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Christmas
Christmas
Christmas decorations on display.
Also called Christ's Mass
Nativity
Noel
Observed by Christians
Many non-Christians[1]
Type Christian, cultural
Significance Traditional birthday of Jesus
Date December 25
(or January 7[2] in Eastern Orthodox / Catholic churches)
Observances Gift giving, church services, family and other social gatherings, symbolic decorating
Related to Annunciation, Advent, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord

Christmas[3] or Christmas Day[4][5] is a holiday held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity.[6][7] The date is not known to be the actual birth date of Jesus, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with either the day exactly nine months after some early Christians believed Jesus had been conceived,[8] the date of the winter solstice on the ancient Roman calendar,[9] or one of various ancient winter festivals.[10][11] Christmas is central to the Christmas and holiday season, and in Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days.[12]

Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated by many non-Christians,[1][13] and some of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, Father Christmas (known as Santa Claus in some areas, including North America, Australia and Ireland) is a popular folklore figure in many countries, associated with the bringing of gifts for children.[14]

Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

Contents

Etymology

The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.[7] "Cristes" is from Greek Christos and "mæsse" is from Latin missa (the holy mass). In Greek, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ, and it, or the similar Roman letter X, has been used as an abbreviation for Christ since the mid-16th century.[15] Hence, Xmas is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Christmas.

Celebration

Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in most countries of the world, even in many whose populations are not majority Christian. In some non-Christian countries, periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration (e.g. Hong Kong); in others, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the holiday. Major exceptions, where Christmas is not a formal public holiday, include People's Republic of China, (except Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Turkey and North Korea.

Around the world, Christmas celebrations can vary markedly in form, reflecting differing cultural and national traditions. Countries such as Japan and Korea, where Christmas is popular despite there being only a small number of Christians, have adopted many of the secular aspects of Christmas, such as gift-giving, decorations and Christmas trees.

Date of celebration

For many centuries, Christian writers accepted that Christmas was the actual date on which Jesus was born.[16] In the early eighteenth century, scholars began proposing alternative explanations. Isaac Newton argued that the date of Christmas was selected to correspond with the winter solstice,[9] which the Romans called bruma and celebrated on December 25.[17] In 1743, German Protestant Paul Ernst Jablonski argued Christmas was placed on December 25 to correspond with the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and was therefore a "paganization" that debased the true church.[11] According to Judeo-Christian tradition, creation as described in the Genesis creation myth occurred on the date of the spring equinox, i.e. March 25 on the Roman calendar. This date is now celebrated as Annunciation and as the anniversary of Incarnation.[18] In 1889, Louis Duchesne suggested that the date of Christmas was calculated as nine months after Annunciation, the traditional date of the conception of Jesus.[19]

The December 25 date may have been selected by the church in Rome in the early fourth century. At this time, a church calendar was created and other holidays were also placed on solar dates: "It is cosmic symbolism...which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the winter solstice, December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the summer solstice as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception. While they were aware that pagans called this day the 'birthday' of Sol Invictus, this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas," according to modern scholar S.E. Hijmans.[20]

Orthodox churches

Some Eastern Orthodox national churches, including those of Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Ukraine, the Macedonia, Serbia and the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem mark feasts using the older Julian Calendar. December 25 on that calendar currently corresponds to January 7 on the more widely used Gregorian calendar. Oriental Orthodox churches also use their own calendars, which are generally similar to the Julian calendar. The Armenian Apostolic Church in Armenia celebrates the nativity in combination with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 in that church's calendar (currently corresponding to January 19 in the Gregorian calendar).

Commemorating the birth of Jesus

Adorazione del Bambino (Adoration of the Child) (1439–43), a mural by Florentine painter Fra Angelico.

In Christianity, Christmas is the festival celebrating the Nativity of Jesus, the Christian belief that the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament's Messianic prophecies was born to the Virgin Mary. The story of Christmas is based on the biblical accounts given in the Gospel of Matthew, namely Matthew 1:18, and the Gospel of Luke, specifically Luke 1:26 and 2:40. According to these accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem. According to popular tradition, the birth took place in a stable, surrounded by farm animals, though neither the stable nor the animals are specifically mentioned in the Biblical accounts. However, a manger is mentioned in Luke 2:7, where it states, "She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Early iconographic representations of the nativity placed the animals and manger within a cave (located, according to tradition, under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem). Shepherds from the fields surrounding Bethlehem were told of the birth by an angel, and were the first to see the child.[21]

Many Christians believe that the birth of Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies from the Old Testament.[22] The Gospel of Matthew also describes a visit by several Magi, or astrologers, who bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant. The visitors were said to be following a mysterious star, commonly known as the Star of Bethlehem, believing it to announce the birth of a king of the Jews.[23] The commemoration of this visit, the Feast of Epiphany celebrated on January 6, is the formal end of the Christmas season in some churches.

Christians celebrate Christmas in many ways. In addition to this day being one of the most important and popular for the attendance of church services, there are numerous other devotions and popular traditions. Prior to Christmas Day, the Eastern Orthodox Church practises the 40-day Nativity Fast in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, while much of Western Christianity celebrates four weeks of Advent. The final preparations for Christmas are made on Christmas Eve.

Over the Christmas period, people decorate their homes and exchange gifts. In some Christian denominations, children perform plays re-telling the events of the Nativity, or sing carols that reference the event. Some Christians also display a small re-creation of the Nativity, known as a Nativity scene or crib, in their homes, using figurines to portray the key characters of the event. Live Nativity scenes and tableaux vivants are also performed, using actors and animals to portray the event with more realism.[24]

A long artistic tradition has grown of producing painted depictions of the nativity in art. Nativity scenes are traditionally set in a barn or stable and include Mary, Joseph, the child Jesus, angels, shepherds and the Three Wise Men: Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, who are said to have followed a star, known as the Star of Bethlehem, and arrived after his birth.[25]

Varied traditions

Among countries with a strong Christian tradition, a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed that incorporate regional and local cultures. For many Christians, participating in a religious service plays an important part in the recognition of the season. Christmas, along with Easter, is the period of highest annual church attendance.

In many Catholic countries, the people hold religious processions or parades in the days preceding Christmas. In other countries, secular processions or parades featuring Santa Claus and other seasonal figures are often held. Family reunions and the exchange of gifts are a widespread feature of the season. Gift giving takes place on Christmas Day in most countries. Others practise gift giving on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, and January 6, Epiphany.

A special Christmas family meal is an important part of the celebration for many, and what is served varies greatly from country to country. Some regions, such as Sicily, have special meals for Christmas Eve, when 12 kinds of fish are served. In England and countries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmas meal includes turkey (brought from North America), potatoes, vegetables, sausages and gravy, followed by Christmas pudding, mince pies and fruit cake. In Poland and other parts of eastern Europe and Scandinavia, fish often is used for the traditional main course, but richer meat such as lamb is increasingly served. In Germany, France and Austria, goose and pork are favored. Beef, ham and chicken in various recipes are popular throughout the world. Ham is the main meal in the Philippines.

Special desserts are also prepared: The Maltese traditionally serve Imbuljuta tal-Qastan,[26] a chocolate and chestnuts beverage, after Midnight Mass and throughout the Christmas season. Slovaks prepare the traditional Christmas bread potica, bûche de Noël in France, panettone in Italy, and elaborate tarts and cakes. The eating of sweets and chocolates has become popular worldwide, and sweeter Christmas delicacies include the German stollen, marzipan cake or candy, and Jamaican rum fruit cake. As one of the few fruits traditionally available to northern countries in winter, oranges were long associated with special Christmas foods.

A house decorated for Christmas

Decorations

The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history. From pre-Christian times, people in the Roman Empire brought branches from evergreen plants indoors in the winter. Christian people incorporated such customs in their developing practices. In the fifteenth century, it was recorded that in London it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be "decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green".[27] The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolise the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed.[28]

Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome. They were popularised by Saint Francis of Asissi from 1223, quickly spreading across Europe.[29] Many different types of decorations developed across the Christian world, dependent on local tradition and available resources. The first commercially produced decorations appeared in Germany in the 1860s, inspired by paper chains made by children.[30]

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship.[31] The English language phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in 1835[32] and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century[31] though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century.[33][34] From Germany the custom was introduced to Britain, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. By 1841 the Christmas tree had become even more widespread throughout Britain.[35] By the 1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree.[36] Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments.

Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.

In Australia, North and South America, and Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures. Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square.[37]

European Holly, traditional Christmas decoration.

In the Western world, rolls of brightly colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels.

In many countries a representation of the Nativity Scene is very popular, and people are encouraged to compete and create most original or realistic ones. Within some families, the pieces used to make the representation are considered a valuable family heirloom. Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5. The traditional colors of Christmas are pine green (evergreen), snow white, and heart red.

Music and carols

Christmas carolers in Jersey

The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appear in fourth century Rome. Latin hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium, written by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, were austere statements of the theological doctrine of the Incarnation in opposition to Arianism. Corde natus ex Parentis (Of the Father's love begotten) by the Spanish poet Prudentius (d. 413) is still sung in some churches today.[38]

In the ninth and tenth centuries, the Christmas "Sequence" or "Prose" was introduced in North European monasteries, developing under Bernard of Clairvaux into a sequence of rhymed stanzas. In the twelfth century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol.

By the thirteenth century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Asissi, a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native language developed.[39] Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty-five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of wassailers, who went from house to house.[40] The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal folk songs sung during celebrations such as "harvest tide" as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church. Traditionally, carols have often been based on medieval chord patterns, and it is this that gives them their uniquely characteristic musical sound. Some carols like "Personent hodie", "Good King Wenceslas", and "The Holly and the Ivy" can be traced directly back to the Middle Ages. They are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung. Adeste Fidelis (O Come all ye faithful) appears in its current form in the mid 18th century, although the words may have originated in the thirteenth century.

Child singers in Bucharest, 1841.

Singing of carols initially suffered a decline in popularity after the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe, although some Reformers, like Martin Luther, wrote carols and encouraged their use in worship. Carols largely survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in popular songs in the 19th century. The 18th century English reformer Charles Wesley understood the importance of music to worship. In addition to setting many psalms to melodies, which were influential in the Great Awakening in the United States, he wrote texts for at least three Christmas carols. The best known was originally entitled "Hark! How All the Welkin Rings", later renamed "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing".[41] Felix Mendelssohn wrote a melody adapted to fit Wesley's words. In Austria in 1818 Mohr and Gruber made a major addition to the genre when they composed "Silent Night" for the St. Nicholas Church, Oberndorf. William B. Sandys' Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833) contained the first appearance in print of many now-classic English carols, and contributed to the mid-Victorian revival of the festival.[42]

Completely secular Christmas seasonal songs emerged in the late eighteenth century. "Deck The Halls" dates from 1784, and the American, "Jingle Bells" was copyrighted in 1857. In the 19th and 20th century, African American spirituals and songs about Christmas, based in their tradition of spirituals, became more widely known. An increasing number of seasonal holidays songs were commercially produced in the twentieth century, including jazz and blues variations. In addition, there was a revival of interest in early music, from groups singing folk music, such as The Revels, to performers of early medieval and classical music.

A Christmas card from 1870

Cards

Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting usually exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. The custom has become popular among a wide cross-section of people, including non-Christians, in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", much like that of the first commercial Christmas card, produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843. However there are innumerable variations of this formula, many cards expressing a more religious sentiment, or containing a poem, prayer or Biblical verse; while others distance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".

Christmas cards are purchased in considerable quantities, and feature artwork, commercially designed and relevant to the season. The content of the design might relate directly to the Christmas narrative with depictions of the Nativity of Jesus, or Christian symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem, or a white dove which can represent both the Holy Spirit and Peace on Earth. Other Christmas cards are more secular and can depict Christmas traditions, mythical figures such as Santa Claus, objects directly associated with Christmas such as candles, holly and baubles, or a variety of images associated with the season, such as Christmastime activities, snow scenes and the wildlife of the northern winter. There are also humorous cards and genres depicting nostalgic scenes of the past such as crinolined shoppers in idealized 19th century streetscapes.

Stamps

A number of nations have issued commemorative stamps at Christmastime. Postal customers will often use these stamps to mail Christmas cards, and they are popular with philatelists. These stamps are regular postage stamps, unlike Christmas seals, and are valid for postage year-round. They usually go on sale some time between early October and early December, and are printed in considerable quantities.

In 1898 a Canadian stamp was issued to mark the inauguration of the Imperial Penny Postage rate. The stamp features a map of the globe and bears an inscription "XMAS 1898" at the bottom. In 1937, Austria issued two "Christmas greeting stamps" featuring a rose and the signs of the zodiac. In 1939, Brazil issued four semi-postal stamps with designs featuring the three kings and a star of Bethlehem, an angel and child, the Southern Cross and a child, and a mother and child.

Both the US Postal Service and the Royal Mail regularly issue Christmas-themed stamps each year.

Santa Claus and other bringers of gifts

Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, considered by many to be the original Santa Claus.

Christmas has for many centuries been a time for the giving and exchanging of gifts, particularly between friends and family members. A number of figures of both Christian and mythical origin have been associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.

The most famous and pervasive of these figures in modern celebration worldwide is Santa Claus, a mythical gift bringer, dressed in red, whose origins have diverse sources. The name Santa Claus is a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the fourth century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of Children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on the 6th of December came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishoply attire, accompanied by helpers, and enquired about the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Reformation in 16th–17th century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of giving gifts changed from December the 6th to Christmas Eve.[43]

The modern popular image of Santa Claus, however, was created in the United States, and in particular in New York. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of six notable contributors including Washington Irving and the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902). Following the American Revolutionary War, some of the inhabitants of New York City sought out symbols of the city's non-English past. New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition was reinvented as Saint Nicholas.[44] In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City.[45] At his first American appearance in 1810, Santa Claus was drawn in bishops' robes. However as new artists took over, Santa Claus developed more secular attire.[46] Nast drew a new image of "Santa Claus" annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the robed, fur clad, form we now recognize, perhaps based on the English figure of Father Christmas. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.[47]

Santa Claus is famous around the world for giving gifts to good children

Father Christmas, a jolly, well nourished, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character. He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts.[32] In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French Père Noël evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana is the bringer of gifts and arrives on the eve of the Epiphany. It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way. Now, she brings gifts to all children. In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus.

