Christmas is celebrated every year on December 25 with full enthusiasm and is that the most significant festival of Christians. Nowadays, Christmas is widely known everywhere the globe not only by Christians however additionally by everybody or non Christians. Children’s particularly look ahead to this day as they got many gifts. this is the time of Joy where families, friends come together, unfold joy and happiness. The word ‘Christmas‘ comes from the Mass of Christ or jesus. This day is well known to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and Christians think about Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah who has come from Heaven to save people of the globe. Christian believes that jesus was born to mary in Bethlehem before 2 thousand years. The term Christmas roots from Cristes maesse, a primitive English idiom that says Mass of Christ.
The Date of Christmas
No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1 but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2 BCE/BC and 7 BCE/BC, possibly in 4 BCE/BC (there isn’t a 0 – the years go from 1 BC/BCE to 1!).
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). But it was not an official Roman state festival at this time.
However, there are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th.
A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th – and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult. The date of March 25th was chosen because people had calculated that was the day on which Jesus died as an adult (the 14th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar) and they thought that Jesus was born and had died on the same day of the year.
Some people also think that December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ took place in December around this date – so it was a time when people already celebrated things.
The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens on December 21st or 22nd. To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from. In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda.
The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’ and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the ‘birthday’ of the Pagan Sun god Mithra. In the pagan religion of Mithraism, the holy day was Sunday and is where get that word from!
The Roman emperor Aurelian created ‘Sol Invictus’ in 274. But there are records of early Christians connecting 14th Nisan to 25th March and so the 25th December go back to around 200!
The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion.
Jesus was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas!
Christmas had also been celebrated by the early Church on January 6th, when they also celebrated the Epiphany (which means the revelation that Jesus was God’s son) and the Baptism of Jesus. Now Epiphany mainly celebrates the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, but back then it celebrated both things! Jesus’s Baptism was originally seen as more important than his birth, as this was when he started his ministry. But soon people wanted a separate day to celebrate his birth.
Most of the world uses the ‘Gregorian Calendar’ implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that the ‘Roman’ or Julian Calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar is more accurate that the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year! When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582. In the UK the change of calendars was made in 1752. The day after 2nd September 1752 was 14th September 1752.
Many Orthodox and Coptic Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January (which is when December 25th would have been on the Julian calendar). And the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates it on the 6th January! In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called ‘Old Christmas’ as this would have been the day that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn’t been changed. Some people didn’t want to use the new calendar as they thought it ‘cheated’ them out of 11 days!
Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, so the early Christians thought that this was the right time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They also took over some of the customs from the Winter Solstice and gave them Christian meanings, like Holly, Mistletoe and even Christmas Carols!
St Augustine of Canterbury was the person who probably started the widespread celebration of Christmas in large parts of England by introducing Christianity to the regions run by the Anglo-Saxons in the 6th century (other Celtic parts of Britain were already Christian but there aren’t many documents about if or how they celebrated the birth of Jesus). St Augustine of Canterbury was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in Rome and that church used the Roman Calendar, so western countries celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Then people from Britain and Western Europe took Christmas on the 25th December all over the world!
World Red Cross Day
There are various diverse traditions and theories justifying the reason of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th. A quite primitive Christian custom supposed that the event when Mary knew that she will give birth to a special child, Jesus, called the Annunciation was on March 25th – and thus still rejoiced currently on the 25th March. Nine months later the 25th March is the 25th December. March 25th was even the occasion few early Christians across the globe had made up, and even the day that Jesus passed away on when he was a grown person.
December 25th may have even been selected as the Winter Solstice and the early pagan Roman midwinter festivals known as ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ happened in December near this date – thus it was a period when individuals were previously celebrating events.
Origin of Christmas Tree
Simply as before Christians introduced Roman pagans by linking Christmas with the Saturnalia, so even followers of the Asheira sect and its branch members were selected by the Church giving sanctions to “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had worshipped trees in the forest since ages, or grown them in their homes and decorated them, and this ceremony was known and rejoiced with a Christian facade by the Church.
Do you know that the 1st decorated Christmas tree was placed or kept in Riga, Latvia in 1510? In Germany the first Christmas tree was decorated with apples, ginger bread, wafers and sweets. Different types of trees are used in different countries as Christmas tree and every time they are not fir trees. Like in New Zealand – the ‘Pohutakawa’ tree is used and consists of red flowers.
In 19th century, in Germany, first artificial Christmas trees were developed. Modern Artificial Christmas trees are made up of PVC and that too in China. Amazing is that real Christmas trees helps in removing dust and pollen from the air.
How is it Celebrated?
Christmas is a celebration that is filled with delight, cheerfulness and worship in the life of people. On this occasion, people go to church, sing carols, participate in different religious services, swap presents, beautify their homes with holly, mistletoe, lights, flowers and Christmas trees and conduct family get-togethers. On the Christmas Eve, churches across the globe perform evening services. At midnight, many churches perform extraordinary candlelight services. Santa Claus is an admired personality in the Christmas event who distributes presents to the kids. People prepare several cakes and feasts, express their joy and happiness by singing Christmas carols i.e. songs and welcome the Lord. Kids or children used to celebrate this festival with full of joy and excited for the gifts which were given by the parents, friends, family members and also wait for Santa Claus eagerly.
So, now you may have come to know about Christmas Day, its history and how it is celebrated across the globe.