Houses brimming with the aroma of freshly baked traditional plum cakes and living rooms adorned beautifully with a Christmas tree and lights. Kids being showered with lots of presents and new dresses and happiness all around, that’s the kind of cheer Christmas brings along.

Ever since I was a kid, every year on the Christmas Eve I wondered if tonight Santa Claus will come and give me the gifts I have been eagerly wanting all this year? It was not just me but many of my friends also waited for the Christmas Eve all year long. Many a times we actually received the gifts we wanted, although it was years later that I realised, those were the presents from my family. Such is the craze of Santa Claus and the gifts he brings along for kids across the globe. In almost every kindergarten across the world, kids have learnt the famous ‘Jingle Bells’ song and other Christmas carols.

Christmas is a festival which attracts people of all faith towards it. Being one of those festivals which is widely celebrated all over the world, it is important for us to know more about this festival we celebrate with such pomp and show.

The day has a history to it along with some marked traditions which go hand in hand with the spirit of Christmas. We thought of enlightening you more about this festival through our special coverage of Christmas in this special edition of our festive magazine.

This is no news that Christmas is celebrated every year on 25th December. It is mainly considered a festival celebrated and observed by Christians, but in today’s time, the festival of Christmas has surpassed the religious boundaries and has become a symbol of the holistic culture. The winters in December carry a festive feeling mainly due to the occurrence of this day and the cheer it brings along.

Usually, all across the globe, the celebrations begin much before the main day and continue for around 2 weeks after that until we step into a new year. Men and women celebrate Christmas to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Religious people go to church and light the candles to pray to their God, Jesus Christ. This is a festival that is equally loved and cherished by adults and kids. People also bring a Christmas tree to their homes and decorate it with all sorts of decorative items and also tie a red sock on it. Market, shops, showrooms and even huge malls are all decked up with a theme of glittering red and white colors to set up the Christmas mood.

On Christmas night, people enjoy a big feast and share gifts with each other. Homemade traditional plum cakes, cupcakes, and muffins are some of the special treats on Christmas. Kids are showered with lots of presents and new dresses. They also get to meet the ‘Santa Claus’ dressed in a fluffy red and white costume, who greets them with hugs and gifts.

Christmas is a festival of joy. It is about sharing and helping others. On this day, people remember Jesus Christ and his lessons of life. The festival definitely teaches us to practice kindness and love toward each other and help those who have less than us.

Christmas: An ancient holiday

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many people rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking. In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the midwinter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a riotous time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honouring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

The origin of Santa Claus

While thinking of the most awaited person in this world on Christmas Eve, the name that clicks anyone’s mind is undoubtedly, Santa Claus. But has anyone ever thought of how the concept of Santa Claus came into light and gained so much prominence? It is believed that Santa Claus is native to North Pole, but his historical odyssey is much longer and extremely wonderful than his once-in-a-year global tour on Christmas Eve.

To know more about him, let’s take a dive into the true story of the muchloved Santa Claus-

Santa Claus: An ordinary child with a humble and generous heart

Like we know Santa Claus today as a happy and a thrilling person, he was a total different fellow back then. Neither did he have a long white beard and whiskers, nor a big red suit.

Long before when Santa Claus was believed to be a resident of the North Pole, and also much before his regular Christmas visits to children across the world, he was a simple child like everyone. He was a child of his loving parents who named him Nicholas, which means “hero of the people”. Being an only child, his parents had high hopes from him. They believed that he will do something big and special in the future and make them proud.

Nicholas was naturally imbibed with the feelings of generosity and kindness ever since his childhood. He always lent a helping hand to the people who needed help. Whether it was about sharing the meals with the hungry people or bringing happiness in the lives and faces of young and elders alike, the young Nicholas was a best friend to all.

Very soon, he joined the church with a hope of helping and serving people of his village. During his services to the church, he always demonstrated special concern and treatment to the children of the village. Soon the village children developed fondness for him owing to his friendly and playful nature.

The news of Nicholas’ kindness and wisdom spread across the land like fire and brought him immense praises and popularity. With such fame and recognition, he was soon declared a Bishop of the church. As Nicholas was still a young boy, people referred him as “Boy Bishop”.

While taking a ride on a horseback, Nicholas used to wear a long red robe and a red hat. Such was his popularity among children that they spot him from a distance looking at his bright attire and ran to wish him. This is how he became famous and peoples’ fondness towards him grew.

Importance of the festival:

Why do we celebrate Christmas? Why do we go the extra mile to celebrate, give and create an atmosphere of merriment? The answers to these questions are numerous but we would mention a few.

1. Christmas reminds us of the importance of giving and sharing with friends and family.

2. Christmas shows the importance of joy and happiness.

3. Through Christmas, we know that Jesus birth is the beginning of great things in the world.

4. It is also an opportunity to correct actions we aren’t proud of in our lives.

5. It is generally an opportunity to think about nature and the reason for our existence.

So, whether you’re Christian or not, Christmas is an opportunity for you to put your biases and ill thought behind in the celebration of a great cause.

Christmas Facts

Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.

Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today’s Mardi Gras parties.

Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.

Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.