There has been some opposition to the narrative of the American evolution of Saint Nicholas into the modern Santa. It has been claimed that the Saint Nicholas Society was not founded until 1835, almost half a century after the end of the American War of Independence.[48] Moreover, a study of the "children's books, periodicals and journals" of New Amsterdam by Charles Jones revealed no references to Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas.[49] However, not all scholars agree with Jones's findings, which he reiterated in a booklength study in 1978;[50] Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York was alive and well from the early settlement of the Hudson Valley on.[51]

Current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela and Colombia) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children's homes, a reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.

In Alto Adige/Südtirol (Italy), Austria, Czech Republic, Southern Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia and Switzerland, the Christkind (Ježíšek in Czech, Jézuska in Hungarian and Ježiško in Slovak) brings the presents. The German St. Nikolaus is not identical with the Weihnachtsman (who is the German version of Santa Claus). St. Nikolaus wears a bishop's dress and still brings small gifts (usually candies, nuts and fruits) on December 6 and is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht. Although many parents around the world routinely teach their children about Santa Claus and other gift bringers, some have come to reject this practice, considering it deceptive.[52]

History

Mosaic of Jesus as Christo Sole (Christ the Sun) in Mausoleum M in the pre-fourth-century necropolis under St Peter's Basilica in Rome.[53]

Pre-Christian background

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the unconquered Sun." The use of the title Sol Invictus allowed several solar deities to be worshipped collectively, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian; and Mithras, a soldiers' god of Persian origin.[54] Emperor Elagabalus (218–222) introduced Sol-worship and the cult reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian.[55]

Modern scholars have argued that the festival was placed on the date of the solstice because this was on this day that the Sun reversed its southward retreat and proved itself to be "unconquered." Several early Christian writers connected the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Jesus.[7] "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born...Christ should be born", Cyprian wrote.[7] John Chrysostom also commented on the connection: "They call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .?"[7]

Although Dies Natalis Solis Invicti has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly speculation, the only ancient source for it is a single mention in the Chronography of 354.[20] "[W]hile the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas, and none that indicates that Aurelian had a hand in its institution," according to modern Sol scholar Steven Hijmans.[20]

Winter festivals

A winter festival was the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included the fact that less agricultural work needs to be done during the winter, as well as an expectation of better weather as spring approached.[56] Modern Christmas customs include: gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; and Yule logs and various foods from Germanic feasts.[57] Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period. As Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, its pagan traditions had a major influence on Christmas. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul. In English, the word Yule is synonymous with Christmas,[58] a usage first recorded in 900.

Christian feast

The New Testament does not give a date for the birth of Jesus.[7][59] Around AD 200, Clement of Alexandria wrote that a group in Egypt celebrated the nativity on 25 Pashons.[7] This corresponds to May 20.[60] Tertullian (d. 220) does not mention Christmas as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa.[7] However, in Chronographai, a reference work published in 221, Sextus Julius Africanus suggested that Jesus was conceived on the spring equinox, popularizing the idea that Christ was born on December 25.[61][62] The equinox was March 25 on the Roman calendar, so this implied a birth in December.[63] De Pascha Computus, a calendar of feasts produced in 243, gives March 28 as the date of the nativity.[64] In 245, the theologian Origen of Alexandria stated that, "only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod)" celebrated their birthdays.[65] In 303, Christian writer Arnobius ridiculed the idea of celebrating the birthdays of gods, which suggests that Christmas was not yet a feast at this time.[7]

Feast established

The earliest known reference to the date of the nativity as December 25 is found in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome.[66] In the East, early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival emphasized celebration of the baptism of Jesus.[67]

Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.[7]

The Examination and Trial of Father Christmas, (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England.

Middle Ages

In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in the west focused on the visit of the magi. But the Medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the "forty days of St. Martin" (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent.[68] In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent.[68] Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5); a time that appears in the liturgical calendars as Christmastide or Twelve Holy Days.[68]

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.

By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten.[68] The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus. Various writers of the time condemned caroling as lewd, indicating that the unruly traditions of Saturnalia and Yule may have continued in this form.[68] "Misrule"—drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling—was also an important aspect of the festival. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, and there was special Christmas ale.[68]

Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy, holly, and other evergreens.[69] Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord.[69] The annual indulgence in eating, dancing, singing, sporting, card playing escalated in England, and by the 17th century the Christmas season featured lavish dinners, elaborate masques and pageants. In 1607, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games.[70] It was during the Reformation in 16th–17th century Europe, that many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6th to Christmas Eve.[43]

Reformation into the 19th century

Following the Protestant Reformation, groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the "trappings of popery" or the "rags of the Beast."[71] The Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old style Christmas generosity.[70] Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647.[71] Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans.[71] The book, The Vindication of Christmas (London, 1652), argued against the Puritans, and makes note of Old English Christmas traditions, dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dances with "plow-boys" and "maidservants", and carol singing.[72] The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration. In Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland also discouraged observance of Christmas. James VI commanded its celebration in 1618, however attendance at church was scant.[73]

In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England shared radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. The ban by the Pilgrims was revoked in 1681 by English governor Sir Edmund Andros, however it wasn't until the mid 1800's that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.[74] At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely. Pennsylvania German Settlers, pre-eminently the Moravian settlers of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz in Pennsylvania and the Wachovia Settlements in North Carolina, were enthusiastic celebrators of Christmas. The Moravians in Bethlehem had the first Christmas trees in America as well as the first Nativity Scenes.[75] Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.[76] George Washington attacked Hessian (German) mercenaries on Christmas during the Battle of Trenton in 1777, Christmas being much more popular in Germany than in America at this time.

By the 1820s, sectarian tension had eased in Britain and writers, including William Winstanly, began to worry that Christmas was dying out. These writers imagined Tudor Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration, and efforts were made to revive the holiday. In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol, that helped revive the 'spirit' of Christmas and seasonal merriment.[77][78] Its instant popularity played a major role in portraying Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion.[79] Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[80] Superimposing his secular vision of the holiday, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive generosity of spirit.[81] A prominent phrase from the tale, 'Merry Christmas', was popularized following the appearance of the story.[82] The term Scrooge became a synonym for miser, with 'Bah! Humbug!' dismissive of the festive spirit.[83] In 1843, the first commercial Christmas card was produced by Sir Henry Cole.[84] The revival of the Christmas Carol began with William B. Sandys Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833), with the first appearance in print of 'The First Noel', 'I Saw Three Ships', 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' and 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen', popularized in Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, 1848. Republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia December, 1850. Victoria's crown, and Prince Albert's mustache edited

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced in the early 1800s following the personal union with the Kingdom of Hanover, by Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen to King George III. In 1832 a young Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a Christmas tree, hung with lights, ornaments, and presents placed round it.[85] After her marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became more widespread throughout Britain.[35] An image of the British royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, created a sensation when it was published in the Illustrated London News in 1848. A modified version of this image was published in the United States in 1850.[86][36] By the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America.[36]

In America, interest in Christmas had been revived in the 1820s by several short stories by Washington Irving which appear in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon and "Old Christmas". Irving's stories depicted some harmonious warm-hearted holiday traditions he claimed to have observed in England,[87] and he used the tract Vindication of Christmas (1652) of Old English Christmas traditions long since abandoned, that he had transcribed into his journal as a format for his stories.[70] In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (popularly known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas).[88] The poem helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance.[89] This also started the cultural conflict of the holiday's spiritualism and its commercialism that some see as corrupting the holiday. In her 1850 book "The First Christmas in New England", Harriet Beecher Stowe includes a character who complains that the true meaning of Christmas was lost in a shopping spree.[90] While the celebration of Christmas wasn't yet customary in some regions in the U.S., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow detected "a transition state about Christmas here in New England" in 1856. "The old puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful, hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so".[91] In Reading, Pennsylvania, a newspaper remarked in 1861, "Even our presbyterian friends who have hitherto steadfastly ignored Christmas — threw open their church doors and assembled in force to celebrate the anniversary of the Savior's birth".[91] The First Congregational Church of Rockford, Illinois, 'although of genuine Puritan stock', was 'preparing for a grand Christmas jubilee', a news correspondent reported in 1864.[91] By 1860, fourteen states including several from New England had adopted Christmas as a legal holiday.[92] In 1870, Christmas was formally declared a United States Federal holiday, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.[92] Subsequently, in 1875, Louis Prang introduced the Christmas card to Americans. He has been called the "father of the American Christmas card".[93]

Controversy and criticism

Throughout the holiday's history, Christmas has been the subject of both controversy and criticism from a wide variety of different sources. The first documented Christmas controversy was Christian-led, and began during the English Interregnum, when England was ruled by a Puritan Parliament.[94] Puritans (including those who fled to America) sought to remove the remaining pagan elements of Christmas. During this period, the English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas entirely, considering it "a popish festival with no biblical justification", and a time of wasteful and immoral behavior.[95]

Controversy and criticism continues in the present-day, where some Christian and non-Christians have claimed that an affront to Christmas (dubbed a "war on Christmas" by some) is ongoing.[96][97] In the United States there has been a tendency to replace the greeting Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays.[98] Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have initiated court cases to bar the display of images and other material referring to Christmas from public property, including schools.[99] Such groups argue that government-funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the establishment by Congress of a national religion.[100] In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lynch vs. Donnelly that a Christmas display (which included a Nativity scene) owned and displayed by the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island did not violate the First Amendment.[101] In November 2009, the Federal appeals court in Philadelphia endorsed a school district's ban on the singing of Christmas carols.[102]

In the private sphere also, it has been alleged that any specific mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious aspects was being increasingly censored, avoided, or discouraged by a number of advertisers and retailers. In response, the American Family Association and other groups have organized boycotts of individual retailers.."[103] In the United Kingdom there have also been some controversies, one of the most famous being the temporary promotion of the Christmas period as Winterval by Birmingham City Council in 1998. There were also protests in November 2009 when the city of Dundee promoted its celebrations as the Winter Night Light festival, initially with no specific Christmas references.[104]

Economics

A Christmas market in Clifton Mill, Ohio, United States

Christmas is typically the largest annual economic stimulus for many nations around the world. Sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas and shops introduce new products as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies. In the U.S., the "Christmas shopping season" generally begins on the day after Thanksgiving (often referred to as Black Friday), though many American stores begin selling Christmas items as early as October.[105] In Canada, merchants begin advertising campaigns just before Halloween (October 31), and step up their marketing following Remembrance Day on November 11. In the United States, it has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season.[106] Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that expenditure in department stores nationwide rose from $20.8 billion in November 2004 to $31.9 billion in December 2004, an increase of 54 percent. In other sectors, the pre-Christmas increase in spending was even greater, there being a November – December buying surge of 100 percent in bookstores and 170 percent in jewelry stores. In the same year employment in American retail stores rose from 1.6 million to 1.8 million in the two months leading up to Christmas.[107] Industries completely dependent on Christmas include Christmas cards, of which 1.9 billion are sent in the United States each year, and live Christmas Trees, of which 20.8 million were cut in the USA in 2002.[108]

In most Western nations, Christmas Day is the least active day of the year for business and commerce; almost all retail, commercial and institutional businesses are closed, and almost all industries cease activity (more than any other day of the year). In England and Wales, the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 prevents all large shops from trading on Christmas Day. Scotland is currently planning similar legislation. Film studios release many high-budget movies during the holiday season, including Christmas films, fantasy movies or high-tone dramas with high production values.

One economist's analysis calculates that, despite increased overall spending, Christmas is a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, because of the effect of gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001, Christmas resulted in a $4 billion deadweight loss in the U.S. alone.[109][110] Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory. Other deadweight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter.[111]

