Christmas is a date that is celebrated all over the world. It is a time that is usually spent with the family and in which the decoration of the houses and streets cannot be missed. In this article, we explain the origin and meaning of this Christian holiday, as well as the most important traditions.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
Meaning and main characteristics
Christmas is celebrated around the world and, although in each country we find different customs, in all places it has a meaning related to joy and happiness.
In addition to being a festive season, it is also seen as a period to reflect on our life, as it has an important spiritual meaning.
On this date the Christian religion celebrates the Jesus birth, the son of God. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) considered Christmas as a celebration of all the children of the world, regardless of their race or origin.
December 25 is the official day of Christmas. The night before Christmas Eve is celebrated. The previous four weeks are called Advent and are considered a period of preparation.
It is also a prominent biblical event, as it marks the passage from the Old Testament to the New Testament. However, the celebration of this festival does not appear in the Bible, nor is there any reference to it being a mandate from God.
The word Christmas comes from the Latin word Nativites, Meaning nacimiento. According to RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) has the following definition: "In the Christian world, an annual holiday in which the birth of Jesus Christ is commemorated."
It is important not to confuse this word with "vanity", which has a totally different connotation from the message that this date wants to convey: "Arrogance, presumption, conceit."
It is a time that is usually spent in family and with loved ones. It is also typical to sing Christmas carols, which arose in the s. XV. The instruments that usually accompany these songs are the tambourine, the rattle and the zambomba. One of the best known is "White Christmas."
Likewise, messages are sent to friends or family with whom we cannot meet, either using new technologies or the traditional format: Christmas cards.
At this time it is also typical to tell the little ones Christmas stories or stories, such as the famous work "Christmas Tales" by Charles Dickens.
Today, some people complain that the values of Christmas have been lost and that what predominates is the consumerism.
Origin and evolution
The history of Christmas has its origin in some pagan holidays. Around December 25, many cultures celebrated the winter solstice, at which time the days begin to last longer.
In the case of the Roman Empire, they celebrated Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. These days large parties were organized with abundant food and drink.
Also, this month was also Juvenalia, a day in honor of the children of Roma. December 25 was considered the birthday of Mithras, the sun god. For the Romans, it was the holiest day of the year.
When celebrating the birth of Jesus, it was the Pope Julius I who adopted this same date in the fourth century, so we can say that he invented Christmas. The reason is that there is no exact reference to the date of this event in the Bible. However, the Orthodox Church chose the day of January 7, due to a mismatch between the calendars of both currents.
This party has not always had the same essence as it is today. It also does not have a satanic origin, as some people think. In the Middle Ages, people attended mass first, to later carry out a kind of unbridled carnival.
Due to the bad reputation of this act, in the s. XNUMXth Christmas in England was eliminated. Therefore, it was not celebrated in America either. People were even fined if they did.
It was in the XNUMXth century when the United States began to change the meaning of this day and, little by little, it became a date to spend with family and in peace. The costumes were put aside and the trees began to be decorated, postcards and gifts given.
In 1870, Christmas was finally declared a Federal Holiday in the United States. The customs that they adopted in this country were transmitted to the rest of the territories, which are spread throughout the world today.
On these dates, the Jews celebrate the Hanukkah, that although it is called jewish christmasIt has nothing to do with it, since they honor the defeat of Judas Maccabeus thanks to the Syrians.
Santa Claus story
The historical character on which Santa Claus is based is Nicolás de Bari, a bishop who lived in the XNUMXth century. It is said that since childhood he was a kind and generous person.
When he was young, his parents died, from whom he inherited a considerable fortune. However, he decided to donate his wealth to the poor and go to Mira, Turkey, to become a priest.
One of his best known feats was giving a bag of gold to the daughter of a merchant who had gone bankrupt and therefore planned to sell his daughter to get money. In addition, numerous miracles are attributed to him.
