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Christmas

Christmas is most commonly known and celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ. It has over a period of time emerged as the most preferred religious festivals.



It has reached the proportions of being celebrated by billion of people globally irrespective of religious and cultural ethnicity. Christmas is a public holiday in many of the nations of the world and is celebrated by numerous others culturally.

While certain Christian groups are in the favor of doing away with festivity and gift giving traditions of Christmas, in most of the countries Christmas signifies a time spent with family and friends, exchanging gifts and a quiet time to pray. Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December every year. In 2016, it falls on a Wednesday.

 

History of Christmas

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born to Joseph and Mother Mary. Mother Mary and Joseph lived in Judea, where King Herod ruled. Mary was betrothed to Joseph but became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Though Joseph was deeply perturbed and intended to disassociate from Mary, he had a dream where an angel told him that he should take Mary as his wife for the child born will be the child of God and will save all the people from their sins. Joseph complied with all that the angel had commanded in the dream.

Because there was a census going on, when it came for Mary to have the child, Joseph took them to Bethlehem.  As there was no room in the town, infant Jesus was laid in the manger while the angels announced and rejoiced in his birth. The three wise men or the Magis came from afar bearing gifts for Jesus.  Jesus was brought up in Nazareth for fear of King Herod’s hatred for him.

The description of Jesus’ birth can be found from two accounts. Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke all describe the birth of Jesus with great description.

 

Celebration on the 25th

There have been debates as to whether Christ was really born on the 25th December. It is believed that the date of 25th of December was an altered date of celebration and commemoration of Jesus’ birthday as there were numerous pagan influences and other celebrations happening at that time of the year. The early Europeans used to celebrate the winter solstice. The Romans used to rejoice at a celebration called the Saturnalia, which was a holiday in honor of Saturn and a hedonistic time made merrier by plenty of food and drink. Also during the winter solstice the Romans observed another festival called the Juvenalia. This was a feast for the juveniles or the children of Rome. Thus it is believed that by clubbing these popular festivities along with Christmas, the early Church fathers believed that they were increasing more chance of the celebrations of the Christmas. There are numerous other festivities and dates attached to this dissertation though.

 

Christmas 2016

 

Customs and Traditions of Christmas

Christmas is a major festival all over the world.  There are splendid Christmas celebrations in non- Christians countries too, courtesy colonization and the influence of Christianity. In countries like Hong Kong and Japan, gift giving has become a part of their traditional and culture during Christmas. There is a couple of tradition which is intrinsically Christmas related. Let’s have a look at those –

 

  • Decorations – The first mention that is found of decoration during Christmas is in the 15thn century in London. It is customary to decorate houses with ivy, holmes and other green shaded plants. The ivy is said to be the symbol of Jesus coming to earth, holly branches were looked at guard against pagans and witches. The thorns and the red berries were symbol of Jesus wearing crown of thorns. Nativity scenes were made popular by Saint Francis of Assissi in the year 1223. All kinds of decorations grew up depending upon the locality of the celebrations. The traditional colors of Christmas are considered to be red, green and gold because Red signifies the blood of Jesus, green the eternal life and golden represents the three gifts of the Magi. The Christmas tree has been considered by some as a pagan influence of choosing the flank of a tree which is evergreen. In fact currently almost 35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the US of A alone. The tree is decorated beautifully with the bells, candy cones, candles, wreaths, angels and stockings. Display of wreaths and candles look beautiful in the window pane and are a traditional display.

 

  • Christmas Carols – The mention of Christmas appears in the hymns in the 4th century BC. By the 13th century under the influence of Francis of Assissi, numerous popular Christmas songs in the vernaculars developed. The songs which we consider as carols were originally harvest songs or communal folk songs. Singing of carols suffered a setback during the Protestant reformation movement. However in the latter half of the 18th century absolutely secular Christmas carols like Deck The Halls or Rudolph the red nose etc came into being. Seasonal holiday songs started to be produced and commercially found to be viable in the 20th century.

 

  • Traditional cuisine – Because Christmas has emerged as a time to rejoice being with the family, Christmas cuisine too has become of utmost importance. In Sicily, the Christmas eve dinner sees 12 types of fishes! However in UK and USA the traditional Christmas Meal will include turkey, goose, mince pies, fruit cake, Christmas pudding, Yule Log cake etc.

 

  • Gift Giving – The Gift Giving festival of Christmas is associated with lot of figures such as Father Christmas, Santa Claus, the Dutch Saint Nikkolas, the Christkind, Saint Basil and many more. However the most popular and remembered among them all is the red-clothed Santa Claus. Santa Claus can be traced to Saint Nikolas who was a Greek Bishop of Myra and BEING fond of children loved giving them gifts. It is believed that Santa Claus comes bearing gifts for the children for the festival of Christmas. Other than these giving gifts to family members and friends is also an important ritual and traditional associated with Christmas.

 

Celebration of Christmas in India

Since this is a gazette holiday in India, many people attend special masses held in churches during this day. It is also commemorated by the people of the Christian community by wearing new clothes, eating a festive meal along with family and attending church services. Christmas trees are put up in shopping malls, restaurants and houses too. The malls and many other places are decorated with numerous nativity scenes from Jesus’ birth.



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