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Christmas as a Multi-faith Festival—BBC News. Retrieved September 30, 2008.
  2. ^ Christmas: January 7 or December 25?Coptic Orthodox Church Network. John Ramzy. Retrieved on December 31, 2009.
  3. ^ Canadian Heritage – Public holidaysGovernment of Canada. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  4. ^ 2009 Federal HolidaysU.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  5. ^ Bank holidays and British Summer timeHM Government. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  6. ^ Christmas, Merriam-Webster. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
    "Christmas," MSN Encarta. Retrieved October 6, 2008. Archived 2009-10-31.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Christmas", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913.
  8. ^ How December 25 Became Christmas, Biblical Archaeology Review, Retrieved 2009-12-13
  9. ^ a b Newton, Isaac, Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733). Ch. XI.
    A sun connection is possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the "sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4:2.
  10. ^ How December 25 Became Christmas, Biblical Archaeology Review, Retrieved 2009-12-13
  11. ^ a b "Christmas", Encarta
    Roll, Susan K., Toward the Origins of Christmas, (Peeters Publishers, 1995), p.130.
    Tighe, William J., "Calculating Christmas". Archived 2009-10-31.
  12. ^ "The Christmas Season". CRI / Voice, Institute. http://www.cresourcei.org/cyxmas.html. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 
  13. ^ Non-Christians focus on secular side of ChristmasSioux City Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  14. ^ "Poll: In a changing nation, Santa endures", Associated Press, December 22, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  15. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  16. ^ For example, Pope Benedict XIV argued in 1761 that the church fathers would have known the correct date of birth from Roman census records. (Roll, Susan K., Toward the Origins of Christmas, (Peeters Publishers, 1995), p. 129.)
  17. ^ "Bruma", Seasonal Festivals of the Greeks and Romans
    Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 18:59
  18. ^ "Choosing the Date of Christmas: Why is Christmas Celebrated on December 25?". Ancient and Future Catholics. http://www.ancient-future.net/christmasdate.html. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  19. ^ Roll, pp. 88–90.
    Duchesne, Louis, Les Origines du Culte Chrétien, Paris, 1902, 262 ff.
  20. ^ a b c S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 587–588.
  21. ^ Luke 2:1–6
  22. ^ Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend, London, Penguin, 2006, p22.; E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 1993, p.85.
  23. ^ Matthew 2:2.
  24. ^ Krug, Nora. "Little Towns of Bethlehem", The New York Times, November 25, 2005.
  25. ^ Matthew 2:1–11
  26. ^ http://schoolnet.gov.mt/HelloEurope/activities/recepies/imbuljuta.html Imbuljuta
  27. ^ Miles, Clement A, Christmas customs and traditions, Courier Dover Publications, 1976, ISBN 0486233545, p. 272
  28. ^ Heller, Ruth, Christmas: Its Carols, Customs & Legends, Alfred Publishing (1985), ISBN 0769243991, p. 12
  29. ^ Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, Zondervan, (2003), ISBN 0310248809 p.47
  30. ^ Collins p. 83
  31. ^ a b van Renterghem, Tony. When Santa was a shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-56718-765-X
  32. ^ a b Harper, Douglas, Christ, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001.
  33. ^ "The Chronological History of the Christmas Tree". The Christmas Archives. http://www.christmasarchives.com/trees.html. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  34. ^ "Christmas Tradition – The Christmas Tree Custom". Fashion Era. http://www.fashion-era.com/Christmas/christmas_customs_tree_history.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  35. ^ a b Lejeune, Marie Claire. Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe, p.550. University of Michigan ISBN 9077135049
  36. ^ a b c Shoemaker, Alfred Lewis. (1959) Christmas in Pennsylvania: a folk-cultural study. Edition 40. pp. 52, 53. Stackpole Books 1999. ISBN 0811703282.
  37. ^ Murray, Brian. "Christmas lights and community building in America," History Matters, Spring 2006.
  38. ^ Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Courier Dover Publications, 1976, ISBN 0486233545, p.32
  39. ^ Miles, pp. 31–37
  40. ^ Miles, pp. 47–48
  41. ^ Dudley-Smith, Timothy (1987). A Flame of Love. London: Triangle/SPCK. ISBN 0-281-04300-0. 
  42. ^ Richard Michael Kelly. A Christmas carol p.10. Broadview Press, 2003 ISBN 1551114763
  43. ^ a b Forbes, Bruce David, Christmas: a candid history, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0520251040, pp. 68–79.
  44. ^ Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Santa Claus
  45. ^ John Steele Gordon, The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power: 1653–2000 (Scribner) 1999.
  46. ^ Forbes, Bruce David, Christmas: a candid history, pp. 80–81.
  47. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David P., "The Claus That Refreshes", Snopes.com, 2006.
  48. ^ "History of the Society". The Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York. http://www.saintnicholassociety.org/history.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  49. ^ Jones, Charles W., "Knickerbocker Santa Claus", The New-York Historical Society Quarterly XXXVIII (4) .
  50. ^ Charles W. Jones, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1978).
  51. ^ Hageman, Howard G. (1979), "Review of Saint Nicholas of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend", Theology Today (Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary) 36 (3), http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/oct1979/v36-3-bookreview15.htm, retrieved 2008-12-05 .
  52. ^ Matera, Mariane. "Santa: The First Great Lie", Citybeat, Issue 304
  53. ^ Kelly, Joseph F., The Origins of Christmas, Liturgical Press, 2004, p. 67-69.
  54. ^ ""Mithraism", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913.
  55. ^ "Sol," Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago (2006).
  56. ^ ""Christmas – An Ancient Holiday", The History Channel, 2007.
  57. ^ Coffman, Elesha. Why December 25? Christian History & Biography, Christianity Today, 2000.
  58. ^ Yule. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
  59. ^ "Christmas, Encyclopædia Britannica Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006.
  60. ^ Roll, p. 78, citing calculations by Roger Beckworth. Roll, pp. 79–80, then cites Roland Bainton to say that Clement may have used two separate calendars and the discrepancies between them eventually "yields 6 January, in 2 CE".
  61. ^ "Christmas, Encyclopædia Britannica Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006.
  62. ^ Roll, p. 79, 80. Only fragments of Chronographai survive. In one fragment, Africanus referred to "Pege in Bethlehem" and "Lady Pege, Spring-bearer." See "Narrative Narrative of Events Happening in Persia on the Birth of Christ Narrative."
  63. ^ Bradt, Hale, Astronomy Methods, (2004), p. 69.
    Roll p. 87.
  64. ^ Roll p.81f
  65. ^ Origen, "Levit., Hom. VIII"; Migne P.G., XII, 495.
    "Natal Day", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911.
  66. ^ This document was prepared privately for a Roman aristocrat. The reference in question states, "VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ".[1] It is in a section copied from an earlier manuscript produced in 336.[2] This document also contains the earliest known reference to the feast of Sol Invictus.[3]
  67. ^ Pokhilko, Hieromonk Nicholas, "History of Epiphany"
  68. ^ a b c d e f Murray, Alexander, "Medieval Christmas", History Today, December 1986, 36 (12), pp. 31 – 39.
  69. ^ a b McGreevy, Patrick. "Place in the American Christmas," (JSTOR), Geographical Review, Vol. 80, No. 1. January 1990, pp. 32–42. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  70. ^ a b c Restad, Penne L. (1995), Christmas in America: a History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-510980-5 
  71. ^ a b c Durston, Chris, "Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642–60", History Today, December 1985, 35 (12) pp. 7 – 14.
  72. ^ http://mercuriuspoliticus.wordpress.com/2008/12/21/a-christmassy-post/
  73. ^ Chambers, Robert (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. p. 211.
  74. ^ When Christmas Was Banned – The early colonies and Christmas
  75. ^ Nancy Smith Thomas. Moravian Christmas in the South. p. 20. 2007 ISBN 0807831816
  76. ^ Andrews, Peter (1975). Christmas in Colonial and Early America. USA: World Book Encyclopedia, Inc.. ISBN 7-166-2001-4. 
  77. ^ Les Standiford. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, Crown, 2008. ISBN 978-0307405784
  78. ^ "Dickens' classic 'Christmas Carol' still sings to us". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2008-12-17-dickens-main_N.htm. 
  79. ^ Rowell, Geoffrey, Dickens and the Construction of Christmas, History Today, Volume: 43 Issue: 12, December 1993, pp. 17 – 24
  80. ^ Ronald Hutton Stations of the Sun: The Ritual Year in England. 1996. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-285448-8.
  81. ^ Richard Michael Kelly (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol. pp.9,12 Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press ISBN 1551114763
  82. ^ Robertson Cochrane. Wordplay: origins, meanings, and usage of the English language. p.126 University of Toronto Press, 1996 ISBN 0802077528
  83. ^ Joe L. Wheeler. Christmas in my heart, Volume 10. p.97. Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2001. ISBN 0828016224
  84. ^ Earnshaw, Iris (November 2003). "The History of Christmas Cards". Inverloch Historical Society Inc.. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~invhs/2004.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  85. ^ The girlhood of Queen Victoria: a selection from Her Majesty's diaries. p.61. Longmans, Green & co., 1912. University of Wisconsin
  86. ^ Godey's Lady's Book, 1850. Godey's copied it exactly, except removed the Queen's crown, and Prince Albert's mustache, to remake the engraving into an American scene.
  87. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol. p.20. Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press, ISBN 1551114763
  88. ^ Moore's poem transferred the genuine old Dutch traditions celebrated at New Year in New York, including the exchange of gifts, family feasting, and tales of “sinterklass” (a derivation in Dutch from “Saint Nicholas,” from whence comes the modern “Santa Claus”) to Christmas.The history of Christmas: Christmas history in America, 2006
  89. ^ usinfo.state.gov “Americans Celebrate Christmas in Diverse Ways” November 26, 2006
  90. ^ First Presbyterian Church of Watertown “Oh . . . and one more thing” December 11, 2005
  91. ^ a b c Restad, Penne L. (1995), Christmas in America: a History. p.96. Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-510980-5
  92. ^ a b Christian church of God – history of Christmas
  93. ^ Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. ©1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 148 ISBN 0-471-291-98-6
  94. ^ Marta Patiño, The Puritan Ban on Christmas
  95. ^ "Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas?". Oliver Cromwell. The Cromwell Association. 2001. http://www.olivercromwell.org/faqs4.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  96. ^ Christmas controversy article – Muslim Canadian Congress.
  97. ^ "Jews for Christmas"—NewsMax article
  98. ^ Don Feder on Christmas – Jewish World review
  99. ^ Gibson, John, The War on Christmas, Sentinel Trade, 2006, pp. 1–6
  100. ^ Richard N. OstlingThe Associated PressNovember 14, 2005. "Law.com – Have Yourself a Merry Little Lawsuit Now". Law.com. http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1131457368796. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  101. ^ Lynch vs. Donnelly (1984)
  102. ^ "Appeals Court: School district can ban Christmas carols". Philly.com. Philadelphia Inquirer. 2009-11-25. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20091125_Appeals_Court__School_district_can_ban_Christmas_carols.html. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  103. ^ Boycott Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic this Christmas
  104. ^ April Mitchinson (2009-11-29). "Differences set aside for Winter Night Light festival in Dundee". The Press and Journal. http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1502592?UserKey=. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  105. ^ Varga, Melody. "Black Friday, About:Retail Industry.
  106. ^ Gwen Outen (2004-12-03). "ECONOMICS REPORT – Holiday Shopping Season in the U.S.". Voice Of America. http://voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2004-12/a-2004-12-03-2-1.cfm. 
  107. ^ US Census Bureau. "Facts. The Holiday Season" December 19, 2005. (accessed Nov 30 2009)
  108. ^ US Census 2005
  109. ^ "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas", American Economic Review, December 1993, 83 (5)
  110. ^ "Is Santa a deadweight loss?" The Economist December 20, 2001
  111. ^ Reuters. "Christmas is Damaging the Environment, Report Says" December 16, 2005.

Further reading

  • Restad, Penne L. (1995). Christmas in America: A History. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509300-3. 
  • The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nissenbaum (1996; New York: Vintage Books, 1997). ISBN 0-679-74038-4
  • The Origins of Christmas, by Joseph F. Kelly (August 2004: Liturgical Press) ISBN 978-0814629840
  • Christmas Customs and Traditions, by Clement A. Miles (1976: Dover Publications) ISBN 978-0486233543
  • The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, by Gerry Bowler (October 2004: McClelland & Stewart) ISBN 978-0771015359
  • Santa Claus: A Biography, by Gerry Bowler (November 2007: McClelland & Stewart) ISBN 978-0771016684
  • There Really Is a Santa Claus: The History of St. Nicholas & Christmas Holiday Traditions, by William J. Federer (December 2002: Amerisearch) ISBN 978-0965355742
  • St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas, by Jim Rosenthal (July 2006: Nelson Reference) ISBN 1418504076
  • Just say Noel: A History of Christmas from the Nativity to the Nineties, by David Comfort (November 1995: Fireside) ISBN 978-0684800578
  • 4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages, by Earl W. Count (November 1997: Ulysses Press) ISBN 978-1569750872
  • Sammons, Peter (May 2006). The Birth of Christ. Glory to Glory Publications (UK). ISBN 0-9551790-1-7. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The purpose and cause of the incarnation was that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom and excite it to the love of Himself. ~ Peter Abelard

Quotes regarding Christmas (listed alphabetically by author):

  • The purpose and cause of the incarnation was that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom and excite it to the love of Himself.
    • Peter Abelard, as quoted in "The Abelardian Doctrine Of The Atonement" (1892), published in Doctrine and Development : University Sermons (1898) by Hastings Rashdall, p. 138
  • Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide–open–heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.
    • George Matthew Adams in "The Christmas Heart"
  • Christmas is over and Business is Business
    • Franklin Pierce Adams
  • I have often thought, says Sir Roger, it happens very well that Christmas should fall in the Middle of winter.
  • The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting...
  • Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart...filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.
    • Bess Streeter Aldrich in "Song of Years"
  • Let's be naughty and save Santa the trip.
    • Gary Allan
  • Wretched excess is an unfortunate human trait that turns a perfectly good idea such as Christmas into a frenzy of last-minute shopping.
    • Jon Anderson
  • Christmas gift suggestions:
    To your enemy, forgiveness.
    To an opponent, tolerance.
    To a friend, your heart.
    To a customer, service.
    To all, charity.
    To every child, a good example.
    To yourself, respect.
    • Oren Arnold
  • Don't expect too much of Christmas Day. You can't crowd into it any arrears of unselfishness and kindliness that may have accrued during the past twelve months.
    • Oren Arnold
  • Remember This December,
    That love weighs more than gold!
    • Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon
  • The Christmas parties were orgies of drinking and singing and groping and pawing. Cartoon staffers invested their own money in preparatory liquor.
    • Joseph Barbera
  • In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'
    • Dave Barry in "Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"
  • Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.
    • Dave Barry
  • Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.
    • Dave Barry
  • Christmas itself may be called into question, If carried so far it creates indigestion.
    • Ralph Bergengren
  • And is it true? And is it true,
    This most tremendous tale of all,
    Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
    A Baby in an in ox's stall?
    The Maker of the stars and sea
    Became a Child on earth for me?
    • Sir John Betjeman (1954)
  • This time of year means being kind
    to everyone we meet,
    To share a smile with strangers
    we may pass along the street.
    • Betty Black in "This Time of Year"
  • Christmas, here again.
    Let us raise a loving cup:
    Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
    And make them do the washing up
  • There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
    • Erma Bombeck in I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression
  • The Christmas spirit — love — changes hearts and lives.
    • Pat Boone
  • [The Christmas story] is as simple as was the Man himself and His teaching. As simple as the Sermon on the Mount which still remains as the ultimate basis ... of the belief of free men of good will everywhere.
    • Hal Borland in "The Wonder"
  • Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for — I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times.
    • Kate L. Bosher
  • Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
    for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
    like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
    The good you do for others is good you do yourself.
    • Norman W. Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas"
  • Christmas day is a day of joy and charity. May God make you very rich in both.
This, then, is the marvel to mortals revealed.
When the silvery trumpets of Christmas have pealed,
That mankind are the children of God. ~ Phillips Brooks
  • The earth has grown old with its burden of care
    But at Christmas it always is young,
    The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
    And its soul full of music breaks the air,
    When the song of angels is sung.
    • Phillips Brooks
  • The feet of the humblest may walk in the field
    Where the feet of the Holiest trod,
    This, then, is the marvel to mortals revealed.
    When the silvery trumpets of Christmas have pealed,
    That mankind are the children of God.
    • Phillips Brooks
  • Christmas has lost its meaning for us because we have lost the spirit of expectancy. We cannot prepare for an observance. We must prepare for an experience.
    • Handel H. Brown
  • Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given — when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.
    • Joan Winmill Brown
  • And so, this Christmas season may our hearts with gladness glow, As we read the blessed story That took place so long ago.
    • Alpha L. Buntain in "The First Christmas"
  • May joy be yours today,
    And radiantly abide
    Within your heart until
    Another Christmastide.
    • Gail Brook Burket in "May Joy Be Yours Today"
We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the word seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.... ~ Taylor Caldwell
  • I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the word seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses...
  • There has been only one Christmas — the rest are anniversaries.
    • W.J. Cameron
  • Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year — and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority.
    • W.J. Cameron
  • Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected
    • Jimmy Cannon
  • Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under the tree
    • Charlotte Carpenter
  • O Christmas Sun! What holy task is thine!
    To fold a world in the embrace of God!
    • Guy Wetmore Carryl
When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? ~ G. K. Chesterton
  • Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.
  • Christmas is the one time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.
  • The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
    His hair was like a light.
    (O weary, weary was the world,
    But here is all aright.)

