Christmas Facts

History of Christmas

Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December and commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. The word Christmas is derived from the Old English word “Cristes maesse” which literally translates to Christ's Mass. Although no one knows for sure the exact date of Christ's birth, the date chosen to celebrate it is related to the Roman Saturnalia festival that lasted from the 17th -21st of December. This date was chosen somewhere during the 4th century AD by the heads of the church. The date became widely accepted by most branches of Christianity with the exception of the Armenians who reserved the 6th of January for Christmas celebrations.

During the reformation of the 19th century there was some disfavour with Christmas and its associations with paganism. Many protestants distanced themselves from the tradition. However, by the latter part of the 19th century the celebration of Christmas grew wide spread. It was around this time that the modern Christmas tree was introduced in Britain. The 20th century brought a general acceptance of the tradition despite the criticisms that were originally set against it.

Christmas and Gift Giving

The tradition of gift-giving has strong association with Paganism. The Roman festival of Saturnalia featured periods of gift-giving, this idea was later incorporated into the traditional Christmas celebrations. The gifts started out very modest and evolved to include more elaborate expressions of love. This was not met with full acceptance by some Christians who disliked the Pagan connection. However, supporters of gift-giving, likened the activity to that of the Magi, who gave gifts to baby Jesus, in this regard it became symbolic and necessary to the grand tradition of Christmas.

Christmas and Santa Claus

Santa Claus became a part of the Christmas tradition around the Middle Ages however, his part in Christmas was not popularized until after he was depicted as a jolly stout old man wearing a red and white suit in the 19th century. This figure of Santa was immediately captured by celebrants all over. The character of Santa Claus is said to be inspired by Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bishop, who went around giving the poor children of his village gifts. The legend of Santa centres around the North Pole and his magical workshop of elves. Every year he makes presents for those children who were nice. Those who were naughty received nothing but a lump of coal. The figure of Santa has become inseparable from the tradition of Christmas on a whole.

Christmas and Carols

Another important part of the Christmas celebrations are the singing of carols. These have their origins in the past well before the concept of Christmas carols was actualized. Most of the popular carols we now sing were written in the 19th century and were sung from house to house near the Christmas season. Soon the church adopted this tradition in the 1820's, giving these songs a greater sense of reverence.

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