Have you wondered why Christmas is celebrated in December?
For many families it is the high point of the year when every person gathers in one place and everywhere is bathed in festive lighting; everyone is admiring their gifts, and one can only forget about the everyday worries. Christmas works an obvious magical charm on all of us. As the days get shorter and colder and winter approaches, many people console themselves by thinking about the upcoming Christmas.
But why is Christmas paramount to most Christians, notable people in the western world? What can be the reasons? Is it tradition, religion or are there other explanations?
To start with Christmas is a Christian celebration. The birth of Christ is celebrated by over two billion Christians all over the globe on 25th of December.
Why exactly did the church pick this date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus? The Bible did not mention exactly the time Jesus was born. There must have been many reasons December was chosen as the month of the celebration.
The solstice, the day from which the days begins to get longer, has always been celebrated in almost all cultures in the western world, be it Germanic, Celtic, Roman or Persian. The purpose of this date might have resulted from this custom. Or even from the natural need of people to live in the hope of salvation through the Christian message of the birth of the Saviour to December being the last month of the year when everybody is supposed to get some rest and be with family.
Also, during the cold and dark season, people have the most need to come together, withdraw to their homes and simply enjoy a few days with their family in a peaceful atmosphere with good food.
Even if this explains the date and reason for Christmas, many people still want to know, though, where do all the symbols and stories that surround Christmas come from.
The Christmas tree
For instance, where does the tradition of decorating a fir tree come from and how did the Christmas tree become the key symbol of Christmas celebration worldwide?
This practice has its roots in non-Christian practice. The Germanic people, evergreen fir trees were an important fertility symbol and gave people hope that the spring will return after winter. In the early Rome, fir tree branches were cut off and taken home to keep away harm and evil spirits.
The practice of decorations was established later on in the 17th century. First of all the tree was decorated with anything, Christmas decorations were then finally systematically made and sold in the 19th century with the advent of industrialization.
Santa Claus and Jesus Child
Santa Claus and the Jesus Child, who bring the presents at Christmas and make children’s eyes light up, are in the meantime intrinsically linked to Christmas. However, these symbols are not old. Martin Luther influenced the Jesus Child character in the late 16th century. Back then, St. Nicholas still brought the presents on 6th December, there was not any giving out of presents at Christmas.
Luther wanted to curtail the veneration of saints, like Saint Nicholas and draw more attention to Christmas and the birth of Jesus and he established Christmas as the time for giving out presents. Over the years the Jesus Child developed into the image of a Jesus Child in a white robe looking like an angel. However, today children mainly know the Jesus Child from stories their parents tell them, where the Jesus Child places gifts under the tree unseen and leave the festive room again in secret.
Santa Claus, on the other hand, developed from the character of Saint Nicholas and his little helper Ruprecht. Initially, he rewarded good children and punished naughty children, but the image of the smiling, kind man in a red suit gradually emerged. This image of Santa Claus only established itself in Europe across the board roughly 100 years ago. At this time Santa Claus still did not have a standardized appearance. Sometimes he wore a blue, red or golden coat. It is only through the character created for Coca-Cola’s Christmas advert that the image of Santa Claus was standardized and is known by both the young and old today.
Regardless of whether Christmas is a religious or more of a cultural celebration for you and your family now: no-one can escape the magic of Christmas, and it is something special every single year again when everyone gathers around the Christmas tree and spends a few peaceful days in the circle of their loved ones.