What is Christmas all about?
Well it is getting closer to that time of year again, the season of giving. However, do we actually know what Christmas is all about. Admittedly there are probably a few people in the world who are not at least aware of Christmas or even the holiday season. What is Christmas all about?
Christmas, as we know it today, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which happened over 2000 years ago. The actual term “Christmas” translates to “Mass Of Christ”. The actual celebration of Christmas did not start right away, in fact it took quite a while for people to being celebrating it.
Many people believe that the traditions of what we know as Christmas actually began way before the birth of Christ. Exchanging gifts, decorating trees, and the burning of the Yule log were all winter traditions that began before Christ was born. Over the years these winter traditions were actually incorporated into what we now know as Christmas and the holiday season
The traditional 12 days of Christmas actually began over 4000 years ago. The Mesopotamians celebrated each new year with a 12-day festival, called Zagmuth. It is from this festival that the 12 days of Christmas is believed to have originated.
The ancient Romans held a celebration each year in honour of their god Saturn. The festival, which they called Saturnalia, began in the middle of December and lasted until the first of January. The Romans actually decorated their homes much like we do today. Using garlands, as well as trees upon which they hung candles. During the festival the citizens of Rome would visit each other’s homes and hold great feasts.
It is widely believed today that Jesus was not actually born on, or even close to, December 25th. Eventually, the Roman church became almost completely successful in making the December celebration only about the birth of Christ, replacing any celebrations that were in honour of pagan gods. Though the celebration of Christmas is basically based on the same belief today, it is not celebrated in exactly the same way in every country. Here in the UK one tradition we take part in during the Christmas season is “Boxing Day”. On Boxing Day, the boxes containing alms for the poor are opened at every church and the alms are distributed to the poor. Whether or not this is true, many of the Christmas songs that we sing along to and Christmas music that we hear today were written in 19th century England.
It is not possible to talk about the history of Christmas without mentioning Santa Claus. Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna, who lived in the 4th century A.D. in what is known today as Turkey, was a very wealthy and generous man, who especially loved children. He was known to throw gifts into the houses of poor children in order to brighten their spirits. He was later titled Saint Nicholas, and became the patron saint of children and seafarers. From his story evolved the legend of Santa Claus – the jolly man who brings gifts to children all over the world on Christmas Eve. In England he came to be known as Father Christmas.
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