Christmas is one of the most beloved festivals around the world. The jolly mood and the tradition of giving gifts to our loved ones are things that make Christmas an enjoyable festival. While Christmas has become a regular year-end celebration for many, it also is a religious holiday that holds a significant meaning for those who celebrate it.
The Season of Giving
While there are many things that make up the Christmas holiday, the essential Christmas activity is exchanging presents. Giving gifts during Christmas is symbolic of the Three Wise Men giving tributes to Jesus after his birth.
When we think of presents, we cannot leave out the legendary Christmas figure, Santa Clause. Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, is the icon of Christmas. Santa Claus is based on the European Saint Nicholas, who was famous for surprising children with gifts. The Santa Claus we see today was first illustrated in 1862 by Thomas Nast for political magazine Harper’s Weekly. He is now always depicted as wearing a red suit and soft hat, with a thick white beard and a round stomach.
Saint Nicholas was believed to distribute gifts to children on Christmas Eve. As such, the story of Santa Claus is that on Christmas Eve, he rides on his sleigh and delivers gifts to good children while leaving coal for naughty children. This is often told to children by their parents to make them anticipate the arrival of their gifts on Christmas day. As such, every year, on Christmas Eve, children anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus and may even leave out milk and cookies or a letter for him. Leaving them a santa letter from the North Pole among their gifts is bound to let them have a delightful and unforgettable Christmas.
While Christmas might be celebrated in different ways around the world, Santa Claus is a part of Christmas that cannot be left out.
The Joy of Christmas
The first recorded celebration of Christmas occurred in Rome, AD 336. This means that Christmas has been around for an extremely long time. In modern times, many Christmas traditions have been created, making the holiday even more exciting and magical.
As with other festivals, food is an important aspect of Christmas. One thing that many look forward to is a traditional Christmas dinner. A traditional Christmas dinner often consists of a stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, glazed ham, and vegetables. There are also Christmas desserts such as Christmas pudding, gingerbread houses, or a Yule log cake. A grand Christmas feast is something that family and friends can look forward to.
Interestingly, as the Christmas holiday is celebrated globally, unique variations of Christmas dinner have emerged. In Japan, KFC fried chicken is a popular choice for Christmas. In fact, this has become such a popular tradition that the fast-food restaurant receives Christmas orders two months in advance. This tradition began in the 1970s when KFC sold “Christmas party” barrels, which became popular and formed part of an annual Christmas tradition for many.
Another Christmas tradition is to erect a fir tree in one’s home as a Christmas tree. It is estimated that each year, 30 to 35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. This was a tradition that began in Germany when Christians placed decorated trees in their home to celebrate winter. For Christians, the tree is meant to symbolize Jesus and the light he brings into the world. They are often decorated with ornaments, candy or gingerbread. Today, decorating, and erecting Christmas trees is a tradition enjoyed even by non-Christians. Christmas trees can also often be seen in commercial areas where shopping malls put up large Christmas trees to create a festive mood for shoppers.
There are variations to the Christmas tree tradition as well. In some parts of India, a mango tree or bamboo tree is erected instead of the usual fir tree. There are even different ways of decorating the tree. In Germany, real or electric candles are used to decorate trees. In Australia, seashells are popular tree decorations as it is summer during the Christmas season.
The Origins of Christmas
Christmas is celebrated annually towards the end of the year, on the 25th of December. It is a day celebrated by Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. There is another belief that 25th of December was chosen for Christmas as it was a popular holiday in the Roman Empire when they celebrated the winter solstice symbolizing the resurgence of the sun. Even prior to the arrival of Jesus, many celebrated the winter solstice as the worst part of winter had passed and they could look forward to longer days of sunlight. Either way, both show that Christmas is meant to be a day of celebration.
On Christmas Eve or Christmas day, it is important for Christians to attend a church service. Apart from Easter, Christmas season is the period where churches experience the highest attendance. Churches and homes are often decorated in red, green, and gold during the Christmas season. These are the traditional colors of Christmas. Red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed during his crucifixion, green symbolizes eternal life and gold symbolizes royalty.
Whether for religious or festive purposes, Christmas is a celebration that is enjoyed by many for good reasons. Hopefully, even with the ongoing pandemic, the Christmas season can continue to bring joy and warmth as we reach the end of the year.