By -Aadya K.
Christmas or Feast of Nativity is an annual cultural festival which refers to Jesus Christ’s birthday. It is celebrated on the 25th of December. The auspicious day is not only celebrated by Christians but has evolved into a worldwide celebration for the non-Christians as well. We have all known this basic information regarding Christmas, but do we really know the facts, the rituals, and the significance of Christmas? Let us get to know about Christmas a little more.
WHAT IS THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS?
The word ‘Christmas’, also known as ‘X-mas’ means the Christian Mass. It is basically a Mass service where Christians recall that Jesus – the Son of God, died for them and came back to life. Christians believe that when Jesus came, he left the world with the gift of salvation. Marking the same, people celebrate the festival by spreading joy and love in various ways.
WHY 25TH DECEMBER IS CHRISTMAS?
If we go by Bible, it does not mention any date for Jesus Christ’s birthday. This induces the curiosity that why 25th December was chosen to mark the day. With many theories present to answer the same, the Roman connection seems to be true and satisfactory. In the early centuries, Saturnalia was a holiday in Romans in the honour of Saturn – The God of Agriculture. Romans also celebrated Juvenalia which was basically a feast for the children of Rome. Both the occasions were celebrated in December, around the time of winter solstice. In addition to these two celebrations, the upper-class members of Rome also celebrated the birth of the god of the unconquerable sun, Mithra, on 25th December. Also, it is said that the Virgin Mary was pregnant with the son of god and gave birth to Christ nine months later, during the winter solstice. So, the celebration spread around the world, from Rome to other Christian churches around the other parts of the world and Christians marked 25th December as Christ’s birthday.
THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS
According to the story that has been passed down several generations, an angel named Gabriel was sent by God to Mary – a woman who lived in Nazareth. She was a very kind- hearted person and thus gifted with the Son of God. She asked Mary to name the child Jesus Christ. The god had also gifted Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, with a baby, John who was supposed to help Jesus. Mary was engaged to Joseph but hadn’t got married yet, so the angel told Joseph as well about the miracle that was going to take place. Soo, both Mary and Joseph got married and went to Bethlehem, from where Joseph’s family came. They could not get a place to stay so, they decided to stay in a barn. Mary gave birth to Jesus in that barn only. The birth of the holy spirit was marked by a bright star in the sky which directed wise people, who understood the significance of the star, to reach Bethlehem. The occasion was cherished by singing carols.
TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS
Exchanging gifts are an integral part of celebrating Christmas. It is symbolic of the
presentation of the gift-giving to newly born Jesus by the Three Wise Men. It also
represents Christ’s gift of salvation to the world. Following the same idea, everyone
believes that this is the reason Santa Claus gives gifts to the good-hearted kids and coal as a punishment for the misbehaved ones.
2. CHRISTMAS TREE
Christmas trees during the festivities were first noticed in the early 17th century. This idea again comes from the pagan tree worship which involved sacrificing and decorating homes with greenery to ensure beneficial harvest the coming year. It also symbolises Christ as the Tree of Life amongst Christians. Since the festival is celebrated during the winter solstice, thus fir trees are famous as Christmas trees.
With growing time, artificial fir trees are made available for the decoration. Moreover, the trees are decorated with various sorts of ornaments and are adorned with gifts and present placed beneath.
3. CHRISTMAS CARDS
Sending best wishes and exchanging joy and merry is the basic ritual and tradition followed on Christmas. Continuing the same, Christmas cards emerged as a different means to wish someone. The idea got popular with the advancement in printing process which made the cards more accessible and affordable. The first Christmas card was made in 1843 with the newly launched penny-postal system in Britain.
Mistletoe is on top of all the evergreen traditions associated with Christmas. It is basically a pledge of peace, love, and friendship. Homes of the Christian families are decorated using mistletoe along with several other ornaments.
Bells are said to be the purifying element in surroundings. In early times, Christmas bells were believed to be a means of driving away evil spirits or any form of egativity. The idea originates from the pagan culture. With the evolution and advancement coming along, Christmas bells also symbolised rejoice and goodwill.
Christmas carols were not originally a tradition of Christmas festivities. They were found synonymous with Christmas hymns and thus the idea of carolling emerged by the 19th century. And now, it has become an integral part much so, that Christmas is the only festival for which carols have been written. A few of the famous carols that have been written are Jingle Bells, Silent Night, etc.
Candles are a symbol of light which vanishes the dark. Following the same ideology,
candles are lit on Christmas to depict merry, joy and goodwill. The Christian community also considers a lit candle as a symbol of Jesus as the light for the world. Candles are thus lit everywhere on Christmas. In modern times, fairy lights have replaced candles, but the idea remains the same which is to drive away from the darkness of evil from the world.
WHO IS SANTA CLAUS?
We all have heard a lot about Santa, but do we really know the story behind, of how he emerged as an important tradition of Christmas and about who he really was.
Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, also known as Father Christmas, is a legendary figure in Christian culture. He is the person who is said to bring gifts on the eve of Christmas. The character of Santa is based on traditions revolving around Saint Nicholas who was a Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra in the 4th century. Santa Claus is the western version of Sant Nicholas while ‘ Father Christmas’ is the British version and ‘Sinterklaas’ is the Dutch one. All of them are basically modern figures of Saint Nicholas only.
SANTA CLAUS ON CHRISTMAS
Santa Claus, an important figure when Christmas is talked about. He is one of the most important and significant characters in Christians. Not only Christians, but the non-Christians are fond of Santa. He is depicted as a jolly, white-bearded plump man in a red coat with white fur cuffs and collars, red trousers with white fur and a black belt. We all have heard the story that Santa Claus comes on the eve of Christmas and brings gifts for the families of well-behaved kids and coal to the misbehaving ones. He is said to be living in the North Pole with his elves, who help him make the gifts so that they can be delivered on time. Children from different places traditionally leave something to eat or drink for the Santa when he arrives at their homes. For example, some keep a glass of milk with cookies while some keep sherry or beer with mince pies or even a bowl of rice porridge. The food offering depicts a grateful gesture towards Santa while providing a snack for him during the journey of the world.
TRUE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS
Christmas is all about self-denying and unconditional true love. The true meaning of
Christmas is to help others, to be kind to people and to bring joy and happiness in each other’s lives. It basically preaches the idea that every human being should act as a light in someone else’s darkness. A similar idea has been portrayed in various compositions like, in the poem ‘ A Visit from St. Nicholas’, in the novel ‘ A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, etc. In conclusion, Christmas is a festival which represents the strength of positivity and faith over dark and evil. It spreads joy and love amongst others and brings happiness in the lives of people even in the depressing time of cold winters. This festival not only brings everyone together as non-Christians also celebrate the festival along with the Christian community.