, look through the options given in our section on 'Christmas Gift Ideas'.
- Most families plan a special meal with their dear ones on this festive season. The food served during this meal varies from one country to another.
- In the U.S., the food menu includes roast turkey, ham, beef, and mashed potatoes.
- In England, turkey, goose, potatoes, bread, and cider are eaten on this occasion.
- In Sicily, twelve kinds of fish are included in the Christmas meal. Fruit cakes, mince pies, and pudding are the desserts widely prepared on this festive occasion.
- In Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, lamb is often used as the primary food of the festive meal.
- In Germany and France, pork and goose are preferred. Beef, ham, and chicken recipes are widely eaten during this festive season.
- Eating and gifting candies and chocolates are an important part of the celebrations.
- Aside from the Christmas tree, lights, candles, bells, and stockings are the things you may use to adorn your home during this festive occasion.
- Candy canes, wreaths, and angel figurines are often used to add a festive look to your home.
- Evergreens like the Holly are used for making the Christmas wreaths which symbolize God's love for man. Holly trees are a symbol of eternal life.
- While you decorate your home, use traditional colors associated with this festival. These are red, green, silver, gold, and white.
- Red is a symbol of the blood of Christ whereas green color or the evergreen tree is associated with eternal life. This is because evergreens do not lose their leaves in winter.
The poinsettia is a kind of plant, also known by its scientific name of 'Euphorbia pulcherrima' which blooms around Christmas time.
According to a Mexican legend, the poinsettia plant became synonymous with Christmas when a poor Mexican girl presented a bouquet of weeds to baby Jesus during Christmas eve as she could not present a better gift. As soon as she placed the weeds under the Nativity scene, they miraculously turned into bright red flowers, which soon began to be called 'Flores de Noche Buena' or 'Flowers of the Holy night'.
Although, they come in different shades such as red, pink and white, the red ones are mainly used for Christmas (the primary color associated with the festival) as it signifies Christ's blood.
Moreover, since the leaves of the poinsettia plant are arranged in a star-like shape, many consider it to signify the 'Star of Bethlehem', which as the scriptures tell us, was an unusual star seen by the Wise Men that ultimately lead them to the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.
- Songs and carols are a great way to indulge in the spirit of this festive occasion.
- The carols help you spread happiness, love, warmth, and generosity among your dear ones.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Christmas is a time of red, green and white, of candy canes and sweet plum cakes, of Christmas carols and presents for kids and of course the delight of all children, our very own Father Christmas or Santa Claus! It is a festival celebrated worldwide in different ways. Many people host Christmas parties on this occasion to celebrate with friends and family. Here are a few party ideas one can keep in mind while Ho-Ho-Hoing away during the festivities!