Merry Christmas 2014
HISTORY Christmas (which means "Feast day of Christ") is a Christian holiday that honors the birth of Jesus (whom Christians believe is the Son of God), and a cultural holiday for non-Christians. The day known as Christmas Day is celebrated on the 25th day of December. It is one of the most important days of the year for Christians, along with Easter when the death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated. The season of preparing for Christmas is called Advent and begins on a Sunday about four weeks before Christmas. The Christmas Season (called Christmastide) ends on January 6 or the Twelfth Day of Christmas, in which Epiphany is remembered.
Date of Celebration Most Christian countries of the world use a calendar called the Gregorian Calendar, but some churches use a calendar called the Julian Calendar. Most Christians, such as those of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. The Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the Julian Calendar in some regions such as Russia. In such regions, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 in the Julian Calendar, but because of the difference between the calendars it is the 7th of January in the modern Gregorian Calendar.
Date of Celebration Some Christians, like Jehovah's Witnesses, do not celebrate Christmas because there is no instruction from Jesus in the Bible which tells Christians to celebrate his birth. Mormons celebrate Christmas on December 25 but they believe that Christ's actual birth took place on April 6. Some[source?] believe that Jesus was probably not born on December 25. Some historians[source?] believe this date was used by the Catholic Church to replace the pagan rites that took place at that time of the year.
Advent The Season of Advent, which begins on Sunday about four weeks before Christmas Day, is celebrated by the Catholic and Anglican Churches, as well as others. It is a time for people to prepare themselves for two different things: for the coming of the baby Jesus and Christmas, and for the second coming of Jesus, when he shall rule over all the Earth in peace. Not all Christian people remember Advent. Some people use it as a time of fasting, study, meditation and prayer. Special Advent Calendars are made for children, with pictures or treats for each day of Advent. Generally, Advent is a time when many people are very busy in preparation for Christmas Day, cleaning and decorating, buying food and presents, writing cards and letters, and cooking the Christmas feast.
Christmas traditions Christmas traditions are of several types. There are traditions of the church, traditions which are public celebrations and traditions that are kept by families. These traditions are different in different times, places, cultures and even families.
Traditions of the Church The celebration of Christmas is a very important time for churches. Almost every church has special services or celebrations. Here are some of the ways that churches celebrate Christmas.
The Crib It is the custom in many churches to set up a Crib (or Creche) scene of the Nativity or birth of Jesus. The first scene of this type was set up by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. They have been very popular in Italy ever since then, and the custom has spread to other countries. Nativity scenes can be large with life-sized statues, or they can be tiny enough to fit in a matchbox. They are made of many different things including carved and painted wood, brightly coloured ceramics (pottery), painted paper glued to boards, and mixtures of material with clay, wood, cloth, straw and metal used for different parts.
Public and commercial celebrations Many cities and towns celebrate Christmas by putting up decorations. These may be banners and bunting which are strung from buildings or lampposts. They may be Christmas lights which can also decorate buildings and street trees. Many large cities put up a huge Christmas tree in a public place, such as those in Trafalgar Square in London, Times Square in New York and Martin Place in Sydney. This is often combined with an appeal to the people of the city to give money or gifts to help the poor and needy.
Christmas Dinner Christmas Dinner, usually eaten in the middle of the day, is an important part of the family celebration. The food differs from country to country and also from family to family. In the Northern Hemisphere, roasted meat and vegetables is generally the main course of the meal. Often several types of meat are served, which may include turkey, ham, roast beef or lamb. There are often several courses, with special treats that are usually only eaten at Christmas.
Tree and decorations In most homes when Christmas is celebrated, people set up a Christmas tree in the house. This old Yuletide custom began in Germany as the "Tannenbaum" (German for Fir Tree). These are traditionally evergreens, the best type being the Fir Tree which does not shed its needles or lose its fragrance. The tree may be a cut tree that is bought from a plantation or taken from the forest. Artificial trees are sometimes preferred to real trees. The Christmas tree is decorated with lights, shiny coloured balls, sparkly tinsel and other ornaments. A wreath of leaves or pine is often put on the front door of a house as a sign of welcome. Other plants that have special significance at Christmas are holly which is used as decoration and mistletoe which is hung in the centre of a room. The tradition is that people who meet under the mistletoe must kiss.
Cards and presents The giving of gifts at Christmas comes from several different ideas. One is that God gave his son, Jesus, to the world at Christmas. There is also the story of the Wise Men who came to the baby Jesus with three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. For many centuries it has been the custom for people to give small gifts at Christmas, and also to give generously to the poor and needy to help them through the winter. Another tradition has become linked to this one, and the result is the tradition of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as he is sometimes called, and who is nowadays thought by many children to be the bringer of presents and happiness.
Wishing you the Gifts of Peace and Happiness this Christmas and throughout the New Year