    The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
    His hair was like a crown,
    And all the flowers looked up at Him
    And all the stars looked down.

  • When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
  • Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
    Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
  • Let the children have their night of fun and laughter, let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures.... Sir Winston Churchill
  • Christmas is a time to expand our giving encompassing the friendless and needy ... near and far. Christmas is sharing.
    • Patricia Claffor in "Christmas"
  • Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
  • God rest ye, little children; let nothing you afright,
    For Jesus Christ, your Saviour, was born this happy night;
    Along the hills of Galilee the white blocks sleeping lay,
    When Christ, the child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas day.
  • Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
    Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth.
    • Richard Crashaw
  • Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it "white".
    • Bing Crosby
Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing... ~ Grace Noll Crowell
  • Whatever else be lost among the years,
    Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing:
    Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
    Let us hold close one day, remembering
    Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
    Let us get back our childlike faith again.
    • Grace Noll Crowell
  • It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one's fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.
    • Isabel Currier
  • Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!
    • Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836
    • Sometimes paraphrased as: Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!
  • I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday — the longer, the better — from the great boarding-school, where we are forever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest.
    • Charles Dickens in "A Christmas Tree"
  • It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself
    • Charles Dickens
  • Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house.
  • A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. "Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!"
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. ... We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices."
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • "Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer... If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' upon his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
  • I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant for them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • Then Bob proposed: "A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!" Which all his family re-echoed. "God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
    • "Ebeneezer Scrooge", in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!
    • Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
  • It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
    • Charles Dickens on Scrooge after his visitations, in A Christmas Carol
  • Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.
    • Charles Dickens
  • Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.
    • Phyllis Diller
  • Something about an old-fashioned Christmas is hard to forget.
  • A song was heard at Christmas
    To wake the midnight sky:
    A saviour's birth, and peace on earth,
    And praise to God on high.
    The angels sang at Christmas
    With all the hosts above,
    And still we sing the newborn King
    His glory and his love.
    • Timothy Dudley-Smith in "A Song was Heard at Christmas"
  • It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.
    • W.T. Ellis
  • Christmas is an awfulness that compares favorably with the great London plague and fire of 1665-66. No one escapes the feelings of mortal dejection, inadequacy, frustration, loneliness, guilt and pity. No one escapes feeling used by society, by religion, by friends and relatives, by the utterly artifical responsiblities of extending false greetings, sending banal cards, reciprocating unsolicated gifts, going to dull parties, putting up with acquaintances and family one avoids all the rest of the year...in short, of being brutalized by a 'holiday' that has lost virtually all of its original meanings and has become a merchandising ploy for color tv set manufacturers and ravagers of the woodlands.
    • Harlan Ellison in "No Offense Intended, But Fuck Xmas!", The Harlan Ellison Hornbook
  • God grant you the light in Christmas which is faith;
    the warmth of Christmas, which is love;
    the radiance of Christmas, which is purity;
    the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice;
    the belief in Christmas, which is truth;
    the all of Christmas, which is Christ...
    • Wilda English
  • Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.
    • Francis C. Farley
  • Some businessmen are saying this could be the greatest Christmas ever. I always thought that the first one was.
    • Art Fettig
  • I'd like a stocking made for a giant,
    And a meeting house full of toys,
    Then I'd go out in a happy hunt
    For the poor little girls and boys;
    Up the street and down the street,
    And across and over the town,
    I'd search and find them everyone,
    Before the sun went down.
    • Eugene Field in "A Christmas Wish"
  • Forster I do like Christmas on the whole... In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year.
  • How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.
  • Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.
    • Lucinda Franks
  • Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive
    • Stephen Fry
  • I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays — let them overtake me unexpectedly — waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself: "Why, this is Christmas Day!"
    • David Grayson
  • Not to open the hunting season on the pretext that there is no game would be as if one gave up celebrating Christmas because there was not enough snow to go by sleigh to midnight Mass.
    • Maurice Grimaud
  • A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
    He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season's here.
    Then he's thinking more of others than
    he's thought the months before,
    And the laughter of his children is a joy
    worth toiling for.
    He is less a selfish creature than at any
    other time;
    When the Christmas spirit rules him, he
    comes close to the sublime.
    • Edgar Guest
  • At Christmas
    A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
    He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season's here;
    Then he's thinking more of others than he's thought the months before,
    And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
    He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
    When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime...
    • Edgar Guest
  • Time always seems long to the child who is waiting — for Christmas, for next summer, for becoming a grownup: long also when he surrenders his whole soul to each moment of a happy day
  • There's a little vanity chair that Charlie gave me the first Christmas we knew each other. I'll not be parting with that, nor our bed-the four-poster — I'll be needing that to die in.
    • Helen Hayes
  • Oh! lovely voices of the sky
    Which hymned the Saviour's birth,
    Are ye not singing still on high,
    Ye that sang, "Peace on earth"?
  • The magi, as you know, were wise men — wonderfuly wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents.
  • Do give books — religious or otherwise — for Christmas. They're never fattening, never sinful, and permanently personal.
    • Lenore Hershey
  • My first copies of Treasure Island and Huckleberry Finn still have some blue-spruce needles scattered in the pages. They smell of Christmas still.
  • I dreamed it was Christmas Eve,
    and while waiting for a green light I noticed the manger scene on the church lawn.
    It's all so overwhelming, this Christmas business, I thought.
    The shopping and singing and partying and gift-wrapping and Santa Claus and Jesus.
    I feel wonderful then guilty then joyful then confused.
    God help me, I thought.
    And the light changed, and the baby in the manger smiled.
    • Joe Hickman
  • Roses are reddish
    Violets are bluish
    If it weren't for Christmas
    We'd all be Jewish.
    • Benny Hill
  • The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
    • Burton Hillis in Better Homes and Gardens
  • For many of us, sadly, the spirit of Christmas is "hurry". And yet, eventually, the hour comes when the rushing ends and the race against the calendar mercifully comes to a close. It is only now perhaps that we truly recognize the spirit of Christmas. It is not a matter of days or weeks, but of centuries — nearly twenty of them now since that holy night in Bethlehem. Regarded in this manner, the pre-Christmas rush may do us greater service than we realize. With all its temporal confusion, it may just help us to see that by contrast, Christmas itself is eternal.
    • Burton Hills
  • Christmas will always be in the hearts of God's children everywhere as they extend a helping hand to a friend in need ... as they go about reflecting God's goodness in the little quiet and unheralded expressions of a loving heart ... as they share the light of the world with those who live in darkness .
    • Jane Hillsmen in "Christmas"
  • The happiness and love on this one day
    Bring thoughts which warm and cheer.
    May we keep Christmas in our hearts
    Through every day of all the year.
    • Gertrude B. Holman in "The Little Things at Christmas"
  • It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart...
    • Marjorie Holmes
  • The Christmas season has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants.
    • John Andrew Holmes
  • My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?
  • Nothing's as mean as giving a little child something useful for Christmas.
    • Kin Hubbard
  • Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.
    • Leigh Hunt
  • Christmas! 'Tis the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.
  • There is nothing in England that exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May morning of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books, and believed it to be all that poets had painted it; and they bring with them the flavour of those honest days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal fallacy, I am apt to think the world was more home-bred, social, and joyous than at present.
    • Washington Irving
  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
    • Isaiah 9:6
  • Mankind is a great, an immense family... This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.
    • Pope John XXIII
  • The Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days, but as memorials of important facts. Johnson Christmas might be kept as well upon one day of the year as another; but there should be a stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour, because there is danger that what may be done on any day, will be neglected.
  • What's going on here is a redefinition of Christmas as a time of family celebration rather than as a time of the community faithful celebrating the birth of the savior...There is a risk that we will lose one more of our Christian rituals, one that's at the heart of our faith.
    • Robert Johnston
  • The joy of brightening other lives, bearing others' burdens, easing other's loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.
    • W. C. Jones
  • God put Santa Claus on earth to remind us that Christmas is 'sposed to be a happy time.
  • A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
    • Garrison Keillor
  • The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.
  • The star of Bethlehem was a star of hope that led the wise men to the fulfillment of their expectations, the success of their expedition. Nothing in this world is more fundamental for success in life than hope, and this star pointed to our only source for true hope: Jesus Christ.
    • D. James Kennedy in "Following the Star" from Christmas Stories for the Heart
  • It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas, though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and Mankind.
  • Ah! dearest Jesus, Holy Child,
    Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
    Within my heart, that it may be
    A quiet chamber kept for thee.
    • Martin Luther
  • Call a truce, then to our labors — let us feast with friends and neighbors And be merry as the custom of our caste; For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after, We are richer by one mocking Christmas past
  • One good thing about Christmas shopping — it toughens you for the January sales.
    • Grace Kriley
  • Christmas is the time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell government what they want and their kids pay for it.
    • Richard Lamm
  • Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.
    • Carrie Latet
  • Now, the essence, the very spirit of Christmas is that we first make believe a thing is so, and lo, it presently turns out to be so
    • Stephen Leacock
  • On Christmas day you can't get sore, Your fellow man you must adore, There's time to cheat him all the more The other three hundred and sixty-four
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear... ~ John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  • A very Merry Christmas
    And a happy New Year
    Let's hope it's a good one
    Without any fear.
    War is over, if you want it
    War is over now.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.
  • Late on a sleepy, star-spangled night, those angels peeled back the sky just like you would tear open a sparkling Christmas present. Then, with light and joy pouring out of Heaven like water through a broken dam, they began to shout and sing the message that baby Jesus had been born. The world had a Savior! The angels called it "Good News, " and it was.
    • Larry Libby in "The Angels Called it Good News" from Christmas Stories for the Heart
  • Except the Christ be born again tonight
    In dreams of all men, saints and sons of shame,
    The world will never see his kingdom bright.
    • Vachel Lindsay
  • To celebrate the heart of Christmas is to forget ourselves in the service of others.
    • Henry C. Link
  • A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
    It makes no noise at all,
    But softly gives itself away;
    While quite unselfish, it grows small.
    • Eva K. Logue
  • I heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
  • Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him — and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
    • Max Lucado in "The Arrival" from Christmas Stories for the Heart
  • Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.
    • Max Lucado (God Came Near)
  • A scientist said, making a plea for exchange scholarships between nations, "The very best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person." That was what happened at Christmas. The idea of divine love was wrapped up in a Person.
    • Halford E. Luccock
  • And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men...
    • Luke 2:9-14
  • Your friendship is a glowing ember
    Through the year; and each December
    From its warm and living spark
    We kindle flame against the dark
    And with its shining radiance light
    Our tree of faith on Christmas night.
    • Thelma J. Lund
  • Good news from heaven the angels bring,
    Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
    To us this day a child is given,
    To crown us with the joy of heaven.
  • There are some people who want to throw their arms round you just because it's Christmas, there are other people who want to strangle you just because its Christmas
    • Robert Lynd
  • Have you any old grudges you would like to pay,
    Any wrongs laid up from a bygone day?
    Gather them now and lay them away
    When Christmas comes.
    Hard thoughts are heavy to carry, my friend,
    And life is short from beginning to end;
    Be kind to yourself, leave nothing to mend
    When Christmas comes.
    • William Lytle in "When Christmas Comes"
  • Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!
    • Hamilton Wright Mabie
  • I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.
    • Bernard Manning
  • May we not "spend" Christmas or "observe" Christmas, but rather "keep" it.
    • Peter Marshall
  • The merry family gatherings —
    The old, the very young;
    The strangely lovely way they
    Harmonize in carols sung.
    For Christmas is tradition time —
    Traditions that recall
    The precious memories down the years,
    The sameness of them all.
    • Helen Lowrie Marshall
  • We should try to hold on to the Christmas spirit, not just one day a year, but all 365.
    • Mary Martin
  • Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
    • Matthew 2:1 - 2
  • From Home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another… The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other...
    • Emily Matthews
  • Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.
    • George F. McDougall
  • There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.
    • Bill McKibben in Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For a More Joyful Christmas
  • This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.
    • Frank McKibben
  • If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas?
    • Don Meredith
  • I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.
    • Harlan Miller in Better Homes and Gardens
  • Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words.
    • Harlan Miller in Better Homes and Gardens
  • The outdoor Christmas lights, green and red and gold and blue and twinkling, remind me that most people are that way all year round — kind, generous, friendly and with an occasional moment of ecstasy. But Christmas is the only time they dare reveal themselves.
    • Harlan Miller in Better Homes and Gardens
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
    Alles schläft; einsam wacht
    Nur das traute heilige Paar.
    Holder Knab im lockigten Haar,
    Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
    • Silent night! Holy night!
      All are sleeping, alone and awake
      Only the intimate holy pair,
      Lovely boy with curly hair,
      Sleep in heavenly peace!
    • Josef Mohr, original German lyrics and translation of Stille Nacht (Silent Night). These have traditionally been altered to :
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
sleep in Heavenly peace!
  • It is the one season of the year when we can lay aside all gnawing worry, indulge in sentiment without censure, assume the carefree faith of childhood, and just plain "have fun." Whether they call it Yuletide, Noel, Weinachten, or Christmas, people around the earth thirst for its refreshment as the desert traveller for the oasis.
    • D.D. Monroe
  • 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
    Not a creature was stirring — not even a mouse:
    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
    In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
    • Clement C. Moore
  • Christmas is the time for looking ahead courageously through the gates of the swiftly approaching new year ... of resolving that the coming months will reflect a kinder, more forgiving and less heedless person than mirrored in the past.
    • Ellen V. Morgan in "Christmas is the Time"
  • Let Christmas not become a thing
    Merely of merchant's trafficking,
    Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath
    And surface pleasure, but beneath
    The childish glamour, let us find
    Nourishment for heart and mind.
    Let us follow kinder ways
    Through our teeming human maze,
    And help the age of peace to come.
    • Madeline Morse
  • People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December.
  • Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you're home.
    • Carol Nelson
Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names. Time and space and language lay no limitations upon human brotherhood.
  • We hear the beating of wings over Bethlehem and a light that is not of the sun or of the stars shines in the midnight sky. Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names. Time and space and language lay no limitations upon human brotherhood.
    • The New York Times (25 December 1937)
  • Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.
  • Only in souls the Christ is brought to birth, And there He lives and dies.
    • Alfred Noyes
  • Christmas begins about the first of December with an office party and ends when you finally realize what you spent, around April fifteenth of the next year.
    • P.J. O'Rourke
  • There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.
  • As you chose the lowly, the outcasts, and the poor to receive the greatest news the world had ever known, so may we worship you in meekness of heart. May we also remember our brothers and sisters less fortunate than ourselves in this season of giving. Amen.
    • Karen L. Oberst (Light Came at Christmas: Services for the Advent Wreath)
  • Christmas is not just a day, an event to be observed and speedily forgotten. It is a spirit which should permeate every part of our lives.
    • William Parks in Missions
  • Forasmuch as the feast of the nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide, and other festivals, commonly called holy-days, have been heretofore superstitiously used and observed; be it ordained, that the said feasts, and all other festivals, commonly called holy-days, be no longer observed as festivals; any law, statute, custom, constitution, or canon, to the contrary in anywise not withstanding.
    • Puritan legislation in the British Parliament, abolishing the festival celebration of Christmas and other holidays (June 1647); as quoted in The History of the Puritans (1837) by Daniel Neal
  • Even before Christmas has said Hello, it's saying 'Buy Buy'.
    • Robert Paul
  • You know you're getting old, when Santa starts looking younger.
    • Robert Paul
  • Christmas is the season of joy, of holiday greetings exchanged, of gift-giving,and of families united.
  • Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
    • Norman Vincent Peale
  • I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness.
    • Julia Peterkin in A Plantation Christmas (1934)
  • Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show. The secret lies in an inner glow.
    It's lighting a fire inside the heart.
    Good will and joy a vital part.
    It's higher thought and a greater plan.
    It's glorious dream in the soul of man.
    • Wilfred A. Peterson in The Art of Living
  • What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.
    • Agnes M. Pharo
  • So if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some quiet morning, the touch will take.
    • Harry Reasoner
  • Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.
    • Helen Steiner Rice
  • Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.
    • Helen Steiner Rice
  • It is not even the beginning of Christmas unless it is Christmas in the heart.
    • Richard Roberts in Contemporary Christ
  • Christmas, my child, is love in action. ... Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.
    • Dale Evans Rogers
  • Today the Virgin brings forth the Supersubstantial One / And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One
Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign. ~ Christina Rossetti
  • Love came down at Christmas;
    Love all lovely, love divine;
    Love was born at Christmas,
    Stars and angels gave the sign.
  • What can I give him,
    Poor as I am?
    If I were a shepherd,
    I would bring a lamb;
    If I were a wise man,
    I would do my part;
    Yet what I can I give him —
    Give my heart.
    • Christina G. Rossetti
  • Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
    • Augusta E. Rundel
  • Christmas is sights, especially the sights of Christmas reflected in the eyes of a child.
    • William Saroyan
  • I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become... but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress.
    • May Sarton
  • The spirit of Christmas fulfils the greatest hunger of mankind.
    • Loring A. Schuler
  • Let us keep Christmas beautiful
    Without a thought of greed,
    That it might live forevermore
    To fill our every need,
    That it shall not be just a day,
    But last a lifetime through,
    The miracle of Christmastime
    That brings God close to you.
    • Garnett Ann Schultz
  • Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.
  • A Christmas gambol oft could cheer The poor man's heart through half the year.
    • Walter Scott
  • Heap on the wood! — the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We'll keep our Christmas merry still.
    • Sir Walter Scott
  • That's the true spirit of Christmas; people being helped by people other than me
    • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.
    • Dr. Seuss
  • All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot,
    but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not.
    The Grinch hated Christmas — the whole Christmas season.
    Oh, please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason.
    It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
    Or maybe his head wasn't screwed on just right.
    But I think that the best reason of all
    may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
    • Dr. Seuss From "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"
  • And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
    • Dr. Seuss From "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"
  • At Christmas I no more desire a rose
    Than wish a snow in May's newfangled mirth;
    But life of each thing that in season grows.
  • The simple shepherds heard the voice of an angel and found their Lamb; the wise men saw the light of a star and found their Wisdom.
  • Did you ever notice that life seems to follow certain patterns? Like I noticed that every year around this time, I hear Christmas music
    • Tom Sims
  • Consider Christmas — could Satan in his most malignant mood have devised a worse combination of graft plus bunkum than the system whereby several hundred million people get a billion or so gifts for which they have no use, and some thousands of shop clerks die of exhaustion while selling them, and every other child in the Western world is made ill from overeating — all in the name of the lowly Jesus?
  • Christmas is the day that holds all time together.
    • Alexander Smith
  • He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
    • Roy L. Smith
      Variant: He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.
  • Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.
    • Ruth Carter Stapleton
  • Christmas ... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.
  • Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today's Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.
    • Gladys Tabor in Still Cove Journal
  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
  • The time draws near the birth of Christ:
    The moon is hid; the night is still;
    The Christmas bells from hill to hill
    Answer each other in the mist
  • It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you . . . yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.
    • Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Christmas is here: Winds whistle shrill, Icy and chill, Little care we; Little we fear Weather without, Sheltered about The Mahogany Tree
    • William Makepeace Thackeray
  • When the song of the angel is stilled,
    When the star in the sky is gone,
    When the kings and princes are home,
    When the shepherds are back with their flock,
    The work of Christmas begins:
    To find the lost — To heal the broken — To feed the hungry —
    To release the prisoner — To rebuild the nations —
    To bring peace among brothers and sisters —
    To make music in the heart.
    • Howard Thurman
  • The wonderful world of Christmas is a joy from the moment it starts. The wonderful world of Christmas should remain ev'ry day in our hearts...
    • Charles Tobias and Al Frisch
  • For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.
    • W. J. Tucker in Pulpit Preaching
  • At Christmas play and make good cheer,
    For Christmas comes but once a year.
    • Thomas Tusser in "The Farmer's Daily Diet" from A Hundred Points of Good Husbandry (1557)
  • Of course, this is the season to be jolly, but it is also a good time to be thinking about those who aren't.
    • Helen Valentine
  • Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you ... to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old ... Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas! But you can never keep it alone.
    • Henry van Dyke ("Keeping Christmas" in The Spirit of Christmas)
  • Gloria, Gloria! they cry, for their song embraces all that the Lord has begun this day: Glory to God in the highest of heavens! And peace to the people with whom he is pleased! And who are these people? With whom does the good Lord choose to take his pleasure? The shepherds. The plain and nameless — whose every name the Lord knows well. You. And me.
    • Walter Wangerin Jr. in Preparing for Jesus
  • So here comes Gabriel again, and what he says is "Good tidings of great joy ... for all people." ... That's why the shepherds are first: they represent all the nameless, all the working stiffs, the great wheeling population of the whole world.
    • Walter Wangerin Jr. in Preparing for Jesus
  • Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer.... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?
  • Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.
    • Lenora Mattingly Weber "Extension"
  • Now I'm an old Christmas tree, the roots of which have died. They just come along and while the little needles fall off me replace them with medallions.
    • Orson Welles
  • I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
    I notice this, each year I live;
    I always like the gifts I get,
    But how I love the gifts I give!
    'Tis blessed to bestow, and yet,
    Could we bestow the gifts we get,
    And keep the ones we give away,
    How happy were our Christmas day!
    • Carolyn Wells, "A Christmas Thought" from Folly for the Wise
  • As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.
    • Donald E. Westlake
  • To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
    • E. B. White,"The Distant Music of the Hounds" in The Second Tree from the Corner (1954)
  • From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.
    • Katherine Whitehorn
  • Somehow not only for Christmas
    But all the long year through,
    The joy that you give to others
    Is the joy that comes back to you.
    And the more you spend in blessing
    The poor and lonely and sad,
    The more of your heart's possessing
    Returns to make you glad.
  • A little smile, a word of cheer, A bit of love from someone near, A little gift from one held dear, Best wishes for the coming year… These make a Merry Christmas!
  • I like the Christmas that fulfills my needs ... to be forgiven from greed and selfishness, to fill my empty soul with peace and compassion, for hope and faith and charity, for myself renewed and hope restored in an erring world.
    • Robert D. Wigert in "I Like Christmas"
  • When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
    We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
    And etched on vacant places
    Are half-forgotten faces
    Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know.
  • Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
    • Larry Wilde in The Merry Book of Christmas
  • Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
  • Tinsel is really snakes' mirrors.
    • Stephen Wright
  • God's visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. ... For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw the spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, "nobodies" who failed to leave their names...
    • Philip Yancy in "The Glory of Humility" from Christmas Stories for the Heart
  • This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus... When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore him as our true and only King.
    • Mark Zimmermann in Our Advent Journey
  • I find Christmas very difficult.
    • Morrissey on stage at Earl's Court December 18th 2004

