Christmas, or Xmas, as it is often known, is a widely observed holiday. It is observed every year on the 25th of December to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. The name literally means “Christ’s Day Mass.” Exchanging presents, viewing a nativity play, completing an advent calendar or wreathe, decorating a Christmas tree, and singing songs are all traditions across the world. Christmas has a long history since it has been celebrated for millennia.
- Before Christmas, the pagans celebrated midwinter festivals
Many societies throughout the world celebrated the middle of winter for centuries before the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth. It was also a time for pagans to celebrate the winter solstice. Yule, a holiday honouring the wild hunt, the deity Odin, and the Pagan Anglo-Saxon Mdraniht, was held yearly on December 21 for Germanic tribes and Norse people. The pagans had yule log, yule feast, and yule singing, which were similar to the contemporary Christmas rituals.
- The ancient Roman festival Saturnalia
Saturnalia was a celebration held in honour of the deity Saturn by the Ancient Romans. The event began one week before the winter solstice and lasted for the entire month. The winter solstice, according to the Roman calendar, occurred on December 25th. The festival’s role reversal was a highlight. The servants behaved as masters in this situation, allowing them to speak freely without fear of punishment. Additionally, the Romans followed the gift-giving custom.
- Why is Christmas celebrated on the 25th of December?
Contrary to common perception, the birth of Jesus was not commemorated throughout the first three centuries of Christianity’s existence. Epiphany, on January 6, and Easter were the two most important religious holidays. The first reference of December 25th as Christ’s birthday is in a 336 A.D. Roman calendar.
Is it true, however, that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th? The answer is probably not, because there is no such proof. The nativity tale, like the Holy Bible, does not disclose his birthdate. The church administrators chose this date around the end of the third century, most likely to correspond with existing pagan festivities like Saturnalia. Another reason the Western church chose this date is that they ‘recognised’ March 25 as the date of Jesus’ Immaculate Conception in Mary’s womb, and thus December 25 as the date of his birth, which is 9 months later.
- The origin of Christmas eve
The day before Christmas is known as Christmas Eve. In the evenings, several churches ring bells and sing prayers and carols. In addition, because Jesus was born at night, churches celebrate his birth with a Midnight Mass. Another reason for celebrating the evening before the big day is because in ancient Israel, a day began at 6 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m. the next day.
The term ‘Christmas’ was first used in the 16th century. The letter ‘X’ derives from the Greek letter ‘chi,’ which is the first letter of the word X, which means Christ. As a result, Xmas became a widely accepted abbreviation for Christmas.
- During the High Middle Ages, Christmas became quite popular, and aristocrats celebrated it with lavish feasts. King Richard II of England reportedly held a feast that included the consumption of 28 oxen and 300 sheep!
- The event centred upon mischief, drinking, promiscuity, and gambling throughout the Middle Ages. A peasant would be crowned ‘lord of misrule’ under the’misrule’ custom. As a result, he presided over the ‘feast of fools,’ in which excited guests acted as his subjects.
- Christmas was once banned!
Christmas quickly became synonymous with inebriation and disorderly behaviour. As a result, throughout the 17th century, the Puritans outlawed it. However, once King Charles II was restored to the throne, the restriction was abolished.
New England pilgrims held the same ideas as the Puritans. As a result, Christmas in early America was not a holiday. From 1659 until 1681, they even made it illegal to celebrate it in Boston.
- Christmas fell out of favour after the American Revolution since it was deemed an English tradition, and it wasn’t until June 26, 1870 that it was recognised a federal holiday.
- Americans celebrated Christmas by adapting and upgrading immigrant Christmas traditions. They created their own Christmas tradition throughout the years, with practises like decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.
- The origin of Santa Claus
For all youngsters, Santa Claus is an adored character. He brings presents, but do you know where he came from? Santa Claus is based on a Christian monk named St. Nicholas, who lived around 280 A.D. in Myra, Turkey. He was a patron saint for many individuals and was known for bringing gifts and protecting youngsters. Saints like Nicholas fell out of favour in most of Northern Europe following the Reformation in the 1500s, but the Dutch colonies refused to remove the image of St. Nicholas as a gift-bearer. As a result, when Dutch immigrants arrived in the United States, they took Sinterklaas with them.
St. Nicholas was initially depicted as a pipe-smoking figure who flew over rooftops in a cart and brought presents to good boys and girls in Washington Irving’s 1809 Knickerbocker’s History of New York. Santa’s depiction as a guy clad in a red and white coat with fur trim who rode from the North Pole in a reindeer-driven sleigh didn’t become established until the late 19th century.
- The Christmas tree is a German invention.
The evergreen fir tree is used as a Christmas tree. Long before Christianity, evergreen trees and flora were included in winter celebrations. During the winter solstice, the Romans, for example, utilised evergreen trees to adorn their temples, as they symbolised fresh life and fertility.
Many Christians in Germany took trees inside their houses and decorated them with gingerbread, nuts, and apples, giving birth to the contemporary Christmas tree. The habit grew common in European royal courts and noble residences during the nineteenth century. The Christmas tree tradition expanded around the world when Germans emigrated.
- Christmas’ official colours are red, green, and gold. The colour red represents the blood of Jesus Christ. Green represents eternal life, whereas gold is linked with one of the magi’s three gifts.
- One of the oldest Christmastime tradition- the nativity play