Christmas is celebrated by people across the world on December 25, every year. The day marks the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the second of the Holy Trinity of Christianity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).
As the story goes, Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. Though there is no record that the birth actually took place on December 25, and that’s mainly because the Gregorian calendar didn’t exist back then. it was in 336 that Emperor Constantine, known as the first Christian Roman Emperor, declared December 25 as Christmas to celebrate Christ. A few years later, Pope Julius I declared that the day would mark the birth of Christ.
Over the centuries, Christmas has become one of the biggest festivals celebrated across the world – and thanks to pop culture and Marshall McLuhan’s global village – by not only followers of the Christian faith but by non-Christians as well. Celebrations start with Christmas Eve (December 24) and continue till Boxing Day (December 26). Much like Diwali in India, people usually prefer celebrating Christmas holidays with family and close friends. Religious people attend the midnight mass at their respective churches, and look forward to an elaborate Christmas feast on this day.
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Christmas carols and Santa Claus are two essential elements of Christmas that children especially look forward to. Church choirs sing iconic Christmas carols, and those dressed up as Santa Claus with their bags full of candies and goodies visit children around this time.
People exchange gifts with loved ones and friends, and they decorate their house with fairy lights and the entire family gets together to decorate huge Christmas trees. Some even recreate the setting of Jesus’ birth – using clay models of men and sheep to replicate the birth of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem – called a Nativity scene. People decorate their houses with heart-shaped ivy leaves, which symbolises Christ coming to earth. Red berries on the leaves represent the crown of thorns that adorned His head at the time of crucifixion. Most of the Christmas decorations comprise of the colours red, green, golden and white, and they represent crucial elements in Christ’s life. While red denotes the blood he shed, green denotes eternal life, golden denotes royalty (he was known as the Son of David, the king of Israel) and white denotes peace. Huge pine trees are decorated with colourful bells, fairies, candles, candies, stars and gift stockings.
The Christmas feast is a delicious spread that the entire family enjoys together. The traditional Christmas meal includes dishes like oven-roast turkey, gingerbread, roast chicken, mince pie, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding, eggnog, mash potatoes, Christmas cookies, mulled wine to name a few.
The birth of Christ is also described as Nativity of Jesus in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, in the Holy Bible. Christian theology has explained the nativity of Jesus as his incarnation as the second Adam, to undo the damage caused after the first man Adam disobeyed God. Different Christian congregations have different ways of commemorating the birth of Christ. While the churches of the Western tradition observe the season starting from four days before Christmas, Eastern Orthodox churches observe what is called the Nativity Fast for about 40 days until Christmas. Interestingly, Christmas for them falls on January 7, according to the Julian calendar that these churches have continued to follow. The modern day calendar that majority of the Christians follow today is the Gregorian Calendar.
According to the Holy Bible, the virgin Mother Mary was engaged to Joseph when she miraculously conceived through the Holy Spirit. She was foretold about this by an angel of God, who further said she will name the child Jesus and he will be known as the Messiah, or savior. The shepherds were the first to see the newborn, following whom, three kings from far away lands, guided by the star of David, visit the baby and offer him precious gifts.
The birth of Christ is an event of utmost importance to the Christian believers. It is believed that God had sent his Son on earth as a sacrifice to redeem the people of the world from their sins. This sacrifice denotes crucifixion of Christ, which many Christian congregations believe is the sacrifice He made so the rest of the world’s sins were forgiven.
Now, for many across the world – especially kids – Christmas is about Santa Claus coming with presents. The genesis of Santa is said to be from Saint Nicholas (Santa continues to be called St Nicola, etc., in many parts of Europe), the patron saint of children from around fourth century, who was known for his generosity and secret gift-giving habit.