Christmas, also known as the 'Feast day of Christ', is celebrated on December 25 every year. The day marks the birthday of Jesus Christ.
This festival is celebrated across the globe as a religious holiday, and as a time of celebration by Christians. It is also celebrated by non-Christians as a seasonal holiday. All schools, colleges, universities, offices and other government and non-governmental organisations remain closed on this day.
The season of preparations for Christmas is known as 'Advent', and starts on a Sunday about four weeks before the festival.
Why is Christmas celebrated?
Christmas Day is celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of Christianity.
How was December 25th chosen for Christmas?
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. However, the Bible does not mention the date for his birth. According to some historians, Jesus may have been born in the spring. Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival (a holiday in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture). First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century.
Etymology of Christmas
The word Christmas is derived from two English words, 'Christ' and 'Mass' in which ‘Christ’ means ‘Christian’ and ‘mass’ means ‘people’.
How is Christmas celebrated?
Christmas is a sacred religious holiday and also a worldwide commercial and cultural phenomenon. People around the world have been observing it with practices and traditions that are both secular and religious in nature. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
The festivity begins with decoration of Churches, brightly-lit pine trees, colourful lights and singing of carols to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The markets glisten with strings of lights, stockings, tree toppers, glass balls, garlands and several other attractive goods.
Many Christians celebrate Christmas by attending churches, and with prayers and singing. Bible readings from the Gospels and skits narrate the story of the birth of Jesus.
On this day, Christian people decorate their houses, streets, offices and churches with colorful lights, and make it joyful as this festival is the day of merrymaking and joy.
People wish each other ‘Merry Christmas’ as a gesture on this occasion. In the churches and abbeys, people sing special Christmas carols, and the plum cake remains as the main attraction of this festival.
On Christmas, there is a tradition of gifting sweets, greeting cards, chocolates, Christmas trees, decorative things, etc. to family members, friends, neighbours and relatives.
How is Christmas eve celebrated?
The evening of December 24 is called Christmas eve or Christmas evening. The evening comprises family gatherings and the midnight mass at church just before celebrations for the birthday of Jesus Christ begin. The midnight mass is considered to be the most important Church service of the Christmas season across many traditions. Christmas Eve is the day when gifts are exchanged between people. In several parts of the globe, Christmas Eve is seen as the day when people buy their Christmas trees, which are then decorated in time for Christmas Day.
Carol singing is a major part of mid-night masses on Christmas Eve. People spend days practicing for the evening. The carol is part of the Midnight Mass Communion Service on December 24 night. Christmas Carols are not just organized in Churches, but people in certain countries call for groups of singers who then sing carols from door to door, or at public gatherings.
Origins of Santa Claus?
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 AD. St Nicholas gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick, becoming known as the protector of children and sailors.
St Nicholas first entered American popular culture in the late 18th century in New York, when Dutch families gathered to honor the anniversary of the death of “Sint Nikolaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas), or “Sinter Klaas” for short. “Santa Claus” draws his name from this abbreviation.
There is an age-old tradition of distribution of gifts by Santa Claus to children on Christmas night. It is believed that Santa or Father Christmas would come to every house at night and give gifts. Children write their wishes and put it in stockings and hang it out in hopes that Santa would fulfil their wishes.