With the passage of time it began to be known by other names. In many countries in Europe and Latin America he is known as Santa Claus. In Anglo-Saxon areas he is called Santa Claus.
A totally contrary character to Santa Claus is the Grinch. Its creator was the writer Dr. Seuss, who in 1957 published How the Grinch stole Christmas! It is a green creature that lives in a cave.
He has a small heart and wants to ruin Christmas. To do this, he steals all the gifts and decorations, but ends up realizing that this party is much more than that. It is a kind of criticism of the unbridled consumerism of these dates. Here you can see a small excerpt from the 2000 movie The Grinch:
Origin of the Magi
The Magi were three wise priests from the East. This information appears in the Bible, specifically in the Gospel of Matthew, which is part of the New Testament.
According to this, a star He led the three men to Jesus Christ, considered the King of the Jews. This one had just been born in Bethlehem. Once they find him, they pay homage to him and give him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Their names were assigned in the XNUMXth century. Since then, they have been called Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar. His remains are said to be buried in the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany.
Some current customs derive from this part of the Jesus story. In Spain, on the night of December 5, parades are organized to receive the Magi, as it is expected that they will distribute gifts around the houses where there are children. In some Latin American countries this tradition is also followed.
Traditions and curiosities
In Spain there is a deeply rooted tradition: Christmas lottery. It was first celebrated on December 18, 1892, although today the official day is December 22.
From the first edition, the children of the Colegio de San Idefonso de Madrid they are in charge of singing the numbers that are rewarded. Today, the first prize, which is called "el Gordo", is 4 million euros.
The Christmas Lottery announcements are popular as each year they are different. They are broadcast on television on the eve of this date and their main theme is usually generosity. In the following video you can see the one produced in 2014:
Another Spanish custom is to eat grapes on New Year's Eve. It emerged in 1909, when there was a surplus of this product and it was decided to sell them as lucky grapes. They must eat twelve.
Both in this country and in Latin America, a nativity scene is usually set up, known as Manger in Venezuela and Ecuador, or as Nacimiento, especially in Puerto Rico and Guatemala.
In other areas of Latin America, Christmas is very different. In Uruguay and Argentina it is summer, so it is not uncommon to see people sunbathing on the beach or taking a walk at night.
In Mexico, between December 16 and 24, the posadas. They represent the journey that Mary and Joseph made between Nazareth and Bethlehem, which cost them nine days. In Colombia and Ecuador they are known as Novena de Aguinaldos.
Other towns, such as the gypsy, also celebrate Christmas with the family. On the other hand, the acts of the Quechuas are far from religion. They focus more on the offering to the land.
In Greece and Russia, being orthodox, the celebrations are quite important. There is no Christmas tree in Greece. Instead, a wooden model in the shape of a sailboat is assembled. If you want to know more traditions, you can visit the following article: Christmas in the world: main customs and traditions.
There are many curiosities around this festival. For example, in the United States, there are more than 30 million the trees that are sold each year. Each one takes about 15 years to grow.
On the other hand, in the First World War, there was an unofficial truce at Christmas 1914. Christmas carols were sung from the trenches and small gifts were even given between both sides.
Decoration and symbolism
Christmas is a time when decoration cannot be missing. It is a good time for children to do crafts or color pictures. One of the most widespread elements is the tree Christmas tree, which is usually decorated with garlands, pendants in the form of turtledoves, balls and lights.
Also typical is the Advent wreath, which has four candles, which symbolize the four weeks before Christmas. There are also the Advent calendars, of which a door opens every day, which usually contains a sweet.
As for the Nativity scenes, the first to represent one was Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy in 1223. It was from the XNUMXth century that it began to become generalized in the rest of the world.
At the entrance of the gates he gets mistletoe. This custom is of Celtic origin and has a meaning of good luck. In Latin America it is also typical to put a sheep at the entrance, a symbol of abundance.
