Ok it’s Christmas season so that means time for a few Christmas posts about Christmas. I will do more then one post about the history of Christmas so let us kick of Christmas posts with this one.
Christmas is celebrated in many parts of the world on 25 December. Protestant and Roman Catholic churches hold Christmas Day services on 25 December. The Eastern churches – the Ethiopian Orthodox church, Russian Orthodox church and the Armenian church – celebrate Christmas on 6 or 7 January. There have been rituals, parties and celebrations at this time of year for thousands of years
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is ‘the son of God’, the Messiah sent from Heaven to save the world.
The ‘Christmas story’ tells of the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, the angels announcing the birth to the shepherds in the fields, and the Magi (wise men from the East) visiting the stable and offering gifts to the newborn child.
A Roman almanac confirms that 25 December was used to celebrate Christmas in 336 AD, although it was nearly 600 years later that the churches created a liturgy – a service for public worship – for the occasion.
The choice of date is believed to have been influenced by the northern hemisphere winter solstice, as well as ancient pagan rituals that coincided with the solstice. These rituals included the Halcyon Days in Greece, a period of calm and goodwill when it was believed the sea was calm for birds to lay their eggs; and the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, a celebration of the god Saturn, which involved wild parties, the exchange of gifts and the temporary suspension of social divisions between slaves and masters.
Christmas trees are part of a long tradition of greenery being taken into the home at Christmas to brighten the dreary winter. Mistletoe was popular with Druid priests because it remained green throughout winter. Holly placed over the doorway was believed to drive away evil. Placing branches from trees in the home was first recorded in 1494, and by the beginning of the 1600s there are records of fir trees being decorated with apples.
The story of Santa Claus has its origins in the legends surrounding the humble generosity of Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is celebrated on 6th December. Saint Nicholas was a 4th century Christian Bishop from Myra (in modern-day Turkey) who became the Patron Saint of Children. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed up as bishops begging alms for the poor. Later, the Christ child ‘Christkindlein’ was said to have accompanied Nicholas-like figures on their travels. The 1822 poem ‘Twas the Night before Christmas forged the link and Saint Nicholas (Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Christ Kind, Kriss Kringle or Sinter Klass) became known as Santa Claus.