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The origins of Christmas

Updated on December 12, 2016

In the XX and XXI centuries, this corresponds to January 7 on the Gregorian calendar, and in XXII century - JANUARY 8. For Catholics and Protestants - is the most important holiday of the year. For the Orthodox - a large, but not the greatest holiday. It overshadows Easter, for spiritual revival is more important than the earthly birth. Ancient Christians generally called the day a person's birth day of his death, so Christmas holiday appeared not once, but you can tell by the pressure of external circumstances.

Ancient Church was unknown not only the day, but the month of birth of Jesus Christ . One of the causes of the holiday was the struggle with the heretics - the Gnostics, who gave the greatest importance in the life of the Savior of his baptism, believing that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the Jordan, and before that he was a simple man, sin available.

To counter the Gnostic holiday its the same old Church established the feast of Epiphany and Theophany called him, thus suggesting the idea that the day Christ was not the first time God began and only revealed himself in this role. According to its meaning the word "Epiphany" meant not only Baptism but also Christmas, so this day was celebrated both.

At the beginning of our era in Greek-Roman world at the same time the spread of Christianity happened spread pagan religion: the cult of the sun. Moreover, in the 70 years of the III century the Roman Emperor Aurelian made it the official religion of the empire. The main holiday of sun religion were the days of the winter solstice - the time when the transition from winter to spring resurrection of dying nature. At the center of this divine miracle, the victory of light over darkness, it was the sun - a source of light and life. The new holiday was scheduled for the end of the Saturnalia - the Roman feast to which ever since has not lost its significance, and mass was celebrated by the Romans.

In the year 325, when Emperor Constantine I makes Christianity the state religion, Christians accounted for roughly ten percent of the total population of the empire. The main method of evangelization rest of the population was the use of pagan beliefs themselves, cleaned and filled with new meaning. For this reason, the Nativity feast was separated from the Epiphany and moved to the day of birth of the sun (25 December) , "as the birth of a true spiritual sun, the entry into the world of the true spiritual light."

Since then, in the main hymn of the holiday remained the words, "Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, shone forth to the world the light of knowledge. For it serve the stars were taught to worship Thee, the Sun of righteousness ... ". Thus, thefeast of the Nativity of Christ was arbitrarily scheduled for 25 December .

Christmas Symbols

By virtue of its origin the Nativity of Christ bears some elements of symbolism solstice celebration - the symbolism of the cyclic regeneration of the world. The same importance is attached to Easter - other important Christian holiday - Easter egg and bunny. Suffice it to recall the tale of Kashchei Immortal, the plot of which dates back to the pagan beliefs of Indo-Europeans. Kashchei Death (the embodiment of the forces of evil and chaos) is contained in an egg, the egg is in a duck, a duck - in a hare (rabbit), hare - in the chest, the chest - on the tree. If you break an egg, then Kashchei (old world) dies and is born a new world, a new universe.

The history of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds the rituals associated with the symbolism of the annual rebirth of the world, where other "saviors" -God or demigods - succeeded in their purpose, have been killed and resurrected, and together with them and the world was revived. However, in spite of the similarity of Christianity with cyclic religions, where death and rebirth of the god, whether Osiris, Tammuz, or Orpheus, was forever repeating the myth, Christ was born, he was crucified, resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God the Father once and for all. Finishing resurrection leads to the fact that in Christian rituals, including Christmas holiday, celebrated have already committed, but also as a spiritual event that occurs exactly today, and with the believers themselves.

The people and the whole world will be reborn only once, when for the second time will be the Savior and ask everyone according to his deeds.

It would seem that Christianity gives man the highest freedom, he can only imagine - a person can do everything, even to influence the universe. Only believe, and all will come to pass on to your faith, not doubt in his heart. However, to achieve this can only select: saints, martyrs and the righteous, they will only climb to heaven, to heaven, and fellowship with God, but they will gain eternal salvation. This path is not closed to anyone, but monitoring Eliade, most modern people, including Christians, somewhere deep inside sits the idea that "life can not be fixed, and can only be re-created."Therefore, many of us find it possible to start a new, unblemished life, a new, virtuous existence since the New Year, Christmas, birthday, or, for example, Monday. This, of course, can be traced archetypal beliefs of our ancestors to the possibility of the destruction of time, repeated periodic revival of not only nature but also human.

