Many people assume that Christmas was celebrated since Christ’s birth. Christmas was not established as a holiday or festival until many years after Christ’s death and birth. Multiple calendars have been used over the years to make it difficult to determine the exact date of Christ’s birthday. How did Christmas come to be celebrated today?
What Was The Beginning Of Christmas Celebrations?
The celebration of Christmas may be related to the Jewish Festival of Lights. This is when Jesus was born. Some associate it with Saturnalia in Rome, which celebrated the births of many Roman gods.
The Catholic Encyclopedia online states that Christmas, or “Mass of Christ”, was not among the earliest celebrations of Catholicism. Nevertheless, mass celebrations of Christ’s birth began to become an annual event in different places in the Holy Land around 200 AD. Most churches settled on December 25 for the annual celebration in the fourth century.
These masses were first held in different locations near and around the Holy Land. Some early masses featured dramatic depictions of Nativity. These dramatic events included hymns and carols as early as the fourth-century. St. Francis of Assisii presented the nativity as a crib or creche in 1223.
What Changed In Celebration?
Many of the traditions that were practiced during pagan holidays around January evolved into Christmas celebrations. These elements included gift giving, the inclusion of a Christmas Tree, greeting cards giving and receiving, and the Yule Log, which was based upon a tradition where a landlord provided wood to a tenant on the birth of a baby. Other elements such as decorations with holly and Santa Claus visits were inspired by other holidays and customs from different cultures.
Christmas was a big feast day that featured special foods that people couldn’t have during the rest of year. Other saints’ holidays, like Saint Lucia’s Day, in Sweden, became synonymous with Christmas holidays.
Christmas Tree, Oh!
The Christmas tree was probably inspired by pagan symbols and became a symbol for everlasting life and hope in North America and Europe. It was decorated with lights (initially candles) to remind us of the outdoors and became an integral part of Christmas celebrations. Gifts used to be hung on the tree but they now have the honor of being under the tree. The evergreen symbol of eternal life, the holly tree is also associated with Jesus’ crown of thorns. Holly is an essential component of many Christmas decorations.
Here Comes Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a tradition that has existed in some form since the fourth century. Santa Claus, Old St. Nick and all the other Christmas incarnations are based upon St. Nicholas, who is the patron saint for children and sailors. The Dutch settlers who arrived in the New World brought with them their belief of St. Nicholas, and they would give small gifts to their children on December 25th. This tradition was passed on to the present day, when Santa Claus became a big-bellied and bearded Santa Claus.
Not everyone was in the Christmas spirit during the period of western settlement. Puritans believed that Christmas celebrations were too deeply rooted in paganism and outlawed all Christmas-related traditions and practices between 659 and 1681. The Puritan Christmas celebration was finally made public. It was a strictly religious celebration that had no bells or whistles.
Christmas Is Being Commercialized
How did Christmas begin? History reveals that Christmas began as a religious festival. Over time, elements from pagan festivals were incorporated into Christmas celebrations. Christmas was a time when families could come together to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Food, drink, decorations, as well as an appreciation for winter’s role in the renewal of spring, were all part of religious activities.
The celebration of Christmas is still celebrated all over the globe. Even countries such as Japan have adopted it, even though the majority of their population is not Christian. The commercialization of Christmas is also evident. Merchants rely on Christmas to make a large portion of their annual profits. Children expect more than just a few gifts from Santa Claus. They also expect to be given a lot of expensive gifts every year. Adults feel under financial pressure and will work hard to make their family’s Christmas memorable with the best food, drink and decorations. It is difficult to simplify Christmas because of the dominant culture.
Keep The Tradition Alive
The way Christmas traditions are celebrated varies depending on where you live and the traditions that your family is committed to. Looking back at Christmas’ past shows that while the meaning and essence of the holiday will change, some key elements and the message will not. As long as Christmas is a tradition that is known by all families, it will continue to be a part of Christian homes and on the calendars.