word Christmas comes from the words Cristes maesse, or
"Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration
of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian
religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of
Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.
In 325AD, Constantine the Great, the first Christian
Roman emperor, introduced Christmas as an immovable
feast on 25 December. He also introduced Sunday as a
holy day in a new 7-day week, and introduced movable
In 354AD, Bishop Liberius of Rome
officially ordered his members to celebrate the birth of
Jesus on 25 December.
However, even though Constantine officiated 25 December
as the birthday of Christ, Christians, recognizing the
date as a pagan festival, did not share in the emperor's
good meaning. Christmas failed to gain universal
recognition among Christians until quite recently. In
certain Protestant areas the celebration of Christmas
was even banned. In England, Oliver Cromwell banned
Christmas festivities between 1649 and 1660 through the
so-called Blue Laws, believing that Christmas should be
a solemn day.
When many Protestants escaped persecution from the
Catholic Church by fleeing to the colonies all over the
world, interest in joyous Christmas celebrations was
rekindled. Still, Christmas was not even a legal holiday
until last century. And, keep in mind, there was no
Father Christmas (Santa Claus) figure at that time.
The popularity of
Christmas was spurred on in 1820 by Washington Irving's
book The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall. In
1834, Britain's Queen Victoria brought her German
husband, Prince Albert, into Windsor Castle, introducing
the tradition of the Christmas tree and carols that were
held in Europe to the British Empire. A week before
Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published A Christmas
Carol (in which he wrote that Scrooge required Cratchit
to work, and that the US Congress met on Christmas Day).
It was so popular that neither the churches nor the
governments could not ignore the importance of Christmas
celebrations. In 1836, Alabama became the first state in
the US to declare Christmas a legal holiday. In 1837,
T.H. Hervey's The Book of Christmas also became a best
seller. In 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast
borrowed from the European stories about Saint Nicholas,
the patron saint of children, to create Father Christmas
(Santa Claus). In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US
state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Year by
year, countries all over the world started to recognize
Christmas as the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus.
According to Daniel Boorstin in his book The Americans,
Christmas was largely a non-event in America until the
1860s. 1867 was the first year that Macy's department
store in New York City remained open until midnight on
Christmas Eve. 1874 was the year of the first window
displays with a Christmas theme at Macy's. It has
snowballed from there.
The custom of sending
Christmas cards started in Britain in 1840 when the
first 'Penny Post' public postal deliveries began.
(Helped by the new railway system, the public postal
service was the 19th century's communication revolution,
just as email is for us today.) As printing methods
improved, Christmas cards were produced in large numbers
from about 1860. They became even more popular in
Britain when a card could be posted in an unsealed
envelope for one half-penny - half the price of an
western world the birthday of Jesus Christ has been
celebrated on December 25th since AD 354, partly to
replace the pagan worship that was commonplace in those
days. However, we can be fairly sure that Jesus wasn't
actually born on that date. (See also The History of
The Bible tells us that shepherds were staying out in
the fields overnight when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8), but
in that part of the world it would have been far too
cold at night to do so in December. What is more likely
is that He was born in the Spring, perhaps between March
and May. Whatever the time of year, it is virtually
impossible to identify the actual date.
This situation is further complicated by the fact that
the Christian scholar Dionysius Exiguus was asked by the
Pope in AD 525 to calculate new cycles for fixing the
date of Easter. However, he decided to base his
calculations on the date of Jesus's birth.
Unfortunately, it wasn't discovered until the 9th
century that he got it badly wrong, by which time it was
too late to change the calendar.
He fixed the birth in the year 1 BC or AD 1 (Historians
apparently can't agree which.) and began counting from
the latter. But both earlier and later scholars agreed
that Jesus was born at an earlier date. Indeed, it was
eventually established that Herod the Great died in
Spring of 4 BC. If Jesus had been born at the start of
AD 1, as we currently have it, then Jesus would have
been born some 4 or 5 years after Herod died. There is
no way of accurately establishing the actual date of his
birth, but it is most likely to have been between 5 and
The important thing is that he was born, and his nominal
birthrate of December 25th seems as good as any to
celebrate his birth and his message. It also a wonderful
catalyst for enjoying the precious and simple pleasures
of being, if only for a brief time, close together in
the warm familiarity of friends and family, renewing
relationships and sharing memories.
From November onwards,
it is impossible to forget that Christmas is coming.
Colored lights decorate many town centers and shops,
along with shiny decorations, and artificial snow
painted on shop windows.
In streets and shops, 'Christmas trees' (real or plastic
evergreen 'conifer' trees) will also be decorated with
lights and Christmas ornaments.
Shopping centers become busier as December approaches
and often stay open till late. Shopping center speaker
systems systems will play Christmas 'carols' - the
traditional Christmas Christian songs, and groups of
people will often sing carols on the streets to raise
money for charity. Most places of work will hold a short
Christmas party about a week before Christmas. Although
traditional Christmas foods may be eaten, drink (and
plenty of it) means that little work will be done after
By mid-December, most homes will also be decorated with
Christmas trees, colored lights and paper or plastic
decorations around the rooms. These days, many more
people also decorate garden trees or house walls with
colored electric lights, a habit which has long been
popular in USA.
In many countries, most people post Christmas greeting
cards to their friends and family, and these cards will
be hung on the walls of their homes. In UK this year,
the British Post Office expects to handle over 100
million cards EACH DAY, in the three weeks before
Traditionally, Christmas cards showed religious pictures
- Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, or other parts of the
Christmas story. Today, pictures are often jokes, winter
pictures, Father Christmas, or romantic scenes of life
in past times.
- Christmas, Arts, Carols, Traditions,
Recipes, Stories, cards.
- Christmas, Recipes, Santa, Christmas Tree,