Christmas

DATE

Annually on December 25

HOLIDAY TYPE

Cultural and religious holiday (Christian)

 

OBSERVED BY

Celebrated by Christians and non-Christians in approximately 160 countries around the world

CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS

The great thing about Christmas is that there are so many fun and festive traditions.  The top and most celebrated tradition is picking out and decorating a Noble or Douglas fir pine tree, known as a Christmas tree.  Families show their personal style and adoration for the holiday by adding lights, tinsel, and decorating their tree with ornaments which are often times handmade, or keepsakes from past holidays or generations.

Other traditions are decorating homes inside or out with Christmas lights, visiting Santa Claus at the mall or a special event, wrapping and exchanging presents and Christmas cards with loved ones, a kiss under the mistletoe, outdoor ice skating, and Christmas pickles.  One of the most rewarding of all is participating in toy drives, to provide toys and other needed items to those who are less fortunate.  Ugly Christmas sweaters and Elf on the Shelf are two modern additions.

Entertainment:  Christmas caroling, The Nutcracker ballet, The Rockettes “Christmas Spectacular,” and watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

TRADITIONAL FOOD & DRINKS

Many festive treats like home baked goods, homemade cookies, fruitcake, gingerbread men and houses, yule log, plum Christmas pudding, panettone, Bûche de Noël, Stollen, mincemeat, chestnuts, and candy canes.  Feasts often consist of roast goose, turkey, glazed ham, lasagna, pot roasts, casseroles, and roasted potatoes.

Drinks:  Eggnog/boozy eggnog, holiday punch (alcoholic or not), hot chocolate, spiced cider, mulled wine, Glögg, Ponche Navideño, and Wassail.

HOLIDAY HISTORY

Christmas is the commemoration of Jesus’ birth to a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem.  The holiday also celebrates the events surrounding his birth, such as an angel’s appearance to shepherds, telling them to visit the newborn king.  The term “Christ” – or Crīst as it originally read – comes from the Greek word Khrīstos, a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means “anointed.”  Jesus was given the name Christ, as he was anointed with God’s spirit, to be the king that will rule God’s kingdom from heaven over the earth.  Now, one might think that Christmas originates from the word Christ, as it pertains to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, however, the word is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”, or “Cristes Maesse” as it was first recorded in 1038.  This was followed by the term Cristes-messe in 1131, according to the The Catholic Encyclopedia.  The second part of Christmas – maesse – is a version of the Latin word missa, the celebration of the Eucharist tradition of eating bread and drinking wine in memory of Jesus.  This is also called Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper.  December 25th was then established as the Nativity Feast Day and the official ‘Nativity Mass’ was the first Mass of the day.  Christmas is also known as Nativity and Nöel.

As time passed, the celebration of Christmas became more popular – and so too did the liturgical practices that went with it.  Christmas Mass became a central fixture in the church calendar, which led to the day becoming known as Christ’s Mass by the 11th century.  Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world, whether they are Christians or not.  It’s a time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. People, and especially children, also like Christmas as it’s a time when you give and receive presents!

Now, while Jesus Christ is the purpose and the most important person in the Christmas season, there is someone else that is closely tied to the celebration of Christmas… yes, that’s right, Santa Claus!  Santa Claus, originally known as Saint Nicholas, was a real person, a bishop in the Christian church in the fourth century.  Saint Nicholas, born in Patara (Asia Minor), later moved to Myra (Demre in modern Turkey), where he was elected bishop.  Many stories have been told of his incredible and relentless generosity, therefore Santa Claus, as we know him today, conveys the very spirit of happiness, generosity and love.