Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holidaycommemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, celebratedgenerally on December 25 by billions of peoplearound the world. A feast central to the Christianliturgical year, it closes the Advent season andinitiates the season of Christmastide, which laststwelve days .In much of the worlds nationsChristmas is a civil holiday, is celebrated by anincreasing number of non-Christians ,and is anintegral part of the Christmas and holiday season.
Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holidayin countries around the world, including many whose populations aremostly non-Christian. In some non-Christian countries, periods offormer colonial rule introduced the celebration (e.g. Hong Kong); inothers, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have ledpopulations to observe the holiday. Countries such as Japan andKorea, where Christmas is popular despite there being only a smallnumber of Christians, have adopted many of the secular aspects ofChristmas, such as gift-giving, decorations and Christmas trees. Notable countries in which Christmas is not a formal publicholiday include Peoples Republic of China, (excepting Hong Kongand Macao), Japan, SaudiArabia, Algeria, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Turkey and North Korea.Christmas celebrations around the world can vary markedly inform, reflecting differing cultural and national traditions.
Among countries with a strong Christian tradition, avariety of Christmas celebrations have developed thatincorporate regional and local cultures. For Christians,participating in a religious service plays an importantpart in the recognition of the season. Christmas, alongwith Easter, is the period of highest annual churchattendance. In Catholic countries, the people hold religiousprocessions or parades in the days preceding Christmas.In other countries, secular processions or paradesfeaturing Santa Claus and other seasonal figures areoften held. Family reunions and the exchange of giftsare a widespread feature of the season. Gift giving takesplace on Christmas Day in most countries. Otherspractice gift giving on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day,and January 6, Epiphany.
The practice of putting up special decorations atChristmas has a long history. From pre-Christiantimes, people in the Roman Empire broughtbranches from evergreen plants indoors in thewinter. Decorating with greenery was also part ofJewish tradition :Now on the first day you shall takefor yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palmbranches and boughs of leafy trees and willows ofthe brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORDyour God for seven days.
Christians incorporated such customs in theirdeveloping practices. In the 15th century, it wasrecorded that in London it was the custom at Christmasfor every house and all the parish churches to be"decked with Holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever theseason of the year afforded to be green". The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the comingto earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protectionagainst pagans and witches, its thorns and red berriesheld to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus atthe crucifixion and the blood he shed. A Christmas treeat Rockefeller Center, New York City Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome.They were popularised by Saint Francis of Assisi from1223, quickly spreading across Europe.
Different types of decorations developed across theChristian world, dependent on local tradition andavailable resources. The first commercially produceddecorations appeared in Germany in the 1860s, inspiredby paper chains made by children.In countries where arepresentation of the Nativity Scene is verypopular, people are encouraged to compete and createthe most original or realistic ones. Within somefamilies, the pieces used to make the representation areconsidered a valuable family heirloom. The traditional colors of Christmas are green andred. White, silver and gold are also popular. Redsymbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in hiscrucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and inparticular the evergreen tree, which does not lose itsleaves in the winter.
The Christmas tree is considered by some asChristianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding theWinter Solstice, which included the use of evergreenboughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. TheEnglish language phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in1835 and represents an importation from the Germanlanguage. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed tohave begun in Germany in the 18th century though manyargue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16thcentury. From Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, firstvia Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then moresuccessfully by Prince Albert during the reign of QueenVictoria. By 1841 the Christmas tree had become even morewidespread throughout Britain. By the 1870s, people inthe United States had adopted the custom of putting up aChristmas tree. Christmas trees may be decorated withlights and ornaments.
Saint Anselm College decorates with traditional candles ineach window and a large Christmas wreath Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant fromMexico, has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holidayplants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus.Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may bedecorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreenfoliage. The display of Christmas villages has also become atradition in many homes during this season. The outside of housesmay be decorated with lights and sometimes with illuminatedsleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candycanes, stockings, wreaths, and angels. Both the displaying ofwreaths and candles in each window are a more traditionalChristmas display. The concentric assortment of leaves, usuallyfrom an evergreen, make up Christmas wreaths and are designed toprepare Christians for the Advent season. Candles in each windoware meant to demonstrate the fact that Christians believe that JesusChrist is the ultimate light of the world.Both of theseantiquated, more subdued, Christmas displays are seen in the imageto the right of Saint Anselm College.
Christmas lights and banners may be hung alongstreets, music played from speakers, and Christmastrees placed in prominent places. It is commonin many parts of the world for town squares andconsumer shopping areas to sponsor and displaydecorations. Rolls of brightly colored paper withsecular or religious Christmas motifs aremanufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. In some countries, Christmas decorations aretraditionally taken down on Twelfth Night, theevening of January 5.