Anonymous, or author unknown

  • Christ is born! Glorify Him!
    Christ descends from the heavens, welcome Him!
    Christ is now on earth, O be jubilant!
    Sing to the Lord, the whole earth,
    And sing praises to Him with joy, O ye people,
    For He has been exalted!
    • Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas Canon, 1st Song, Irmos.[1]
  • A Christmas Blessing During this Christmas season:
    May you be blessed
    With the spirit of the season,
    which is peace,
    The gladness of the season,
    which is hope,
    And the heart of the season,
    which is love.
  • Jesus, the Light of the World, as we celebrate your birth ... may we begin to see the world in the light of understanding you give us.
  • A Christmas shopper's complaint is one of long-standing.
  • A goose never voted for an early Christmas.
    • Irish Saying
  • A white Christmas fills the churchyard.
    • French Proverb
  • About all you can do is dream of a white Christmas, for it seems like it always leaves most of us in the red.
  • Ask your children two questions this Christmas. First: "What do you want to give to others for Christmas?" Second: "What do you want for Christmas?" The first fosters generosity of heart and an outward focus. The second can breed selfishness if not tempered by the first.
  • Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.
  • Christmas is a race to see which gives out first — your money or your feet.
  • Christmas is the season when you buy this year's gifts with next year's money.
  • He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
  • If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away.
  • If, Ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.
  • It is Christmas in the mansion,
    Yule-log fires and silken frocks;
    It is Christmas in the cottage,
    Mother's filling little socks.
    It is Christmas on the highway,
    In the thronging, busy mart;
    But the dearest, truest Christmas
    Is the Christmas in the heart.
  • It is the spirit of brotherhood in the cheer of Christmas that makes it so glorious. Brotherliness is but the manifestation of the spirit of Christ.
  • Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
    • Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby
  • Many banks have a new kind of Christmas club in operation. The new club helps you save money to pay for last year's gifts.
  • Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.
One of the nice things about Christmas is that you can make people forget the past with a present.
  • One of the nice things about Christmas is that you can make people forget the past with a present.
  • People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.
  • Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.
  • Sadly this Christmas passes away, so let us give thanks today, as we prepare for the year anew, with faith and hope to see it through.
  • Selfishness makes Christmas a burden, love makes it a delight.
  • Sing hey! Sing hey!
    For Christmas Day;
    Twine mistletoe and holly.
    For a friendship glows
    In winter snows,
    And so let's all be jolly!
  • So remember while December
    Brings the only Christmas day,
    In the year let there be Christmas
    In the things you do and say.
Symbolizing eternal hope, the wreath goes 'round and 'round, And where it starts or ends cannot be found...
  • Symbolizing eternal hope, the wreath goes 'round and 'round, And where it starts or ends cannot be found. Woven of things that grow - for life, and hung for holiday delight. The wreath must be left in place. From Advent through Twelfth Night.
  • The Christmas spirit that goes out with the dried-up Christmas tree is just as worthless.
  • The Christmas tree has taken the place of the altar in too much of our modern Christmas observance.
  • The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.
  • The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful. We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once a year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this worldwide, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the calendar, nor out of the heart of the world.
  • Then ye be glad, good people, This night of all the year, And light ye up your candles, His star is shining near...
  • Two things upon this changing earth can neither change nor end; the splendor of Christ's humble birth, the love of friend for friend.
  • Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it "white".
  • Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display — so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn't the holly, it isn't the snow. It isn't the tree not the firelight's glow. It's the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.
  • What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic.
  • Why is Christmas just like a day at the office? You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.
  • With every recurring Christmas morning the prospects of the world's peace grow brighter, and the practice of universal brotherhood comes a little nearer to the door.
  • Wouldn't life be worth the living
    Wouldn't dreams be coming true
    If we kept the Christmas spirit
    All the whole year through?

References

  1. Canfield, Jack; Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap (2002). Chicken soup for the soul Christmas treasury for kids. HCI. pp. Page 1. ISBN 0757300383.  

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Etymology

From late Old English Cristes mæsse (Christ's mass, Christ's festival).

