Christmas is celebrated to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God.
What is its origin? How’d it come into existence?
The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight! So, we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.
Nobody knows when exactly Jesus was born.
The Bible didn’t mention any date, but why do we celebrate on the 25th? What is its significance?
Apparently the first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated was on 25th December in 336, during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine; but it wasn’t an official Roman state festival at the time.
Apart from that there are quite a lot of traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. One of the oldest known theory goes like this. The day Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus also known as the annunciation was on March 25th and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is 25th December! March 25th is also the day some early Christians thought that the world had been made, and the same day when Jesus died.
The date of 25th March was chosen because people had calculated that it was on the same day that Jesus was conceived and died on the same day. The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, this time is the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice happens in late June.) For pagans this meant that they knew that the days would start getting lighter and longer and the nights would become shorter – marking a change in the seasons. To celebrate people had a mid-winter festival to celebrate the sun ‘winning’ over the darkness of winter. At this time, animals which had been kept for food were also often killed to save having to feed them all through the winter and some drinks which had been brewing since the autumn/harvest would also be ready to drink. So, it was a good time to have a celebration with things to eat and drink before the rest of the winter happened.
Are there are any other festivals related to Christmas?
In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the time around the Winter Solstice is known as Yule. In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda.
The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the eve of the Kislev 25 (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). It is celebrated when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion.
Jesus was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas! Or was it?
So, every time you celebrate Christmas, remember that you’re celebrating a real event that happened around 2000 years ago, when God sent his Son into the world as a Christmas present for everyone!