The festival of Christmas or the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ is celebrated with great cheer and enthusiasm all over the world Christians. It falls on Dec 25 and commemorates the birth of Lord Jesus Christ which s celebrated with faith, joy and enthusiasm. On this day people in their clothes attend special services of mid-night which continues till the new years day .The celebrations starts on the christmasol eve with carol singing ,visiting friends and relation till ate in by the night. On the final day, a Mid Night Mass followed by the ringing of the church bells, ushers in the Christian saint day of Christmas.
In big cities and towns, processions are taken out with tableaus depicting the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and other saints. Christians beautifully decorate their houses by erecting Christmas trees and exchange greetings around it. Exchanging cards has also become a very important part of the festivities. Besides markets are flooded with a lot of decorative items on the day. The significance of the Christmas star can be found in the story related to the birth of Jesus Christ.
History and OriginThe exact origin behind Christmas is much debated even today. But however every year the 25th of December is celebrated as Christmas which literally means the Mass of Christ. Even from very early days the 25th of December remains as a holiday in almost all the countries. Most of the Christian churches around the world including Eastern Rite, Roman & Protestant celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December which was fixed and confirmed by a Roman bishop. This practice of nativity is being followed right from the third century A.D.There was slight confusion for the Eastern Orthodox churches for they were having problem in following either of calendars.
By the end of the 4th century almost all the Eastern churches adopted the 25th of December to celebrate Christmas.25th of December also celebrates the birthday of Mithra who is the Iranian god of light. A pagan festival known as Saturnalia is celebrated from 17th to 24th of December in Rome. Thus to oppose and mitigate the effects of these festivals by contrary action Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December which reflects the power, glory and salvation of Jesus Christ.Inspite of controversies this festival has absorbed various customs and traditions and the people across the globe celebrate it happily.
Legends of Christmas
The Candy CaneThe shepherds play a major role in Christmas for it was them who were the first to experience the first Christmas. Thus the candy cane in Christianity represents the shepher's crook and each colour has a different meaning. The white stripe represents the symbol of purity, followed by the wide red stripe represents the sacrifice of Christ and finally the narrow red stripes represent our own sacrifices.
The Christmas treeThe idea of Christmas tree first came up in Germany during the 16th century and the people used to decorate a fir tree with roses, apples and shining papers. The legend behind the lighting of the Christmas tree with candles came up with Martin Luther. One winter night when he was coming back home he was fascinated by the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. From then onwards he duplicated the starlight with candles and the practice of decorating a Christmas tree both inside and outside the house came up. Only after the 19th century the practice of Christmas tree came in Britain and to America it was brought here by Pennsylvania Germans in the 1820's.
Santa ClausSanta Claus comes from a young pastor named Nicholas who was known for his generosity and love to the poor and children. He cared a lot for those people who were really in need. Thus Nicholas who didn't wanted any glory and recognition for himself got him dressed with a mask and went secretly, during the night, to the homes of poor families and gave them gifts and money in the name of Jesus.
Holly LeafThe holly leaves and berries from the holly bush are widely used in holiday decorations. The sharp pointy edges of the holly leaf remind us of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore upon his brow. The red berries remind us of the blood that Jesus shed.
MistletoeThe other legend associated with Christmas is the kissing underneath the mistletoe. The story says that once Balder, son of the Scandinavian goddess Frigga was aimed and shot with an arrow made by mistletoe. The mother of Balder cried very badly and the tears which came out from the mother's eyes is said to have become the white berries on the mistletoe. But however Balder was saved and Frigga ordered that from then onwards the mistletoe should never be used kill others but instead it should remain as a sign of love and so anybody passing under the tree should express their kindness and love by kissing everyone who passed under it.
Christmas CarolsChristmas Carols started centuries ago where carol actually means a group dance accompanied by a joyful song, which soon became to denote the song itself. Thus Christmas is singing songs in melody and joy where it sings the happiest news that men have ever heard.
Customs and traditionsThe customs and tradition of Christmas varies from each place to place and it is believed that St. Thomas the Apostle brought Christianity to India. Generally during Christmas the fir trees are generally decorated within the house. In some of the country as a tradition people small clay oil-burning lamps and keep it on the edge of the walls. Apart from houses and the churches are mainly illuminated with lights and candles along with poinsettias decoration.Atleast a week ahead of the eve of Christmas children go around the town singing carols.
It's a tradition to attend midnight mass with new appearance to bring Christmas spirit in families and communities. Also in some part of the country as a part of a custom and celebration the people enjoy by lighting fire crackers.Inspite of many bakeries most of the Christians bake a special Christmas cake on the eve of the festival. Apart from this various traditions such as arrival of Santa Claus, display of nativity scenes, Christmas trees and exchange of gifts and cards are followed.
Christmas celebrationMuch before Christmas the market places, churches and the Christian houses are adorned and illuminated with lights and stars. The people prepare sweets and cakes which they distribute among friends and families. People attend the midnight mass on the eve of Christmas and light candles in the church. They also sing the Christmas carols with joy. Christmas tree and the stars are also part of the celebration where they buy the artificial trees got from the market or some might even have their own natural tree in their own premises which is decorated with colorful ribbons, blinking lights, and stars and sparkled balls. Even before a month from the celebration of Christmas one can see brightly illuminated star in front of the houses.
Exchanging gifts and cards is an important part of Christmas festival. Also in some part of the country the people celebrate it with crackers and fireworks. Santa Clauses in all shapes and sizes but duly attired in their large red dresses and snow white beards give out sweets to children from street corners, shops and even schools.Ofcourse celebration never goes without new costumes and attires. This day is declared as a government holiday. This is a major celebration for all the people who have a strong faith in Christianity for it are also celebrated with great enthusiasm even among the non Christians across the world. Caroling, feasting, and gift-giving along with the prayers and wishes. The customs and traditions of Christmas celebration may vary but the spirit remains the same everywhere.