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
Christmas

Plural
Christmases

Christmas (plural Christmases)

  1. The Christian holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
    This Christmas we'll open presents then go to grandma's for dinner.
  2. Christmas Day, the day it is celebrated, 25th December, an English quarter day.
  3. Christmastide, the Twelve Days of Christmas, the season (traditionally from the 24th of December to the 6th of January) around the celebration of Christ's birth.
    The Christmas shoppers spent less this December, than last year, but our store will probably see just as many returned items during the twelve days of Christmas.
  4. (US, retailing) The period from the Friday following Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, busy with shopping and preparations for Christmas.
    The last three Christmases have been good for retailers.
  5. (marketing, retailing) Christmas season, the end of the year period, busy with shopping and preparations for Christmas.

Synonyms

Derived terms

Translations

See also


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerst-misse, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil. The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning "wheel". The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).

EARLY CELEBRATION

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.

Alexandria. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement's evidence may be mentioned the "De paschæ computus", written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ's glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January; partly because at the baptism-manifestation many codices (e.g. Codex Bezæ) wrongly give the Divine words as sou ei ho houios mou ho agapetos, ego semeron gegenneka se (Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee) in lieu of en soi eudokesa (in thee I am well pleased), read in Luke 3:22. Abraham Ecchelensis (Labbe, II, 402) quotes the Constitutions of the Alexandrian Church for a dies Nativitatis et Epiphaniæ in Nicæan times; Epiphanius (Hær., li, ed. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, "Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal"; John Cassian records in his "Collations" (X, 2 in P.L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the "ancient custom"; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Conc. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.

Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor. In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P. G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus (whose hymns belong to Epiphany, not to Christmas) proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival. (Cf. Euthymius, "Pan. Dogm.", 23 in P.G., CXXX, 1175; Niceph., "Hist. Eccl,", XVIII, 53 in P.G., CXLVII, 440; Isaac, Catholicos of Armenia in eleventh or twelfth century, "Adv. Armenos", I, xii, 5 in P.G., CXXII, 1193; Neale, "Holy Eastern Church", Introd., p. 796). In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa's sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen's feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener's too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36).

Jerusalem. In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Chilhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely "Nativity" colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date. (Peregr. Sylv., ed. Geyer, pp. 75 sq.) Again (p. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. This checks the so-called correspondence between Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) and Pope Julius I (337-352), quoted by John of Nikiu (c. 900) to convert Armenia to 25 December (see P.L., VIII, 964 sqq.). Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. (This later practice is here an anachronism.) He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity "from census documents brought by Titus to Rome"; Julius assigns 25 December. Another document (Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. 425-458), adding that Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople was being criticized for "halving" the festival. But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ's birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. Cosmas Indicopleustes suggests (P.G., LXXXVIII, 197) that even in the middle of the sixth century Jerusalem was peculiar in combining the two commemorations, arguing from Luke 3:23 that Christ's baptism day was the anniversary of His birthday. The commemoration, however, of David and James the Apostle on 25 December at Jerusalem accounts for the deferred feast. Usener, arguing from the "Laudatio S. Stephani" of Basil of Seleucia (c. 430. -- P.G., LXXXV, 469), thinks that Juvenal tried at least to introduce this feast, but that Cyril's greater name attracted that event to his own period.

Antioch. In Antioch, on the feast of St. Philogonius, Chrysostom preached an important sermon. The year was almost certainly 386, though Clinton gives 387, and Usener, by a long rearrangement of the saint's sermons, 388 (Religionsgeschichtl. Untersuch., pp. 227-240). But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. (See Kellner, Heortologie, Freiburg, 1906, p. 97, n. 3). In view of a reaction to certain Jewish rites and feasts, Chrysostom tries to unite Antioch in celebrating Christ's birth on 25 December, part of the community having already kept it on that day for at least ten years. In the West, he says, the feast was thus kept, anothen; its introduction into Antioch he had always sought, conservatives always resisted. This time he was successful; in a crowded church he defended the new custom. It was no novelty; from Thrace to Cadiz this feast was observed -- rightly, since its miraculously rapid diffusion proved its genuineness. Besides, Zachary, who, as high-priest, entered the Temple on the Day of Atonement, received therefore announcement of John's conception in September; six months later Christ was conceived, i.e. in March, and born accordingly in December.

Finally, though never at Rome, on authority he knows that the census papers of the Holy Family are still there. [This appeal to Roman archives is as old as Justin Martyr (Apol., I, 34, 35) and Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 7, 19). Julius, in the Cyriline forgeries, is said to have calculated the date from Josephus, on the same unwarranted assumptions about Zachary as did Chrysostom.] Rome, therefore, has observed 25 December long enough to allow of Chrysostom speaking at least in 388 as above (P.G., XLVIII, 752, XLIX, 351).

Constantinople. In 379 or 380 Gregory Nazianzen made himself exarchos of the new feast, i.e. its initiator, in Constantinople, where, since the death of Valens, orthodoxy was reviving. His three Homilies (see Hom. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI) were preached on successive days (Usener, op. cit., p. 253) in the private chapel called Anastasia. On his exile in 381, the feast disappeared.

According, however, to John of Nikiu, Honorius, when he was present on a visit, arranged with Arcadius for the observation of the feast on the Roman date. Kellner puts this visit in 395; Baumstark (Oriens Chr., 1902, 441-446), between 398 and 402. The latter relies on a letter of Jacob of Edessa quoted by George of Beeltân, asserting that Christmas was brought to Constantinople by Arcadius and Chrysostom from Italy, where, "according to the histories", it had been kept from Apostolic times. Chrysostom's episcopate lasted from 398 to 402; the feast would therefore have been introduced between these dates by Chrysostom bishop, as at Antioch by Chrysostom priest. But Lübeck (Hist. Jahrbuch., XXVIII, I, 1907, pp. 109-118) proves Baumstark's evidence invalid. More important, but scarcely better accredited, is Erbes' contention (Zeitschrift f. Kirchengesch., XXVI, 1905, 20-31) that the feast was brought in by Constantine as early as 330-35.

Rome. At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P. L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked "Natalis Invicti". In the "Depositio Martyrum" a list of Roman or early and universally venerated martyrs, under 25 December is found "VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ". On "VIII kal. mart." (22 February) is also mentioned St. Peter's Chair. In the list of consuls are four anomalous ecclesiastical entries: the birth and death days of Christ, the entry into Rome, and martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. The significant entry is "Chr. Cæsare et Paulo sat. XIII. hoc. cons. Dns. ihs. XPC natus est VIII Kal. ian. d. ven. luna XV," i.e. during the consulship of (Augustus) Cæsar and Paulus Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the eighth before the calends of January (25 December), a Friday, the fourteenth day of the moon. The details clash with tradition and possibility. The epact, here XIII, is normally XI; the year is A.U.C. 754, a date first suggested two centuries later; in no year between 751 and 754 could 25 December fall on a Friday; tradition is constant in placing Christ's birth on Wednesday. Moreover the date given for Christ's death (duobus Geminis coss., i.e. A.D. 29) leaves Him only twenty eight, and one-quarter years of life. Apart from this, these entries in a consul list are manifest interpolations. But are not the two entries in the "Depositio Martyrum" also such? Were the day of Christ's birth in the flesh alone there found, it might stand as heading the year of martyrs' spiritual natales; but 22 February is there wholly out of place. Here, as in the consular fasti, popular feasts were later inserted for convenience' sake. The civil calendar alone was not added to, as it was useless after the abandonment of pagan festivals. So, even if the "Depositio Martyrum" dates, as is probable, from 336, it is not clear that the calendar contains evidence earlier than Philocalus himself, i.e. 354, unless indeed pre-existing popular celebration must be assumed to render possible this official recognition. Were the Chalki manuscript of Hippolytus genuine, evidence for the December feast would exist as early as c. 205. The relevant passage [which exists in the Chigi manuscript Without the bracketed words and is always so quoted before George Syncellus (c. 1000)] runs:

He gar prote parousia tou kyriou hemon he ensarkos [en he gegennetai] en Bethleem, egeneto [pro okto kalandon ianouarion hemera tetradi] Basileuontos Augoustou [tessarakoston kai deuteron etos, apo de Adam] pentakischiliosto kai pentakosiosto etei epathen de triakosto trito [pro okto kalandon aprilion, hemera paraskeun, oktokaidekato etei Tiberiou Kaisaros, hypateuontos Hrouphou kai Hroubellionos. -- (Comm. In Dan., iv, 23; Brotke; 19) "For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh [in which He has been begotten], in Bethlehem, took place [25 December, the fourth day] in the reign of Augustus [the forty-second year, and] in the year 5500 [from Adam]. And He suffered in His thirty-third year [25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio]."

Interpolation is certain, and admitted by Funk, Bonwetsch, etc. The names of the consuls [which should be Fufius and Rubellius] are wrong; Christ lives thirty-three years; in the genuine Hippolytus, thirty-one; minute data are irrelevant in this discussion with Severian millenniarists; it is incredible that Hippolytus should have known these details when his contemporaries (Clement, Tertullian, etc.) are, when dealing with the matter, ignorant or silent; or should, having published them, have remained unquoted (Kellner, op. cit., p. 104, has an excursus on this passage.)

St. Ambrose (de virg., iii, 1 in P. L., XVI, 219) preserves the sermon preached by Pope Liberius I at St. Peter's, when, on Natalis Christi, Ambrose' sister, Marcellina, took the veil. This pope reigned from May, 352 until 366, except during his years of exile, 355-357. If Marcellina became a nun only after the canonical age of twenty-five, and if Ambrose was born only in 340, it is perhaps likelier that the event occurred after 357. Though the sermon abounds in references appropriate to the Epiphany (the marriage at Cana, the multiplication of loaves, etc.), these seem due (Kellner, op. cit., p. 109) to sequence of thought, and do not fix the sermon to 6 January, a feast unknown in Rome till much later. Usener, indeed, argues (p. 272) that Liberius preached it on that day in 353, instituting the Nativity feast in the December of the same year; but Philocalus warrants our supposing that if preceded his pontificate by some time, though Duchesne's relegation of it to 243 (Bull. crit., 1890, 3, pp. 41 sqq. ) may not commend itself to many. In the West the Council of Saragossa (380) still ignores 25 December (see can. xxi, 2). Pope Siricius, writing in 385 (P. L., XII, 1134) to Himerius in Spain, distinguishes the feasts of the Nativity and Apparition; but whether he refers to Roman or to Spanish use is not clear. Ammianus Marcellinus (XXI, ii) and Zonaras (Ann., XIII, 11) date a visit of Julian the Apostate to a church at Vienne in Gaul on Epiphany and Nativity respectively. Unless there were two visits, Vienne in A.D. 361 combined the feasts, though on what day is still doubtful. By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379, unless with Erbes, and against Gregory, we recognize it there in 330. Hence, almost universally has it been concluded that the new date reached the East from Rome by way of the Bosphorus during the great anti-Arian revival, and by means of the orthodox champions. De Santi (L'Orig. delle Fest. Nat., in Civiltæ Cattolica, 1907), following Erbes, argues that Rome took over the Eastern Epiphany, now with a definite Nativity colouring, and, with as increasing number of Eastern Churches, placed it on 25 December; later, both East and West divided their feast, leaving Ephiphany on 6 January, and Nativity on 25 December, respectively, and placing Christmas on 25 December and Epiphany on 6 January. The earlier hypothesis still seems preferable.

ORIGIN OF DATE

The Gospels. Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion. Again, in winter it must have been; then only field labour was suspended. But Rome was not thus considerate. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season.

Zachary's temple service. Arguments based on Zachary's temple ministry are unreliable, though the calculations of antiquity (see above) have been revived in yet more complicated form, e.g. by Friedlieb (Leben J. Christi des Erlösers, Münster, 1887, p. 312). The twenty-four classes of Jewish priests, it is urged, served each a week in the Temple; Zachary was in the eighth class, Abia. The Temple was destroyed 9 Ab, A.D. 70; late rabbinical tradition says that class 1, Jojarib, was then serving. From these untrustworthy data, assuming that Christ was born A.U.C. 749, and that never in seventy turbulent years the weekly succession failed, it is calculated that the eighth class was serving 2-9 October, A.U.C. 748, whence Christ's conception falls in March, and birth presumably in December. Kellner (op. cit., pp. 106, 107) shows how hopeless is the calculation of Zachary's week from any point before or after it.

Analogy to Old Testament festivals. It seems impossible, on analogy of the relation of Passover and Pentecost to Easter and Whitsuntide, to connect the Nativity with the feast of Tabernacles, as did, e.g., Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr, et Talm., II, 32), arguing from Old Testament prophecy, e.g. Zacharias 14:16 sqq,; combining, too, the fact of Christ's death in Nisan with Daniel's prophecy of a three and one-half years' ministry (9:27), he puts the birth in Tisri, i.e. September. As undesirable is it to connect 25 December with the Eastern (December) feast of Dedication (Jos. Ant. Jud., XII, vii, 6).

Natalis Invicti. The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont's epoch-making "Textes et Monuments" etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355. Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, 12, p. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274. Filippo del Torre in 1700 first saw its importance; it is marked, as has been said, without addition in Philocalus' Calendar. It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).

The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cypr., "De pasch. Comp.", xix, "O quam præclare providentia ut illo die quo natus est Sol . . . nasceretur Christus." - "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born." - In the fourth century, Chrysostom, "del Solst. Et Æquin." (II, p. 118, ed. 1588), says: "Sed et dominus noster nascitur mense decembris . . . VIII Kal. Ian. . . . Sed et Invicti Natalem appelant. Quis utique tam invictus nisi dominus noster? . . . Vel quod dicant Solis esse natalem, ipse est Sol iustitiæ." - "But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December . . . the eight before the calends of January [25 December] . . ., But they call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice." Already Tertullian (Apol., 16; cf. Ad. Nat., I, 13; Orig. c. Cels., VIII, 67, etc) had to assert that Sol was not the Christians' God; Augustine (Tract xxxiv, in Joan. In P. L., XXXV, 1652) denounces the heretical indentification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I (Serm. xxxvii in nat. dom., VII, 4; xxii, II, 6 in P. L., LIV, 218 and 198) bitterly reproves solar survivals -- Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles' basilica, turn to adore the rising sun. Sun-worship has bequeathed features to modern popular worship in Armenia, where Chistians had once temporarily and externally conformed to the cult of the material sun (Cumont, op. cit., p. 356).

