What is the meaning of Christmas?
The word Christmas is derived from two words Christ and Mass. The word Christ comes from old English word Crist which mean “anointed one” which means nominated or chosen as successor, “the Lord’s Anointed”. The word mas evolved from the old English word “maesse” which means festival, feast day or mass.
So Most of the Christians believe that “Christmas” means the festival and celebration of the Jesus Christ’s (Who is the son of God) birthday, which is celebrated on 25 December each year in the whole world.
History of Christmas:
There is a different festival in different religions and nation that become the base of Christmas origin.
1: Winter Solstice that happens on December 21st and 22nd, it is time when there is the shortest period between sun rising and set setting. The Roman pagan celebrated this festival because they thought it to end of winter and start of spring. Some part of northern Europe and Scandinavia Winter Solstice is also known as Yule.
2: Saturnalia (a holiday in the honor of Saturn (the god of agriculture) was celebrated December 17-25. This festival began when Romans chose a person who is enemy of Roman people and represented him as “Lord of Misrule”. Each community of Roman selected a victim whom they served whole week with food and physical pleasure and at end of the festival on 25 December murdered him brutally as they believed they were destroying the forces of darkness.
3: In the 4th century decided to institute the birthday of Jesus as a holiday. So 25th December is chosen by Pope Julius I in an effort to adopt and absorb the pagan Saturnalia festival. The Christians adopted Saturnalia as hoping to covert Roman pagan toward Christianity. They converted many of pagans by promising to continue the celebration of Saturnalia.
4: “Ḥanukka” the Jewish festival also called the festival of candles and lights is celebrated Kislev 25( According to Gregorian calendar comes in December) and celebration remains for eight days. It commemorated when Jewish people rededicated and worshiped in their temple Jerusalem. Because they were not allowed to follow their religion for many years. Because Jesus was a jew so this could be a reason church choose 25th December as Jesus birthday.
5: Today in Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches the Christmas is celebrated on 6th December, they also celebrated Epiphany or Three Kings Day (Three wise men who visited and gave gifts to Jesus).
6: In the Western world the celebration of Christmas spread in the next several centuries. Bible does not mention the exact date of Jesus birth, so Jesus born on 25 December? Probably not. Most Christians still continue to celebrate Epiphany or Easter as most important days. In the past the Puritans of colonial New England even banned the celebration of Christmas as an offering of gifts and decorating trees they linked with paganism. In the early days of United state celebration of Christmas was considered as British Custom. It has not become a federal holiday until 1870.
Facts about Christmas:
Gift giving on Christmas:
The gift-giving tradition is associated with paganism. Gift giving was the custom on the festival of Saturnalia. Another association of gift giving is from Magi (Three wise men ) who gave the gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.
Santa Claus on Christmas:
In the middle age Santa Claus (a jolly stout man wearing a white and red suit) became the part of Christmas traditions. The character of Santa Clause is inspired by a Christian bishop St. Nicholas lived in Turkey in the 4th century. He had inherited wealth and famous for helping the poor children and gave them gifts.
Milk and cookies for Santa:
Dutch kids on feast day would leave food and drink for St. Nicholas. So now Christians leave milk and cookies for Santa Clause.
Carrots for Santa horse: Norse children left hay and treat for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir with the hope God would stop their home during his Yule hunting adventure. So Christians left carrots for Santa Claus reindeer.
The pagan and Christians used the evergreen fir tree to celebrate the winter festival for thousands of years. In the festival of Saturnalia, the pagans decorated their temples with Fir trees. Christians used the Fir tree as a symbol everlasting life with God.
Lights on Christmas tree:
Lights is a symbol of good and hope in the world. It also reminds the good Christians to provide light to others. In the 18th century, people decorated it with candles and later and now it is decorating with electric lights.
Jingle Bells song:
Jingle Bells is a famous song in the world especially on the occasion of the Christmas. It was originally titled The One Horse Open Sleigh. It was meant for Thanksgiving program at a church in Savannah, Georgia where Pierpont was an organist. The song was very much liked that it again was sung at the time of Christmas that it became the popular song of Christmas.
Gingerbread cookies have importance on Christmas. It history associated with Queen Victoria, and her German-born husband Prince Albert who brought it in vogue and include it with other German Christmas traditions.
Orange in the stocking:
This tradition is associated with St. Nicholas who helped the poor man who had three daughters and could not afford the dowry. St. Nicholas tossed the gold bag down the man’s chimney, where it is ended up in daughter socks, which were drying by the fire. Later people honor the act by gifting oranges instead of gold.
Wreath at Christmas:
It is a headdress made from leaves, flower, and branches. Wreaths originally come from pagan rituals where it is associated with fertility and changing seasons. In Christianity, it represents an unending circle of life and evergreen tree flowers and branches are used that represent that symbolizes growth and everlasting life.