Also, boots or socks are hung in the fireplace for Santa Claus to leave gifts. This tradition comes from a legend about Saint Nicholas, which is said to have put gold coins in this object to some sisters who could not marry.
Another characteristic object is the Christmas Nutcracker, which comes from a story by Ernst Hoffmann. However, he became famous for the Tchaikovsky ballet, which was itself based on an adaptation by Alexander Dumas.
The most predominant color on these dates is red. This symbolizes blood, passion and love. Of this tone is the typical Poinsettia, also known as Poinsettia.
Where to spend Christmas
There are different destinations where you can spend Christmas. The choice will depend on your tastes. If you want to take the opportunity to bathe on the beach, we recommend Argentina, Uruguay or Australia.
However, it is a time to enjoy the snowy mountains of some countries such as Switzerland or Austria. In these areas you will find numerous ski resorts fully prepared for these dates.
The most acclaimed destination by tourists is New York. This city prepares throughout December to receive Christmas. At this time it has a special charm and various events are held there.
You can also take the opportunity to make a cultural visit. For example, in Andalusia there are several cities such as Granada or Sevilla, with great historical value. In this way, you can get to know flamenco first hand.
Christmas lunches and dinners are usually hearty. Families get together and spend hours around the table. Beyond eating, it has a purpose of union between loved ones.
Depending on the country, different foods are cooked. In the United States you cannot miss the turkey, while in Argentina salads and vitel toné, a beef fillet with sauce, are made.
Buñuelos are a sweet that began to be made in Spain in the XNUMXth century. It is common that in some areas like Colombia and Mexico they are cooked at Christmas. A lot of nougat is also consumed.
As a gastronomic curiosity, we find marzipan, a sweet invented by the Arabs. Queen Elizabeth the Catholic liked them so much that she considered them a medicine. She even ordered them to be distributed in the hospital, as they had energy power.
Questions from users
Why are gifts given at Christmas?
Because in this way the act carried out by the Magi from the East is remembered, who came to Bethlehem to offer gifts to the Child Jesus. In addition, Saint Nicolas, the figure from whom Santa Claus comes, was also known for making donations to those most in need.
What is the true meaning of Christmas?
According to Christian tradition, it is love, since Jesus was born to save humanity and sacrifice himself for it. Therefore, your birth is an act of love and generosity.
What is the meaning of the Christmas tree and its decorations?
Thousands of years ago, the Celts decorated a tree to celebrate the birth of Frey, the god of the Sun and fertility, on a date close to the present Christmas.
It was Saint Boniface who brought this tradition closer to the Catholic Church, because in the XNUMXth century he cut down the Celtic oak with an ax and planted a pine tree. He adorned it with candles, which symbolize the light of Jesus, and apples, which refer to original sin. The tree, being evergreen, represents the love of God.
What is the esoteric meaning of Christmas?
Esotericism is a set of currents that gather hidden knowledge for most people. One of these doctrines is Gnosticism, which arose during the first centuries of the Christian Church. Its activity ended in the fourth century, but it was resumed at the end of the s. XIX.
According to Samael Aun Weor, father of XNUMXth century gnosis, Christmas is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Jesus is not understood as a person, but as the Sun, and the portal of Bethlehem is within each one.
Why is Christmas not celebrated in many places?
Although Christmas is one of the most widespread holidays in the world, there are countries that do not celebrate it because their predominant religion is not Christianity. This happens in Saudi Arabia, Japan or Israel.
Furthermore, in Cuba, it was eliminated by the Fidel Castro regime in 1959. However, in 1997, it was re-established as a public holiday.
What is the meaning of Barra de Navidad in Jalisco?
This Mexican town receives this name because it was on December 25, 1540, Christmas Day, when Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza disembarked in its port.
Why is Christmas for many the best time of the year?
Because for Christians the birth of Jesus is a very important event in the history of Humanity, which is why it is celebrated in style. However, the most important moment is Easter or Holy Week, since the resurrection of Jesus is commemorated.
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