Although a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated by many non-Christians, Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards,church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, Father Christmas (or Santa Claus) is a popular folklore figure in many countries, associated with the bringing of gifts for children.
CHRISTMAS or Christmas Day is a holiday observed on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. Christmas meaning “Christ’s Mass” is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed holiday by 25 millions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.
Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in countries around the world, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian. In some non-Christian countries, periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration (e.g. Hong Kong); in others, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the holiday. Countries such as Japan, where Christmas is popular despite there being only a small number of Christians, have adopted many of the secular aspects of Christmas, such as gift-giving, decorations and Christmas trees.
Countries in which Christmas is not a formal public holiday include China, (excepting Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Thailand, Iran, Turkey and North Korea. Christmas celebrations around the world can vary markedly in form, reflecting differing cultural and national traditions.
Among countries with a strong Christian tradition, a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed that incorporate regional and local cultures. For Christians, participating in a religious service plays an important part in the recognition of the season. Christmas, along with Easter, is the period of highest annual church attendance.
In Catholic countries, people hold religious processions or parades in the days preceding Christmas. In other countries, secular processions or parades featuring Santa Claus and other seasonal figures are often held. Family reunions and the exchange of gifts are a widespread feature of the season. Gift giving takes place on Christmas Day in most countries. Others practice gift giving on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, and January 6, Epiphany.
Birth of Jesus
Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary as a fulfillment of the Old Testament’s Messianic prophecy. These biblical accounts are found in the Gospel of Matthew, namely Matthew 1:18, and the Gospel of Luke, specifically Luke 1:26 and 2:40. According to these accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem.
According to popular tradition, the birth took place in a stable, surrounded by farm animals. Popular tradition also holds that three kings or wise men (named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar) visited the infant Jesus, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the young child Jesus. The visitors were said to be following a mysterious star, commonly known as the Star of Bethlehem, believing it to announce the birth of a king of the Jews. The commemoration of this visit, the Feast of Epiphany celebrated on January 6, is the formal end of the Christmas season in some churches.
Usually Christmas is the festival that brings every family member together at home or a common place as everybody loves to enjoy the holidays in their native places or residence bounded by all of the associates and family members.
Christians celebrate Christmas in various ways. In addition to this day being one of the most important and popular for the attendance of church services.
The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas started in London since 15th Century and The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century.
The traditional colors of Christmas are green and red. White, silver and gold are also popular. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter.
The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.
In the early 20th century, electricity brought a revolution in Christmas tree decoration. Electrical Christmas lights grew more and more popular every year and now most communities throughout the US feature public displays of Christmas trees. The President of the United States now lights the National Christmas Tree every year in Washington as an indication of the beginning of Christmas celebrations. The huge lighted tree at Rockfeller Center in New York is quite a spectacle and skaters spinning beneath it look like angels. Christmas Tree has now gained popularity all over the world and choosing the right Christmas tree and its ornaments, placing gifts beneath it and opening them at midnight is all now part and parcel of Christmas fun and revelry.
The astronomical/astrological phenomenon that triggered the journey of the Magi to find and give presents to the Christ child, Jesus. Perhaps a supernova, a conjunction of planets, or a miracle which occurred around 7 BC, the most probably birth year of Christ. Often placed at the top of the Christmas tree.
A song, generally of religious joy. The earliest known Christmas songs date from the 4th century; “Jesus refulsit omnium by St. Hilary of Poitiers” is the oldest. Songs were created in the Catholic Church and many other places. Early songs were religious and in latin. Music by Handel and Mendelssohn was adapted and used as Christmas carols. The most famous of all, Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was written by the Austrian parish priest Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Gruber, church organist, in 1818.
Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty-five ” caroles of Cristemas”The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal folk songs sung during celebrations such as “harvest tide” as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols begun to be sung in church.
The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world.
Gift giving was common in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, an ancient festival which took place in late December and may have influenced Christmas customs. On Christmas, Christians exchange gifts on the basis that the tradition is associated St. Nicholas with Christmas, and that gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were given to the infant Jesus by the Biblical Magi.
Gift Giving Figure
Santa Claus is one of the favorite personality for kids in Christmas season. Every kid wait Santa Claus because he gave them gifts and sweets.
A Christian saint, whose model life inspires compassion and charity, who cared for the needy & loved children.
Santa Claus: The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts.
Stories about St. Nicholas were first told while he was living, as sailors already claimed him as their patron saint. Sailing to different ports and along rivers, they carried Nicholas stories throughout Europe. As stories were told and retold, imaginative and sometimes miraculous details were added—details which vary in different accounts of the same episode. Only a unique and special person inspires such a rich legacy.
These stories reveal St. Nicholas’ character; the story of a man who embodied love—love for God and care for people. He was ready to help in any way—truly loving neighbor as himself. The stories reveal a man, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, who is a worthy example.
There are many legends of St. Nicholas, but this is the most famous legend and it includes elements of today’s Santa:
A nobleman who lived with his three daughters had fallen on hard times. The daughters had no chance of marriage, since their father could not pay their dowries.
One night, St. Nicholas threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman’s shabby castle, which was enough for one daughter’s marriage. The next night, he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter.
But on the third night, the window was closed. So, St. Nicholas climbed onto the roof and dropped the sack down the chimney. The next morning, the daughters found the gold in the stockings they had hung to dry by the fireplace.
Hence leaving the stockings out for Santa Claus.
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- Christmas Tree
- Christmas Tree at Rockfeller Centre
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