The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appearin 4th century Rome. Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium,written by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, were austere statements of thetheological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism. Cordenatus ex Parentis (Of the Fathers love begotten) by the Spanish poetPrudentius (d. 413) is still sung in some churches today. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Christmas "Sequence" or "Prose" wasintroduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard ofClairvaux into a sequence of rhymed stanzas. In the 12th century theParisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popularsongs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol. By the 13th century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, underthe influence of Francis of Asissi, a strong tradition of popular Christmassongs in the native language developed..Christmas carols in English firstappear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who liststwenty-five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of wassailers,who went from house to house.
The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communalfolk songs sung during celebrations such as "harvest tide" as well asChristmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church.Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns, andit is this that gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. Somecarols like "Personent hodie", "Good King Wenceslas", and "The Holly andthe Ivy" can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages. They are among theoldest musical compositions still regularly sung. Adeste Fidelis (O Come allye faithful) appears in its current form in the mid-18th century, although thewords may have originated in the 13th century.Child singers in Bucharest,1841. Singing of carols initially suffered a decline in popularity after theProtestant Reformation in northern Europe, although some Reformers, likeMartin Luther, wrote carols and encouraged their use in worship. Carolslargely survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in popularsongs in the 19th century. The 18th century English reformer Charles Wesleyunderstood the importance of music to worship. In addition to setting manypsalms to melodies, which were influential in the Great Awakening in theUnited States, he wrote texts for at least three Christmas carols. The bestknown was originally entitled "Hark! How All the Welkin Rings", laterrenamed "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing".
Felix Mendelssohn wrote a melody adapted to fitWesleys words. In Austria in 1818 Mohr and Gruber madea major addition to the genre when they composed "SilentNight" for the St. Nicholas Church, Oberndorf. William B.Sandys Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833)contained the first appearance in print of many now-classicEnglish carols, and contributed to the mid-Victorian revivalof the festival. Completely secular Christmas seasonal songs emergedin the late 18th century. "Deck The Halls" dates from 1784,and the American, "Jingle Bells" was copyrighted in 1857.In the 19th and 20th century, African American spiritualsand songs about Christmas, based in their tradition ofspirituals, became more widely known. An increasingnumber of seasonal holidays songs were commerciallyproduced in the 20th century, including jazz and bluesvariations. In addition, there was a revival of interest inearly music, from groups singing folk music, such as TheRevels, to performers of early medieval and classical music.
A special Christmas family meal is traditionally animportant part of the holidays celebration, and the food thatis served varies greatly from country to country. Someregions, such as Sicily, have special meals for ChristmasEve, when 12 kinds of fish are served. In England andcountries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmasmeal includes turkey orgoose, meat, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, sometimes breadand cider. Special desserts are also prepared, such asChristmas pudding, mince pies and fruit cake. In Poland and other parts of eastern Europe andScandinavia, fish often is used for the traditional maincourse, but richer meat such as lamb is increasingly served.In Germany, France and Austria, goose and pork arefavored. Beef, ham and chicken in various recipes arepopular throughout the world.
The Maltese traditionally serve Imbuljuta tal-Qastan,a chocolateand chestnuts beverage, after Midnight Mass and throughout theChristmas season. Slovaks prepare the traditional Christmas breadpotica, bûche de Noël in France, panettone in Italy, and elaborate tartsand cakes. The eating of sweets and chocolates has become popularworldwide, and sweeter Christmas delicacies include the Germanstollen, marzipan cake or candy, and Jamaican rum fruit cake. As oneof the few fruits traditionally available to northern countries inwinter, oranges have been long associated with special Christmasfoods.
Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting exchanged betweenfriends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. Thetraditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy NewYear", much like that of the first commercial Christmas card, produced by SirHenry Cole in London in 1843.The custom of sending them has become popularamong a wide cross-section of people with the emergence of the modern trendtowards exchanging E-cards. Christmas cards are purchased in considerable quantities, and featureartwork, commercially designed and relevant to the season. The content of thedesign might relate directly to the Christmas narrative with depictions of theNativity of Jesus, or Christian symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem, or a whitedove which can represent both the Holy Spirit and Peace on Earth. OtherChristmas cards are more secular and can depict Christmas traditions, mythicalfigures such as Santa Claus, objects directly associated with Christmas such ascandles, holly and baubles, or a variety of images associated with the season,such as Christmastime activities, snow scenes and the wildlife of the northernwinter. There are even humorous cards and genres depicting nostalgic scenes ofthe past such as crinolined shoppers in idealized 19th century streetscapes. Some prefer cards with a poem, prayer or Biblical verse; while othersdistance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Seasons greetings".
• The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world. Gift giving was common in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, an ancient festival which took place in late December and may have influenced Christmas customs. Christmas gift giving was banned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages due to its suspected pagan origins. It was later rationalized by the Church on the basis that it associated St. Nicholas with Christmas, and that gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were given to the infant Jesus by the Biblical Magi.
this is the endMerry Christmas and Happy New Year!