11-24-2008, 09:47 PM
No charge for awesomeness
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: St. Paul
No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn't happen in the year 1AD but slightly earlier, in about 5, 6 or 7BC (there isn't a 0AD - the years go from 1BC to 1AD!).
Christmas was first celebrated as a proper day, on the 25th December, in the 5th century, in the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). He first bought the Roman pagan 'sun-day' (the first day of the week) and the 'sabbath' (the Christians holy day) together to what we now call Sunday.
This date was probably chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December.
The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens between December 22nd and December 25th. To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. (The Winter Solstice in Scandinavia and some other parts of northern Europe is called Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from.)
The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means 'birthday of the unconquered sun' and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Soltice took place). As the days grew longer from this day on, it was thought to be the birthday of the sun and the God Jupiter! (In Roman mythology, Saturn was the father of Jupiter.)! And before the Romans, the Greeks had celebrated the birthday of the God Zeus (the Romans called Zeus Jupiter) on December 25th.
The early Christians gave the festival a new meaning - to celebrate the birth of the Son of God 'the unconquered Son'!
There is another good reason why the 25th may have chosen. The 25th March was also a sacred day to the pagans, when they celebrated the coming of spring and new life. The early Christians took over this day as the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus. This is called the Annunciation and is still celebrated by Christians on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December!
But that's not the only day that Christmas is celebrated around the world. Most of the world uses the 'Gregorian Calendar' implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that the 'Roman' or Julian Calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar is more accurate that the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year! When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582!
Many Orthodox Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. And the Armenian Church celebrates it on the 10th January!! In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called 'Old Christmas' as this would have been the days that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn't been changed. Some pople didn't want to use the new calendar as they thought it 'cheated' them out of 10 days!
Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, so the early Christians thought that this was the right time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They also took over lots of other things from the Winter Solstice and gave them Christian meanings, like Holly, Mistletoe and even Christmas Carols!
St Augustine was the person who really started Christmas in the U.K. by introducing Christianity in the 6th century. He came from countries that used the Roman Calendar, so western countries celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Then people from Britain and Western Europe took Christmas on the 25th December all over the world!
The name 'Christmas' comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The 'Christ-Mass' service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset, so people had it at Midnight! So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.
Christmas is also sometimes called Xmas. Some people don't think it's correct to call Christmas 'Xmas' as that takes the 'Christ' (Jesus) out of Christmas. But that is not quite right! In the Greek language and alphabet, the letter that looks like an X is pronounced 'Christos' and means 'Christ'!
The symbol of a fish is sometimes used by Christians (you might see a fish sticker on a car or someone wearing a little fish badge). This comes from the time when the first Christians had to meet in secret, as the Romans wanted to kill them (before Emperor Constantine became a Christian). Jesus had said that he wanted to make his followers 'Fishers of Men', so people started to use that symbol.
When two Christians met, one person drew half a basic fish shape (often using their foot in the dust on the ground) and the other person drew the other half of the fish. The Greek word for fish is 'Ikthus' or 'Ichthys'. There are five Greek letters in the word. It can also make up a sentence of Christian beliefs 'Ie-sous Christos Theou Huios So-te-r' which in English means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour". The second letter of these five letter is X or Christos!
So Xmas can also mean Christmas!
It's also quite likely that Jesus wasn't born in the winter but in the spring! It can get very cold in the winter in Israel and it is thought that the Roman census that made Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem would have most likely taken place during the spring at the time of the Jewish Passover festival (which normally takes during March or April). At this festival many pilgrims, from all over the country, came to visit Jerusalem (which is about six miles from Bethlehem).
Also during the winter, it's less likely that the shepherds would have been keeping sheep out on the hills (as those hills can get quite a lot of snow sometimes!); but lots of lambs would have been needed during the Passover Festival, to be sacrified in the Temple in Jerusalem.
So whenever you celebrate Christmas, remember that you're celebrating a real event that happened about 2000 years ago, that God sent his Son into the world as a Christmas present for everyone!
As well as Christmas and the solstice, there are some other festivals that are held in late December. The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December) and the festival of Kwanzaa, celebrated by some Africans and African Americans takes place from December 26th to January 1st.
What is the name of the lead singer for the band that sings "I Got a Boner for Christmas" and "Santa's Got a Mullet"?