Arts and Culture

Christmas: History and Origins

Christmas is often thought of as the annual Christian celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. However, it has developed into a cultural and secular festival celebrated by billions around the world.

So…how did it come to be this way?

History of Christmas

Why was December 25th designated to be Christmas? 

No one knows the birth date of Jesus Christ. It is not shown in the Bible and the Christian Church was strongly opposed to celebrating birthdays, as these were pagan customs at the time. Nonetheless, there are various perspectives on how the date was chosen.

The first perspective suggests that December 25th became the birthday of Jesus through logic and reasoning. In this case, the spring equinox, March 25th, was identified as the day of Jesus’ conception, thus making his date of birth December 25th, exactly nine months later.

The second speculation is that Christian writer and traveler, Sextus Julius Africanus, identified this date as the birth date of Jesus Christ during his travels in the late second and early third centuries. An explanation to why this date was chosen is that December 25th was a popular holiday of the Roman Empire celebrating the winter solstice, the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of birth of the unconquered sun”). After the date had become widely accepted as Jesus’ birthday, many Christian authors made the connection between “birthday of the unconquered sun” and “birthday of the Son”. However, a contradiction to this viewpoint is how the Christian Church would have appropriated this celebration when it strongly distinguished itself from pagan traditions of celebrating anniversaries of martyrs, as previously mentioned.

Saint Nicholas of Myra

Who is Santa Claus? Was he real?

Santa Claus is a popular figure of Christmas that brings gifts to the children in his nice list while bringing lumps of coal to the children in his naughty list. His character is based on Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop who lived in present-day Turkey during the 4th century. He was a cleric known for his generosity, as he used his fortune for giving presents to the poor, especially the children. After his death in 343 C.E., he was made a saint and became the inspiration for the iconic character of the holiday that we know today.

Traditions

After Christmas became an official holiday, many activities and traditions were annexed to it with time. For instance, Christmas trees were used in Europe since the Middle Ages, but it started to be decorated by the 16th century. Gift exchanges were a common tradition during Christmas, yet the hanging of stockings for it to be filled with presents was done since the 19th century. Lastly, Christmas cards were invented in the 19th century, first designed by John Horsley in 1843. It became popular later on.

Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year”. Trees are decorated, cakes are eaten, and presents are exchanged.

It is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world with endless traditions and activities that keep us jolly throughout the season.

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