Christmas: Historical Significance and Commencement

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Christmas, the annual festival of Christians, marked and celebrated by people of all origin and religions in the modern period, is observed on 25th of December. People celebrate by lighting their houses, decorating Christmas trees, exchanging Christmas cards, singing carols, visiting the Church and gift giving. The popular figure of Santa Clause is also associated with Christmas, who is believed to bring gifts for the children and hence has various traditions followed because of it.

The day 25th of December is celebrated as Christmas because it commemorates the birth of the Holy Jesus Christ. But St. Mark’s Gospel which is regarded as the oldest Gospel starts with the baptism of a grown-up Jesus so there are no certain evidence that indicate that Jesus was really on this date. So why is Christmas celebrated on 25th of December then?

Historical Significance

Some scriptures and evidence indicate that birth of Jesus might have been during the Spring but Pope Julius I, the erstwhile Bishop of Rome, chose December 25th. There is an interesting story behind this. Since Centuries the middle of December (winter) was observed as a period of celebration because of multiple reasons.  In modern-day Northern Europe, Scandinavia’s Norse tribe used to celebrate the festival of Yule on December 21 to mark the end of the harsh winters and the return of the sun. The Yule people used to feast and burn logs during this period. Similarly, in Germany during the mid-winter holiday people used to honor Woden, the chief god of Pagan as people believed that he was the one who decided who would live and who would perish and so would stay in their houses during this period.

Down South, i.e. in Rome where the winters were comparatively warmer than that in the North, a festival called Saturnalia, to honor the god of agriculture- Saturn, was celebrated. The Romans also observed a feast to honor the children called Juvenalia around the period of the winter solstice. Another important festival, the birth of the god of Sun, Mitra was observed on December 25th. During this range of festive activities people used to engage in pleasure making activities, the norms of the society were reversed, all the business was shut down for a month, the farmers took command of the city and people just involved in plentiful eating and drinking.

Commencement of Christmas

It is believed till as early as the 4th century Easter was the main festival and a holiday for the Christians. But in the 4th century, the officials of the Church decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus and observe a public leave for the celebration.  Since the Bible did not mention anything about the birthdate of Lord Jesus so the officials decided to mark December 25th as that particular day in order to adapt and celebrate the traditions followed by various sects and tribes all throughout the world during this particular time of the year. It is said that the officials by choosing this date strengthened the chances of Christmas being embraced and observed by more and more people worldwide.

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