Christmas is an annual holiday celebrated all over the world by many different types of people. Although it started off as a religious holiday, it has evolved into much more than that. Over the years, Christmas has been changed into more of a Hallmark Holiday, even though it was originally celebrated as a religious holiday.
The first Christmas was celebrated in 336 on December 25th, the date of Jesus’ supposed birth. It was celebrated in the Roman Empire during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later, the Pope at the time, Julius I, declared December 25th as the birth of Jesus. There are tons of reasons why people believe Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, but that list is so long it would probably take me hours to type.
The name “Christmas” comes from “Christ Mass.” Christ Mass was the church service that celebrated Jesus’ birth. Some people also refer to Christmas as “Xmas.” Many people believe it’s disrespectful to call it that, but it’s really not. Xmas comes from the Greek alphabet. In the Greek alphabet, the Greek letter letter chi (X) is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. If you pronounce it correctly, it comes out to be Christmas, not ex-mas.
Christmas has changed a lot from how it was originally celebrated. As many may know, it was originally a religious based holiday. According to a survey done by the History Channel, 9 out of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, but only half of those who celebrate it view it as a religious holiday. The biggest changes happened in the 19th century when the holiday was introduced to America. Over the next few years, new traditions started beginning like putting up Christmas trees, decorating for the holiday, Santa, and giving gifts to friends and family.
Although some of these things make the holiday the most marketed in the world, the traditions have their roots in things that don’t fall far from religious roots. Giving gifts is believed to come from Jesus’ birth. When Jesus was born, the three wise men brought him gifts. Also, if you already have some basic knowledge of the Christian religion, you may have heard of Saint Nicholas, who brought coins to poor people in the night. Speaking of St. Nick, that’s where Santa comes from!
Santa and Other Christmas Traditions:
Since Christmas is celebrated all over the world, there are obviously many names for the beloved Santa Claus. Santa has had many names over time. Some of these include Santa Claus, obviously, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, St. Nick, and Kris Kringle. Although there are dozens of different names, they’re all the same person. The legend of Santa Claus started with, as I said earlier, St. Nicholas. Santa is still believed my millions of kids today, but St. Nicholas doesn’t deliver the presents anymore. The following comment is only for people over the age of 18: I hate to break it to everyone, but Santa is sadly not real.
Now that we’re on a sad tone, let’s boost this back up to a happy Christmas vibe. Some other traditions and decorations people use on Christmas are trees, ornaments, poinsettias, candy canes, Advent, Christmas carols, the Nativity Scene, giving presents, and the Christmas pickle.
Christmas Trees and Ornaments- The tradition of Christmas trees started in Germany when Germans and christians brought decorated evergreen trees into their homes to decorate for the Christmas season. Other faiths would bring decorated tree branches into their homes to celebrate the spring that would be coming soon. Christmas trees are still put up to this day in tons of people’s houses. Besides the Christmas trees, you obviously need a way to decorate them. People tend to decorate their trees with ornaments. The ornaments tradition also brought on the tradition of the Christmas Pickle. The Christmas Pickle started in Germany. The ornament would be the last one hung on the tree, in a hidden spot, and the first child to find the hidden pickle would get an extra present. This is great example of cultural diffusion, since this tradition is now happening in America, too!
Poinsettias- Poinsettias are flowers native to southern Mexico. They were brought from Mexico to South Carolina during the 1830s. Poinsettias and Christmas are related because there’s an old story about a girl named Pepita who didn’t have anything to give to the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve services. She picked up a handful of poinsettias to give. The shape of the poinsettia flower are thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The blood of Christ is symbolized by the red leaves, and the white leaves represent his purity. To this day, people put poinsettias around their house to decorate for Christmas.
Candy Canes- The tradition of candy canes started in 1670 when a choirmaster was scared the children wouldn’t sit quietly during the nativity service. He gave them white sugar sticks to eat to keep them quiet. He made them in a “J” shape in honor of Jesus. Many years later, red stripes were added that were peppermint flavored. Just like the poinsettias, the white represents Jesus’ purity, and the red represents the blood shed when he hanged from the cross. Many years later, a company started manufacturing candy canes, and they soon became a huge Christmas tradition.
Christmas Carols- Christmas carols came from songs sung in Europe during the Winter Solstice at Pagan Winter Solstice festivals. The tradition was later taken over by Christians celebrating Christmas, replacing pagan songs with Christian ones. People would sing the songs at festivals celebrating Jesus’ birth and still do nowadays. People also sometimes sing carols door to door to raise money for charities or just for fun.
Advent- Advent is the period of four Sunday’s leading up to Christmas. Advent means “coming” in Latin, so it means that Jesus is coming into the world. Advent is one of the main things that keeps Christmas a religious holiday. Along with Advent, there are Advent calendars. Advent calendars have been used for years to countdown to Christmas. Some people even include little presents or pieces of chocolate in their calendars as treats for each day counting down to Christmas.
The Nativity Scene- The nativity scene is an exhibition of art objects or sculptures representing the birth of Jesus. Most nativity scenes include infant Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, along with shepherds and animals. Nativity scenes are used as decorations for the Christmas season to increase the worship of Christ. Saint Francis of Assisi created the first live nativity scene in 1223. Nativity scenes are displayed various places including homes, churches, malls, public buildings, festivals, and other places like that. The idea of placing the nativity scene various places has started a huge controversy across the world. Many people don’t think it’s appropriate to display the nativity scene in public places because it “pressures” people to believe in Christ.
Giving and Receiving Presents- Presents are given on Christmas as a reminder to the gifts given to Jesus from the Wise Men including frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Christmas is thought of as a gift from God when He blessed us with the gift of Jesus. People continue to gift presents to family and friends every year.
Christmas Celebrated in Different Countries:
Although the idea of Christmas is mostly the same in every country, most countries celebrate the holiday in different ways. All countries have different, strange traditions that they do every year, but two main differences across the world are when/where presents are opened and who delivers the presents. Unlike the USA and UK who believe in Santa Claus delivering presents every Christmas, children in Germany believe that the Christkind delivers the presents. In Spain they believe the Wise Men do, and In Italy they believe an old lady named Befana brings them. Besides just bringing the presents, different countries follow different times for when and where it’s appropriate to open presents. In many countries, like Italy, the US, and the UK, presents are often left in stockings and under the Christmas tree. The traditions of stockings came from St. Nick because he stuffed the coins into socks and hung them by the fireplace. In other places in Europe, presents are left in shoes put out for the children. Presents are opened at various times in various countries. They are opened ranging from December 5th to January 6th.
Overall, Christmas has its roots in Christian religions, and has become one of the most marketed holidays in the world. Christmas is celebrated multiple different ways all over the world, and has many traditions that go along with it. Although Christmas has been manipulated into what people think is just an excuse to give presents, it’s really about the gift of Christ. Christmas has evolved into a very family oriented holiday, and puts everyone in the mood for a holly jolly time.