Traditional Christmas celebration attribute in many countries of the world - a Christmas tree is a conifer (spruce, fir, pine) or an artificial imitation of it, decorated with garlands, Christmas toys and special candles or light bulbs.

Children and Santa Claus in "tree Claus" (it. Klausbaum).Engraving from the German book "50 fables with pictures for children."

There are no indications of a tree as a symbol of the celebration of the birth of Christ is not in the New Testament. However, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The use of evergreen trees (wreaths and garlands of them) symbolizing eternal life was the custom of the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese and the Jews. It is also the worship of trees was common among the pre-Christian pagan Europeans and this custom has survived, and after converting them to Christianity.

Formation of the modern Christmas ritual took place in the German tradition in the late Middle Ages and early modern times.Until now, the debate continues, and where was first documented Christmas tree installation. There is a brief mention of a similar ceremony on the eve of 1510 in Riga and Revel. The tree was set on the Town Hall Square, where guild members danced around him.Bremen Chronicle of 1570 reports that a small Christmas tree was placed in a charitable purpose to collect treats for the children and was decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers." Often, as a first Christmas tree is offered that which Luther found in his house for Christmas.

German Christmas tree dates back to the pre-Christmas tree paradise mystery - DECEMBER 24 Western Christians celebrate the memory of Adam and Eve. Christmas tree similar to the tree of knowledge was decorated with apples first, then a red balls.

By the early 18th century, the custom became common in the cities of the upper Rhine, but has not yet spread to rural areas. On the Lower Rhine, in connection with the presence of the Roman Catholic majority, until the 18th century tree was considered alien to Protestant custom. At the beginning of the 19th century, the custom became popular among European nobility and spread to several royal courts, including the Russian imperial court.

In Russia, the outer decoration of buildings branches of conifers was first ordered the king's decree as of 1 January 1700, but it had nothing to do with tradition to make Christmas tree into the house and decorate it; this tradition in Russia comes after a half-century. Spruce in Russia has traditionally been associated with the death, burial rites, and how to make it into the house, out of the question. The only people who had listened to the king's decree, became the owners of taverns, during the XVIII century, designating the entrance to the institution with fir branches, causing a bitter drunkard nicknamed "Elkin".

Scenes from a marriage of Emperor Nicholas I.
The Christmas tree in the Anichkov Palace.
Chernyshov AF

It appeared in the early nineteenth century in the homes of the Germans in St. Petersburg in Russia as a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. In 1818 at the initiative of Grand Duchess Alexandra, who was herself a German, was arranged tree in Moscow, and the next year - in St. Petersburg Anichkov Palace.

Prior to the 1840s the custom to put a Christmas tree in Russia did not exist, the palace Christmas trees were the exception. Prior to the beginning of the 1840s about elkah not mentioned in the literature in the homes of the capital, but in the early 1840s, as a great novelty, already writing the sale of confectionery "lovely German Christmas trees harvested sweets, lanterns and garlands."

In the mid-forties, has found some astonished mention that "in the Russian houses adopted the custom of German ... decorate ... sapling as soon as possible to better flowers and ribbons, hung on the branches gilded nuts. Reds, the most beautiful apples, brush tasty grapes ... all of this highlights the multitude of wax candles, sticky to the branches, and sometimes multi-colored lanterns. " All that was on the branches of trees and on a table under it, it presents. The gift has always had its particular donor. The custom attribute the appearance presents fabulous creatures appeared only in the early twentieth century.

In the mid-1840s, Christmas trees are experiencing extraordinary upsurge of interest, so that in the late forties in St. Petersburg has widely placed trees. Dostoevsky in the story "A Christmas Tree and a Wedding" of 1848 mentions the tree as something already well-known.


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