How Do People Celebrate Christmas?
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the whole world. It is an occasion filled with lots of exciting colors and anticipated merriment. Different countries may have diverse ways of celebrating it following each particular customs and traditions. But if we would look at it, there are things found to be common among the ways how people celebrate Christmas.
Before I jump into that, let me just say that all the Christmas traditions that people celebrate will not be meaningful if it is not celebrated with Christ at the center of it. Isn't it that the birth of Christ is the reason in the first place why there is such a thing as Christmas? It would be sad to celebrate A Christmas Without Jesus Christ.
Now, let us look at each of the following elements which accompany the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. We'll have a brief look at interesting facts and some ideas that complement each element.
Exchanging Christmas Gifts
When did the tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts start? The only gift giving that I could recall from the Christmas story was the giving of gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - by the visiting wise men to the baby Jesus.
Though many would associate gift giving nowadays to that done by the wise men, history says that it was adopted by the Christian church from the pagan festival called Saturnalia. The celebration of Saturnalia by Romans was held in mid-December and had the preparation of special foods, decoration of homes with greenery, singing and gift-giving as part of the occasion.
Saint Nicholas is another popular figure who is said to have been a symbol of gift giving in many European countries since the 1100's. He was a generous Christian bishop who gave gifts to the less fortunate especially children. Today, many countries like Germany and the Netherlands still celebrate Saint Nicholas Day (December 6). Saint Nicholas is said to give presents to children on St. Nicholas Eve (December 5) which the children open the next day.
Santa Claus, however, replaced Saint Nicholas as the symbol of gift giving and December 25 became the day of giving gifts. This is so particularly in the United States, Canada and Australia since the 1800's. Other countries have their own versions of Santa Claus like Father Christmas in the United Kingdom and Pere Noel in France.
Some Ideas About Christmas Gifts
Christmas Eve Dinner
What is Christmas without the serving of great tasting food? Some of the feasting associated with Christmas last for several days in some countries. But mostly celebrate a Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends after attending the evening church service.
What to serve for Christmas dinner? A traditional Christmas dinner in the United States, Canada and England usually serves roast turkey, mashed potatoes and various relishes. Fruitcake, minced pie and plum pudding are favorite desserts. Eggnog is also a popular Christmas beverage served in homes.
In France, families have a festive supper called Le reveillon after the midnight Mass where they serve a Christmas cake called buche de Noel, which looks like a miniature log. In Italy, many families serve eels and panettone (bread with raisins and candied fruit) for Christmas Eve dinner.
In Spain, Latin America and the Philippines, the family dinner on Christmas Eve is called Noche Buena. It usually comes after the family has attended the late evening mass called Misa de Gallo. The festive meal often consist of lechon or pig roast, hamon and quezo de bola.
Roast Turkey or Roast Pig
Some Ideas for Preparing Christmas Eve Dinner
Reading Christmas Stories
This is one the traditions that most Christian families include in their celebration of Christmas - Christmas story telling while the children are gathered around. The story about the birth of Christ is mainly found from the Gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew in the New Testament. The narrative found therein tells how the the Angel Gabriel told the news of Jesus' birth to Mary, the events that surround the birth of Jesus as to why he was laid in a manger, the coming of the shepherds and the visiting of the wise men or Magi.
Aside from the Christmas story from the Bible, there are other favorite stories to tell that has something to do about Christmas. Some of the popular ones include The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823) is also read aloud in many homes on Christmas Eve. It is popular for its first line "Twas the Night Before Christmas." In these modern times, watching movies and films with Christmas themes may have replaced the classic reading of Christmas stories.
One new Christmas story for kids that is written by best selling author Anthony DeStefano is entitled Little star. It's a perfect story to tell kids about the birth of Christ from the perspective of the stars which shone on that Christmas Eve. Check out the video and see Pat Boone read the story. Maybe you can use it to tell the Christmas story to your kids.
A Christmas Story the Kids Will Like
The Christmas Tree and Decors
When did people begin to put Christmas decors? As mentioned above, the decoration of homes with greenery originated from the practice of the Saturnalia celebration. There was a time after Protestantism began (about 1600's) that the Christmas celebration was banned because of its pagan origin. But it later on reappeared and blended with the more Christian aspects of the celebration.
The evergreens used for decorating homes include the Christmas wreath, the Holly and the Mistletoe. The Germans were the first to trim trees and decorate them with fruits, nuts, lighted candles and paper roses. In the 1800's, the custom of decorating Christmas trees appeared in the United States and spread quickly throughout the world. Christmas ornaments vary from tinsels, bright ornaments to candy canes.
A star is usually mounted on top of Christmas trees to symbolize the star that the wise men followed in finding the stable in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In the Philippines, the parol or Christmas lanterns in the shape of stars are popular. It is also inspired by the star on the Nativity of Jesus that guided the Magi to the manger.
Ideas for Christmas Decors
Christmas Songs and Carols
Christmas songs and carols add some exciting tunes to celebrating Christmas. Whether you like the popular Christmas hymns like "Silent Night" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" or the contemporary Christmas songs like "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" or "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."
The word carol used to refer to a Greek dance accompanied by flute music called choraulein. It was popular with the French who replaced the flute music with singing. Later on, the carols involved singing only and was mainly sung during the Christmas holidays.
In some parts of the world, groups of carolers walk from house to house and sing Christmas songs. Some homes give them some money after singing while others invite them for a warm drink.
Sending Christmas Cards
did people start to give Christmas cards? In the 1800's, people started sending Christmas cards to family and relatives. The first Christmas card was created by John Callcott Horsley in 1843. It resembled a postcard and was simply designed. It pictured a family celebrating Christmas with a written message "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."
Christmas card making has been a profitable business for many stationery manufacturers. However, with the introduction of technology such as the telephone and the email, there has been a decline in the sending and receiving of Christmas cards. Now, more people opt to send Christmas e-cards and video cards to families and relatives across the miles.
Some people still choose to send Christmas cards. It presents a more thoughtful and personal touch between the sender and recipient. For those who are still into sending Christmas cards, here are some links to ideas for making Christmas cards.
© 2010 Chin chin