The Christmas holiday is both a religious and cultural tradition celebrated worldwide on December 25. Around the world, people have been observing it with both religious and secular traditions for two millennia. It is the anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth’s birth on Christmas Day that Christians celebrate. His teachings are the foundation of their religion. During Christmas, gifts are exchanged, trees are decorated, church services are attended, meals are shared with friends and family, and Santa Claus makes an appearance.
Looking for answers to the question ‘what is the origin of Christmas?’ Below we share a few quick tips on one of the most celebrated holidays of the year’s origin. What Was Christmas Originally Like? When we celebrate Christmas, why do we do it this way? What is the history of Christmas?
Christmas’ Development and Origins
In the early Christian community, the date of Jesus’ birth was distinguished from the celebration of the event. Jesus’ birthday was not celebrated until many years after he was born. It was particularly difficult to recognize martyrs’ birthdays, and even Jesus’ birthday, during the early centuries of Christianity. From the Church’s perspective, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom, not their birthdays, as tradition dictates. Several sarcastic comments were made by Church Fathers regarding pagan customs of celebrating birthdays.
We do not know exactly where December 25 gets its name as Jesus’ birth date. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament provides any clues in this regard. It was Sextus Julius Africanus who first identified December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth in 221 and this date has since become universally accepted. The origin of this date has been widely explained by the fact that December 25 was the Christianization of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire commemorating the winter solstice, which symbolized the rebirth of the sun, the removal of winter, and the beginning of spring and summer. It was not uncommon for Christian writers to make the connection between the rebirth of the sun and Jesus’ birth after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth. It is difficult to defend this view since it implies a nonchalant willingness on the part of the early church to appropriate a pagan festival, even though it was explicitly attempting to distance itself from pagan practices.
Another theory holds that Jesus’ birth date was derived from a priori reasoning identifying the spring equinox as the day of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25) on December 25. The birth of Jesus was then celebrated on December 25, nine months later. Christmas and Jesus’ baptism have been celebrated together for a long time.
There is evidence that Christmas originated from both pagan and Roman cultures. It is actually the Romans who celebrated two holidays during December. In honor of Saturn, the goddess of agriculture, the first festival they celebrated was Saturnalia. In celebration of Mithra’s birth on December 25th, their sun god was born. There was a lot of drinking and raucous behavior at both celebrations.
Additionally, the pagan cultures lit bonfires and candles during the darkest day of the year, December 22. It is also believed that the Romans adopted this tradition during their own celebrations.
Despite Christianity spread across Europe, pagan customs and celebrations were not curbed by Christian clergy. They adopted the pagan ritual to celebrate Jesus’ birthday since they did not know His date of birth.
Where Did Christmas Trees Come From?
To celebrate the solstice, pagan cultures decorated their homes with greens to anticipate spring. Due to their ability to remain green even in the coldest and darkest days, evergreen trees were thought to possess magical properties. Saturnalia was also the time when Romans decorated their temples with fir trees and metal bits. As early as the Greeks decorated trees in honor of their gods, there are records of them doing so. In fact, the first trees brought into pagan homes were hung upside down from the ceiling.
Traditionally, evergreen trees are decorated with candles and dried fruit in honor of the Germanic pagan god Woden originating in Northern Europe. Christianity incorporated the tradition during the 1500s in Germany. During the holidays, sweets, lights, and toys were decorated on their trees.
Who Invented SANTA CLAUS?
Christmas tradition originating from St. Nicholas, rather than pagan origins, has Christian roots. His faith lead him to persecution and imprisonment in the early Christian church. He was born around 280 in southern Turkey. His generosity towards the poor and disenfranchised set him apart from many wealthy people. A number of legends surround him, but the one that is most famous is the one about how he saved three daughters from slavery by saving them from his hands. In the absence of dowries, their father was left with no other choice but to let them be married. The frightened family is said to have been saved when St. Nicholas tossed gold through an open window, saving them from death. In an attempt to get gifts into their stockings, children started hanging stockings next to their fires to catch the gold.
It was declared St. Nicholas day on December 6th in honor of his passing. Throughout history, each European culture has adapted versions of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was accompanied by Christkind or Kris Kringle (Christ child), who delivered presents to children who were well-behaved. During the holiday season, Jultomten delivered gifts in Sweden via a sleigh pulled by goats. Pere Noel was the French version of Father Christmas, while Father Christmas was in England. A popular name for Sinter Klaas in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lorraine, France, and parts of Germany was “Sinter Klaas”. In case you were wondering, Klaas is a short form of Nicholas. Santa Claus has become Americanized because of this.
No matter where you are or what traditions you follow, we wish you the happiest of holidays and the merriest of Christmases!