Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. In the Western world, the birthday of Jesus Christ has been celebrated on December 25th since AD 354, replacing an earlier date of January 6th.
Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child had been born. Over 4000 years ago, the Mesopotamians celebrated each New Year with a 12-day festival, called Zagmuth. The Mesopotamians, who believed in many gods, held this festival in support of their chief god, Marduk, because they believed that he battled the monsters of chaos at the beginning of each winter.
The ancient Romans held a celebration each year in honor of their god Saturn. The festival, which they called Saturnalia, began in the middle of December and lasted until the first of January.
New Christmas customs appeared in the Middle Ages. The most prominent contribution was the carol, which by the 14th century had become associated with the religious observance of the birth of Christ. The word carol or carole is a medieval word of French and Anglo-Norman origin, believed to mean a dance song or a circle dance accompanied by singing. Today carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services. Some compositions have words which are clearly not of a religious theme, but are often still referred to as “carols”.
|Caren Carpenter – Jingle Bells|
The tradition of having an evergreen tree become a symbol of Christmas goes back past recorded written history. The Druids in ancient England and the Romans in Europe both used evergreen branches to decorate their homes and public buildings to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
In 16th century German`s fir trees were decorated with apples, roses, gilded candies and colored paper. Over the years, these traditions were adopted by Christians, who incorporated them as part of their Christmas holiday celebration.
“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall” – Larry Wilde
|Elvis Presley – Silent Night|
Father Christmas (known as Santa Claus in North America, Australia and Ireland) is the name used in many English speaking countries for a symbolic figure associated with Christmas. A similar figure with the same name (in other languages) exists in several other countries, including France (Père Noël) Spain (Papá Noel), Portugal (Pai Natal), Italy (Babbo Natale), Romania (Moş Crăciun), Russia (Ded Moroz).
The American version of the Santa Claus figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York in the 17th century. The most influential figure in the shaping of today’s generous as loving Santa Claus was a real man St. Nicholas of Myra (now Turkey), a fourth century bishop. He was rich and very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.
In one of the most well-known legends, Saint Nicholas is said to have thrown three bags of gold coins down the chimney of a poor man who couldn’t afford the dowry for his three daughters. Without the dowry, they would remain unmarried and unemployed, and would probably be forced into a life of prostitution. In another version of the story, the bags of coins fell into stockings the girls had placed by the fire to dry. This is the basis for the modern tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace, and also the tradition of leaving oranges in the toe of Christmas stockings.
|OH HOLY NIGHT|
The custom of sending Christmas cards started in the U.K. in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who was very interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’ and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people. Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards and with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist, they designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. Nowadays, cards have all sorts of pictures on them: jokes, winter pictures, Father Christmas, or romantic scenes of life in past times.
The practice of giving gifts at the beginning of winter traces back to ancient Rome during the feast of Kalends. High ranking officials were expected to give gifts to the Emperor since the Winter Solstice celebrated the birth of the Sun God, to whom the emperor was directly related. Originally, these gifts had taken the form of branches of evergreen taken from the grove of the goddess Strenia; but Caligula was not very keen on olive branches. So, the Roman dignitaries began to give gifts of honey and cakes as symbols of their wish that the New Year might be full of sweetness, and gold that it might bring prosperity.
|Frank Sinatra – Let it snow|