Christmas is celebrated on December 25 every year across the world with utmost fun and enthusiasm. Read on to learn the history of Christmas, its significance, and the celebration of the day.
The most significant holiday for Christians worldwide is Christmas, which is observed in remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they see as the Son of God. People celebrate Christmas Day 2022 with their family, friends, and other relatives with joy and affection.
There are many traditions and interpretations of the festival and what is celebrated. The term “Christmas” comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A mass service, also called Communion or Eucharist sometimes, where Jesus died for his people and returned to life. This is why the 'Christ-Mass' is the only service that took place after dusk, i.e. sunset, and before sunrise the next day, so people had it at midnight. This is the way we got the name Christ-Mas which is Christmas.
Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, who is regarded as the creator and supreme spiritual authority of Christianity. One of the annual holy Christian holidays is observed to honour the birth of Jesus. Additionally, the day is observed as a global cultural holiday in several countries.
Why is Christmas celebrated on Dec 25th each year? Most people think it is celebrated as the birth date of Jesus Christ, but no one knows the real birth date of Jesus. The Bible has no date regarding the birth of Jesus. The early Christians had many arguments regarding the birth of Jesus.
The first recorded date of celebrating Christmas in the Roman Church was on December 25th in 336 AD, during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine. He was the first Christian Roman Emperor who had adopted Christianity as the effective religion of the empire. This was when Christmas started, and people started following the new religion.
Later in 529 AD, Pope Julius I declared Christmas a civic holiday and announced the date of December 25th to be the date to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth. However, there are many different traditions and arguments towards the background of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th.
According to a primitive Christian tradition, the day when Mary was informed that she would give birth to a special child, Jesus (called the Annunciation), was on March 25th. The Roman Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus estimated Jesus’s conception to this date, which, after 9 months, is December 25th. Hence, the day is celebrated as Christmas day.
However, March 25th was also the day some early Christians believed the world was created and even the date Jesus died when he was an adult.
December 25th also marked the celebration of “Winter Solstice” and the popular Roma festival called the “Saturnalia”.
Winter Solstice is considered the darkest day of the year, where there is a short time gap between the sun rising and sun setting that takes place on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. The pre-Christians/pagans celebrate this mid-winter festival to commemorate the sun winning over the darkness of winter. They lit bonfires and candles to keep the darkness away.
In Scandinavia and Northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule. In Eastern Europe, it is known as Koleda, while in Iranian/Persian culture, the day is known as Yalda night or Shab-e-Cheleh. People come together to eat, drink and recite poetry.
Saturnalia, the Roman festival, was celebrated between December 17 and 23. Saturn, their deity of agriculture, is honoured on this day. They celebrated the birth of Mithra, their sun god, on December 25.
So, when was Christmas first celebrated? It was in Rome on December 25, AD 336, by Roman Emperor Constantine.
As mentioned above, Christmas day was celebrated by pagan cultures as part of solstice celebrations where they decorated their homes in green with a desire to bring prosperity and spring. Those trees remain unaffected during winters and darkest days, so they were believed to hold special powers. The Romans also decorated their homes with Fir trees to celebrate Saturnalia and decorated them with embellishments. Some evidence also shows the Greeks decorating their trees in honour of their God.
Do you know that the first ever decorated Christmas tree took place in Riga, Latvia, in 1510? In Germany, people decorated the first Christmas tree with apples, wafers, and sweets. It was in the 19th century, the first artificial Christmas tree was developed.
Wait!! How did we get our Santa Claus? The origin of Santa Claus is based on the life of Saint Nicholas, a real-life, historical follower of Jesus Christ. St. Nicholas was born in Turkey around 280 AD and became a saint after giving away all his wealth to aid the poor and the needy. He is popularly known as the patron saint of children and is remembered on December 6th. On Christmas eve, Santa Claus distributes gifts to the kids. People eat cakes, feast, and express joy and happiness.
Xmas is another name for Christmas. But why? The Greek letter chi/X is the letter that resembles an X in the Greek alphabet. It is Christ's initial in the Greek alphabet. Christians utilised the letter X as a symbol to identify themselves as members of the historic Christian church. Because Christmas is a combination of “Christ” and “mas”, Xmas and Christmas imply the same thing in Greek.
Now you know a few facts about the history of Christmas. People celebrate this day with delight, cheerfulness and excitement. On the occasion, people go to church, sing carols, exchange gifts, decorate their homes in Christmas themes and enjoy family feasts together. Also, special meals are prepared out of potatoes, vegetables, turkey, gravy, etc. Additionally, people exchange greeting cards and gifts with friends and family.
One of the major attractions of Christmas day 2022 is the nativity play where people re-enact the nativity of Jesus. Giant Christmas trees are adorned with the traditional colours of the festivities in red, green, and gold. These colours signify various aspects associated with the life of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is celebrated as the festival in the Lutheran Church with a grand feast. It is very common on this day. On Christmas eve, many churches organize exceptional candlelight services.
Now, you know that there is a variety of traditions and beliefs behind the history of Christmas. People celebrate this day with utmost fun and excitement, especially kids, as they get gifts from their family and of course, Santa Claus, who has gained immense popularity in Christian festivities. Celebrate the day with your family and involve your kids in some Christmas art and crafts to make the day a little more interesting for them.
1. What was the original purpose of celebrating Christmas?
Ans: Christmas was traditionally celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ, but in the 20th century, it also became a sacred family holiday observed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
2. When did Christmas start, and who started it?
Ans: The first recorded Christmas celebration was held in Rome on December 25th, AD 336.
3. What is Santa's real name?
Ans: The character of Santa Claus is based on the life of Saint Nicholas, born in Turkey around 280 AD.