But even should a deliberate and legitimate "baptism" of a pagan feast be seen here no more than the transference of the date need be supposed. The "mountain-birth" of Mithra and Christ's in the "grotto" have nothing in common: Mithra's adoring shepherds (Cumont, op. cit., I, ii, 4, p. 304 sqq.) are rather borrowed from Christian sources than vice versa.

Other theories of pagan origin. The origin of Christmas should not be sought in the Saturnalia (1-23 December) nor even in the midnight holy birth at Eleusis (see J.E. Harrison, Prolegom., p. 549) with its probable connection through Phrygia with the Naasene heretics, or even with the Alexandrian ceremony quoted above; nor yet in rites analogous to the midwinter cult at Delphi of the cradled Dionysus, with his revocation from the sea to a new birth (Harrison, op. cit., 402 sqq.).

The astronomical theory. Duchesne (Les origines du culte chrétien, Paris, 1902, 262 sqq.) advances the "astronomical" theory that, given 25 March as Christ's death-day [historically impossible, but a tradition old as Tertullian (Adv. Jud., 8)], the popular instinct, demanding an exact number of years in a Divine life, would place His conception on the same date, His birth 25 December. This theory is best supported by the fact that certain Montanists (Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., VII, 18) kept Easter on 6 April; both 25 December and 6 January are thus simultaneously explained. The reckoning, moreover, is wholly in keeping with the arguments based on number and astronomy and "convenience", then so popular. Unfortunately, there is no contemporary evidence for the celebration in the fourth century of Christ's conception on 25 March.

Conclusion. The present writer in inclined to think that, be the origin of the feast in East or West, and though the abundance of analogous midwinter festivals may indefinitely have helped the choice of the December date, the same instinct which set Natalis Invicti at the winter solstice will have sufficed, apart from deliberate adaptation or curious calculation, to set the Christian feast there too.

LITURGY AND CUSTOM

The calendar. The fixing of this date fixed those too of Circumcision and Presentation; of Expectation and, perhaps, Annunciation B.V.M.; and of Nativity and Conception of the Baptist (cf. Thurston in Amer. Eccl. Rev., December, 1898). Till the tenth century Christmas counted, in papal reckoning, as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, as it still does in Bulls; Boniface VIII (1294-1303) restored temporarily this usage, to which Germany held longest.

Popular merry-making. Codex Theod., II, 8, 27 (cf. XV, 5,5) forbids, in 425, circus games on 25 December; though not till Codex Just., III, 12, 6 (529) is cessation of work imposed. The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63-64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany.

The three Masses. The Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries give three Masses to this feast, and these, with a special and sublime martyrology, and dispensation, if necessary, from abstinence, still mark our usage. Though Rome gives three Masses to the Nativity only, Ildefonsus, a Spanish bishop, in 845, alludes to a triple mass on Nativity, Easter, Whitsun, and Transfiguration (P.L., CVI, 888). These Masses, at midnight, dawn, and in die, were mystically connected with aboriginal, Judaic, and Christian dispensations, or (as by St. Thomas, Liturgical colours varied: black, white, red, or (e.g. at Narbonne) red, white, violet were used (Durand, Rat. Div. Off., VI, 13). The Gloria was at first sung only in the first Mass of this day.

The historical origin of this triple Mass is probably as follows (cf. Thurston, in Amer. Eccl. Rev., January, 1899; Grisar, Anal. Rom., I, 595; Geschichte Roms . . . im Mittelalter I, 607, 397; Civ. Catt., 21 September, 1895, etc.): The first Mass, celebrated at the Oratorium Præsepis in St. Mary Major -- a church probably immediately assimilated to the Bethlehem basilica -- and the third, at St. Peter's, reproduced in Rome the double Christmas Office mentioned by Etheria (see above) at Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The second Mass was celebrated by the pope in the "chapel royal" of the Byzantine Court officials on the Palatine, i.e. St. Anastasia's church, originally called, like the basilica at Constantinople, Anastasis, and like it built at first to reproduce the Jerusalem Anastasis basilica -- and like it, finally, in abandoning the name "Anastasis" for that of the martyr St. Anastasia. The second Mass would therefore be a papal compliment to the imperial church on its patronal feast. The three stations are thus accounted for, for by 1143 (cf. Ord. Romani in P. L., LXXVIII, 1032) the pope abandoned distant St. Peter's, and said the third Mass at the high altar of St. Mary Major. At this third Mass Leo III inaugurated, in 800, by the coronation of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire. The day became a favourite for court ceremonies, and on it, e.g., William of Normandy was crowned at Westminster.

Dramatic presentations. The history of the dedication of the Oratorium Præsepis in the Liberian basilica, of the relics there kept and their imitations, does not belong to this discussion [cf. CRIB; RELICS. The data are well set out by Bonaccorsi (Il Natale, Rome, 1903, ch. iv)], but the practice of giving dramatic, or at least spectacular, expression to the incidents of the Nativity early gave rise to more or less liturgical mysteries. The ordinaria of Rouen and of Reims, for instance, place the officium pastorum immediately after the Te Deum and before Mass (cf. Ducange, Gloss. med. et inf. Lat., s.v. Pastores); the latter Church celebrated a second "prophetical" mystery after Tierce, in which Virgil and the Sibyl join with Old Testament prophets in honouring Christ. (For Virgil and Nativity play and prophecy see authorities in Comparetti, "Virgil in Middles Ages", p. 310 sqq.) "To out-herod Herod", i.e. to over-act, dates from Herod's violence in these plays.

The crib (creche) or nativity scene. St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 originated the crib of today by laicizing a hitherto ecclesiastical custom, henceforward extra-liturgical and popular. The presence of ox and ass is due to a misinterpretation of Isaias i:3 and Habacuc 3:2 ("Itala" version), though they appear in the unique fourth-century "Nativity" discovered in the St. Sebastian catacombs in 1877. The ass on which Balaam rode in the Reims mystery won for the feast the title Festum Asinorum (Ducange, op. cit., s.v. Festum).

Hymns and carols. The degeneration of these plays in part occasioned the diffusion of noels, pastorali, and carols, to which was accorded, at times, a quasi-liturgical position. Prudentius, in the fourth century, is the first (and in that century alone) to hymn the Nativity, for the "Vox clara" (hymn for Lauds in Advent) and "Christe Redemptor" (Vespers and Matins of Christmas) cannot be assigned to Ambrose. "A solis ortu" is certainly, however, by Sedulius (fifth century). The earliest German Weihnachtslieder date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the earliest noels from the eleventh, the earliest carols from the thirteenth. The famous "Stabat Mater Speciosa" is attributed to Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306); "Adeste Fideles" is, at the earliest, of the seventeenth century. These essentially popular airs, and even words, must, however, have existed long before they were put down in writing.

Cards and presents. Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas. Tiele (Yule and Christmas, London, 1899) has collected many interesting examples. The strenæ (eacute;trennes) of the Roman 1 January (bitterly condemned by Tertullian, de Idol., xiv and x, and by Maximus of Turin, Hom. ciii, de Kal. gentil., in P. L., LVII, 492, etc.) survive as Christmas presents, cards, boxes.

The yule log. The calend fires were a scandal even to Rome, and St. Boniface obtained from Pope Zachary their abolition. But probably the Yule-log in its many forms was originally lit only in view of the cold season. Only in 1577 did it become a public ceremony in England; its popularity, however, grew immense, especially in Provence; in Tuscany, Christmas is simply called ceppo (block, log -- Bonaccorsi, op. cit., p. 145, n. 2). Besides, it became connected with other usages; in England, a tenant had the right to feed at his lord's expense as long as a wheel, i.e. a round, of wood, given by him, would burn, the landlord gave to a tenant a load of wood on the birth of a child; Kindsfuss was a present given to children on the birth of a brother or sister, and even to the farm animals on that of Christ, the universal little brother (Tiele, op. cit., p. 95 sqq.).

Greenery. Gervase of Tilbury (thirteen century) says that in England grain is exposed on Christmas night to gain fertility from the dew which falls in response to "Rorate Cæli"; the tradition that trees and flowers blossomed on this night is first quoted from an Arab geographer of the tenth century, and extended to England. In a thirteenth-century French epic, candles are seen on the flowering tree. In England it was Joseph of Arimathea's rod which flowered at Glastonbury and elsewhere; when 3 September became 14 September, in 1752, 2000 people watched to see if the Quainton thorn (cratagus præcox) would blow on Christmas New Style; and as it did not, they refused to keep the New Style festival. From this belief of the calends practice of greenery decorations (forbidden by Archbishop Martin of Braga, c. 575, P. L., LXXIII -- mistletoe was bequeathed by the Druids) developed the Christmas tree, first definitely mentioned in 1605 at Strasburg, and introduced into France and England in 1840 only, by Princess Helena of Mecklenburg and the Prince Consort respectively.

The mysterious visitor. Only with great caution should the mysterious benefactor of Christmas night -- Knecht Ruprecht, Pelzmärtel on a wooden horse, St. Martin on a white charger, St. Nicholas and his "reformed" equivalent, Father Christmas -- be ascribed to the stepping of a saint into the shoes of Woden, who, with his wife Berchta, descended on the nights between 25 December and 6 January, on a white horse to bless earth and men. Fires and blazing wheels starred the hills, houses were adorned, trials suspended and feasts celebrated (cf. Bonaccorse, op. cit., p. 151). Knecht Ruprecht, at any rate (first found in a mystery of 1668 and condemned in 1680 as a devil) was only a servant of the Holy Child.

Non-Catholic observances. But no doubt aboriginal Christian nuclei attracted pagan accretions. For the calend mumming; the extraordinary and obscene Modranicht; the cake in honour of Mary's "afterbirth", condemned (692) at the Trullan Council, canon 79; the Tabulæ Fortunæ (food and drink offered to obtain increase, and condemned in 743), see Tiele, op. cit., ch. viii, ix -- Tiele's data are perhaps of greater value than his deductions -- and Ducange (op. cit., s. vv. Cervula and Kalendæ).

In England, Christmas was forbidden by Act of Parliament in 1644; the day was to be a fast and a market day; shops were compelled to be open; plum puddings and mince pies condemned as heathen. The conservatives resisted; at Canterbury blood was shed; but after the Restoration Dissenters continued to call Yuletide "Fooltide".

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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File:8452 - Milano - S. Marco - Londonio - Presepe (ca 1750) - Foto G. Dall'Orto -
The Adoration of the Shepherds from a Crib made of painted board by Francesco Landonio, 1750, Italy. Many churches, families and towns set up Cribs at Christmas.

Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus.[1] Christians believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Christmas means "Feast day of Christ". However, it is not pronounced as Christ Mass; it is pronounced Kriss-muhss.

The day known as Christmas Day is celebrated on the 25th of December (This date is different for Orthodox Christians). Christmas is one of the holiest times of the year, when it is believed by Christians that God sent Jesus to be born and to live among people and to save sinners from a life apart from God. The other important Christian Holy Days are at Easter when the death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated. The season of preparing for Christmas is called Advent and begins on a Sunday about four weeks before Christmas Day. The Christmas Season (called Christmastide) ends on January 6, known as the Epiphany or the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Christmas is celebrated by Christian people all over the world, and is also kept as a time of celebration by many people who are not Christian but enjoy the traditions. The traditions are different from country to country, but they nearly always include a feast, giving gifts or cards, and enjoying church or public festivities such as singing Christmas songs.

Christmastime, as it is often called, is in the winter of the Northern Hemisphere, at a time when there were already ancient festivals. Some of the traditions that are used for Christmas are older than Christmas, or come from other non-Christian traditions such as Yule. Other festivals at this time of year include Jewish Hanukkah.

Modern traditions of Christmas often focus on the giving of gifts. Stores use this time of year to sell a lot of goods, and so start advertising for "Holiday Season" shopping for at least a month before Christmas, often showing a Santa Claus.

Contents

The history of Christmas

Christmas in the Gospels

File:The visit of the
A Bible Story picture showing the Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus. Pictures like this were made to teach children at Sunday School.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. The story of how this happened is told in part of the Bible known as the Gospels. There are four Gospels telling the life of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke tells the most about his birth, and the Gospel of Matthew tells another part of the story. The Gospel of John says that Jesus came from God to bring his "Word" or message to all people.

The Gospels say that many years before Jesus' birth, prophets had told a promise to the Jewish people that God would send them a Messiah, or holy teacher. Christians believe that the promised Messiah was Jesus. His mother was a young woman called Mary, who was engaged, but not yet married to a carpenter called Joseph. Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant and was upset. He was wondering what he should do, when an angel came from God to tell him that the baby was the Holy One. The angel said that he must name the baby. This was a sign that he would take care of it like his own child.

At this time, the Middle East was ruled by the Romans. An order came that all the people had to travel back to their home town, to put their names on the taxation lists. Joseph took his new wife to Bethlehem. There was nowhere for them to stay, except a stable where the animals slept. This is where the baby was born. Joseph called him Jesus, as the angel had said.

The baby Jesus had two lots of visitors. On the night he was born, angels told some shepherds in the fields that they would find a newborn king lying in an animals' feed bin (or manger). Jesus' other visitors were some wise men who saw a new star in the sky and followed it, until they found the house where the family was now living and gave the young child expensive gifts of gold, incense and a precious herb called myrrh. (The wise men are often traditionally called the Three Kings, because there were three very expensive presents but the Bible dose not say how many wise men there were.)

All these parts of the Christmas story are remembered and celebrated in different ways at Christmas: in pictures, songs, plays, stories and in models that are called "cribs", "creches" or "presepe".

Date of celebration

Most Christian countries of the world use a calendar called the Gregorian Calendar, but some churches use a calendar called the Julian Calendar. Most Christians, such as those of the [[Catholicism|Catholic and Protestantism Protestant Churches, celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25.

The Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the Julian Calendar. They celebrate Christmas on December 25 in the Julian Calendar, but because of the difference between the calendars it is the 7th of January in the modern Gregorian Calendar.

Some Christians, like Jehovah's Witnesses, do not celebrate Christmas because there is no instruction from Jesus in the Bible which tells Christians to celebrate his birth. Mormons celebrate Christmas on December 25th but they believe that Christ's actual birth took place on April 6th.

Nowadays historians believe that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, or even at that time of year. It is more likely that he was born in the Spring or the Autumn. It is thought that the date of Christmas was chosen because there was already an important feast at that time: the Zoroastrians and Romans used to celebrate a feast to the god Mithras on December 25th. Historians believe this date was used by the Catholic Church to replace the pagan rites that took place at that time of the year.

Advent

[[File:|thumb|250px|Lighting the Advent candles at a church in the US.]] The Season of Advent, which begins on a Sunday about four weeks before Christmas Day, is celebrated by the Catholic and Anglican Churches, as well as some others. It is a time for people to prepare themselves for two different things: for the coming of the baby Jesus and Christmas, and for the second coming of Jesus, when he shall rule over all the Earth in peace. Not all Christian people remember Advent. Some people use it as a time of fasting, study, meditation and prayer. Special Advent Calendars are made for children, with pictures or treats for each day of Advent.

Generally, Advent is a time when many people are very busy in preparation for Christmas Day, cleaning and decorating, buying food and presents, writing cards and letters, and cooking the Christmas feast.

Celebrations

Before the 4th century AD, Christians could only worship and celebrate in secret. The feast of Christmas probably began while Constantine was the Emperor of Rome, because it was he who made Christianity a legal religion and built some of Rome's oldest churches. Some old stone coffins or sarcophagi from this time are carved with pictures of Mary and baby Jesus and the Wise Men.

Through the Middle Ages Christmas was celebrated with feasting, singing and plays. The plays were held in churches, and also in castles and in market places, where a big hay waggon was sometimes used as a stage.

Because Advent was a time of prayer and preparation, most parties were held after Christmas, rather than before it. The main pre-Christmas celebration was the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. In some countries, particularly the Netherlands, the tradition grew for children to receive presents on this day, rather than Christmas Day. The name of Saint Nicholas is now remembered in many countries as Santa Claus. [[File:|thumb|left|250px|The procession of St Lucy, Sweden]] Another traditional festivity that takes place during Advent is the Feast of St Lucy (Santa Lucia) on December 13th which is particularly celebrated in Scandinavia, where girls take part in candlelit processions, and the daughters of the house must rise early to bring coffee or chocolate to the family.

For many centuries, the celebration of Christmas often began with a church service or mass, which lasted from late at night to after midnight on Christmas morning. Christmas Day was a time of feasting. On the following day, the Feast of St Stephen, people from rich households would carry boxes of food out to the street for the poor and hungry. Many people would go back to work but employers would give gifts of money to their workers. The Holy Days continued with the feast of St John and Holy Innocents' Day. The feasting and parties ended on the Feast of the Epiphany, the day of the Three Wise Men, often called the "Three Kings". The season is nowadays remembered by the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". William Shakespeare wrote a play to be performed as part of the celebration, called "Twelfth Night".

File:Winterwald Christmas market
Christmas shopping in a market in Italy

Nowadays, for many people, Christmas has become a time when having parties, sending messages to family and friends and giving presents has become more important than the celebration of Jesus' birth. Manufacturers and stores have responded to the feasting and present-giving with lots of advertising, decorations and displays. This is known as Commercialism, and many Christian people are annoyed by it. In the US, the Christmas displays are put up right after Thanksgiving, late in November. In some countries such as Australia, department stores and shopping malls put up decorations at the beginning of November.

Town councils celebrate by decorating streets and squares, and providing Christmas entertainment for shoppers. In countries of the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas falls in Summer, there is a tradition of open-air Carol Services, often organised by the town council, which are attended by thousands of people.

Many Christians celebrate Christmas by attending church, and with prayers and singing. Many people are worried that the "true meaning of Christmas" has been lost, because of the emphasis on giving and receiving presents. However, when most people, even those who are not Christian, talk about the "true meaning of Christmas", they are thinking of the words that the angels spoke to the shepherds: "Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all people!"

Christmas Traditions

Christmas traditions are of several types. There are traditions of the church, traditions which are public celebrations and traditions that are kept by families. These traditions are different in different times, places, cultures and even families.

Traditions of the Church

File:Friedrichshafen Ailingen
A "Nativity scene" from Germany

The celebration of Christmas is a very important time for churches. Almost every church has special services or celebrations. Here are some of the ways that churches celebrate Christmas.

The Crib

It is the custom in many churches to set up a Crib (or Creche) scene of the Nativity or birth of Jesus. The first scene of this type was set up by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. They have been very popular in Italy ever since then, and the custom has spread to other countries.

Nativity scenes can be large with life-sized statues, or they can be tiny enough to fit in a matchbox. They are made of many different things including carved and painted wood, brightly coloured ceramics (pottery), painted paper glued to boards, and mixtures of material with clay, wood, cloth, straw and metal used for different parts.

File:Advent
An Advent wreath on the Second Sunday in Advent

Advent wreaths

The Advent wreath is a circle of leaves, usually pine boughs, ivy and holly, with five candles in it which is hung up in a church. The candles are lit on each Sunday in Advent, and the central candle is lit on Christmas morning. Churches are often decked with green branches and leaves, and many churches also have a Christmas tree.

Bible readings

Each year at Christmas there are a series of Bible readings from the Gospels that tell the story of the birth of Jesus. These are combined with other readings that tell about the sinfulness of humans, and how God promised to send the Messiah. On Christmas morning the main Bible reading that is usually used in churches is not part of the story of Jesus' birth. It is the part of the Gospel of John that says that Jesus is the "Word of God" (God's communication with people) who was with God before the world began, and who came to earth to teach all people to become the children of God.

Carols by Candlelight

A popular tradition in many churches is the Carol Service which is often lit only by candles. The carol service generally has lots of singing and Bible readings. There is a tradition in England which began in the Temple Church in London and has now spread to many other places for a service of "Nine Lessons and Carols". The lessons are the Bible readings. Some carols are sung by a choir and others by the choir and people (the congregation). Every year one of these services is recorded in a large English Church, often King's College Chapel in Cambridge, and is broadcast on radio and television to be enjoyed by people who love good music and carol singing, but particularly for people who cannot go to a Christmas service.

Public and commercial celebrations

File:Christmas Lisbon 2005
A huge Christmas tree in Lisbon, Portugal

Many cities and towns celebrate Christmas by putting up decorations. These may be banners and bunting which are strung from buildings or lampposts. They may be Christmas lights which can also decorate buildings and street trees. Many large cities put up a huge Christmas tree in a public place, such as those in Trafalgar Square in London, Times Square in New York and Martin Place in Sydney. This is often combined with an appeal to the people of the city to give money or gifts to help the poor and needy.

In many cities, the usual shopping hours are made longer before Christmas so that workers have more time to buy Christmas food and presents. Shop windows are often decorated with Christmas scenes, with large department stores often having animated scenes to entertain children. Shopping malls and big stores often have a Santa Claus, who sits on a throne, while children tell him what they want for Christmas, and have their photos taken. [[File:|thumb|left|250px|A Christmas market in Dresden, Germany]] Many towns hold Christmas parades, street entertainment and concerts. Some towns have a tradition of carols with a choir and entertainers in the town hall, while in Australia and New Zealand, these concerts of Christmas entertainment and carols are usually held outdoors, in parks or even on beaches, with families bringing picnics. The arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the evening is accompanied by a firework display.

A traditional part of Christmas is the theatre entertainment. This includes the performance of classical music such as Handel's Messiah as well as orchestral concerts and band recitals. Pantomimes are often played at Christmas and favourites include "Peter Pan and Wendy" and "Cinderella". Many children's movies are released during the Christmas season.

Because many people feel very lonely, hungry and sad at Christmas, many cities, churches, charities and service organisations try to help the poor and lonely by providing Christmas food and gifts for poor families, and Christmas parties for people who are hungry or who are lonely and without any friends or family.

Family celebrations

Family celebrations are often very different from each other, depending on where a family comes from, and the customs that have grown in particular families.

Family get-togethers

File:Sing
A family celebrating Christmas with music and singing

Most families think of Christmas as a time to get together with other members of the family. People often travel from far away to be with other family members at Christmas. Those people who cannot travel often make long-distance phone calls on Christmas Day. Many people also see Christmas as a time to reach out to others that they know might be lonely, and invite them to dinner on Christmas Day. Christmas is seen as a time for people of all ages to have fun together, for cousins to get to know each other, for grandparents to see their grandchildren and for the family to admire the babies that have been born during the year. Big family parties are usually a time of joy, but some families often talk about their disagreements and have big fights at Christmas time.

Family traditions are very different. Some families might all go off to church together, to a Carol Service, a Midnight Mass, or a Christmas Morning service. Some families are pulled out of bed very early by children who want to open their presents. In other families, presents are given on St. Nicholas Day, on Christmas Eve or not until after church on Christmas morning. The Christmas feast might start on Christmas Eve, with a special breakfast on Christmas morning, or at midday on Christmas Day.

Some families have a tradition of carol singing, and might go around the streets, to hospitals and other such places singing with members of their church. Other families like to watch certain television programs together, which might include carol services and the Queen's Message. Some families use Christmas as a time to play music and sing together, or to read a favourite book such as "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. In countries in the Southern Hemisphere, a visit to the beach or a swim in a pool is often part of the Christmas Day tradition.

Christmas dinner

Christmas Dinner, usually eaten in the middle of the day, is an important part of the family celebration. The food differs from country to country and also from family to family. In the Northern Hemisphere, roasted meat and vegetables is generally the main course of the meal. Often several types of meat are served, which may include turkey, ham, roast beef or lamb. There are often several courses, with special treats that are usually only eaten at Christmas.

File:Christmas in Australia
The Christmas pudding is served at the end of Christmas dinner on the verandah in Australia.

In English-speaking countries, the traditional dessert is Christmas plum pudding. Nowadays these are often bought from bakers, but many people make their own to a family recipe. The tradition came from the Middle Ages when the pudding was used to preserve some of the fruit from the Autumn until the mid-winter. A traditional pudding is baked six weeks before Christmas and is left tied up in a cloth, in a cool place. Stirring the pudding is sometimes a family tradition, with everyone making a wish as they stir. Traditionally a silver coin would be stirred into the pudding, to bring luck to the person who found it. Nowadays most coins cannot be used because they taste horrible and may be poisonous. Some families use old coins or silver charms. On Christmas Day the pudding must be boiled in a pot for several hours. When it is served, the cloth is cut off, brandy is poured onto the pudding, and is lit on fire before it is carried to the table.

Many families have a Christmas Cake or a special bread instead of a pudding (or as well as a pudding). These are very different depending on the country, but often have marzipan which is made from almonds and is traditional in many countries at Christmas. In France "Buche de Noel" or gingerbread men and women are decorated and hung on the Christmas tree. In Scotland a pastry biscuit called shortbread is made and has become a popular tradition in many countries. A German tradition is pfeffernüsse, spiced cookies rolled in powdered sugar. Other Christmas food includes raisins, sultanas, ginger, Turkish delight, almonds, chocolates, caramel toffee, candy canes and oranges.

Many families also prepare mulled wine which is warmed with cinnamon and nutmeg or egg nogs, a sweet drink made of milk, sugar, eggs, nutmeg and sometimes alcohol.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the traditional roast dinner is often replaced with cold cuts of meat, and served with salads. The first course might be prawn cocktail or a cold soup like borsch. The plum pudding might be served with icecream. White wine and beer are both served cold (beer is kept in a refrigerator). Christmas dinner may be served on the veranda, or sometimes as a picnic.

Tree and decorations

File:Juletræ
A traditional Christmas tree

In most homes when Christmas is celebrated, people set up a Christmas tree in the house. This old Yuletide custom began in Germany as the "Tannenbaum" (German for Fir Tree). These are traditionally evergreens, the best type being the Fir Tree which does not shed its needles or lose its fragrance. The tree may be a cut tree that is bought from a plantation or taken from the forest. Artificial trees are sometimes preferred to real trees, particularly in Australia where there are no Fir Trees and the only types that can be bought are very messy and dry out fast in the hot weather. The Christmas tree is decorated with lights, shiny coloured balls, sparkly tinsel and other ornaments. A wreath of leaves or pine is often put on the front door of a house as a sign of welcome. Other plants that have special significance at Christmas are holly which is used as decoration and mistletoe which is hung in the centre of a room. The tradition is that people who meet under the mistletoe must kiss.

Many people decorate their homes at Christmas time. These decorations and the Christmas tree are generally inside, but may be put where they can also be seen through a window by people passing by. In the mid 20th century there grew up a custom for decorating the outside of houses as well. These decorations may be just a few lights around the porch, or hundreds of lights and colourful Christmas figures decorating the whole house and garden. Some neighbourhoods hold competitions for the best-decorated house, and driving around the streets to look at them has become another family tradition.

[[File:|thumb|220px|left|Santa Claus is a popular Christmas tradition.]]

Cards and presents

The giving of gifts at Christmas comes from several different ideas. One is that God gave his son, Jesus, to the world at Christmas. There is also the story of the Wise Men who came to the baby Jesus with three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. For many centuries it has been the custom for people to give small gifts at Christmas, and also to give generously to the poor and needy to help them through the winter. Another tradition has become linked to this one, and the result is the tradition of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as he is sometimes called, and who is nowadays thought by many children to be the bringer of presents.

In the 4th century, in a Greek village that is now part of Turkey, there was a good man who would secretly given presents to the poor to help them. He became a bishop and is called Saint Nicholas. Over the centuries, he became a very popular saint and lots of churches were named after him. He was very popular in places where there were lots of sailors. One of those places was the Netherlands. In the Netherlands and many other European countries, presents are given on the feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6th. Traditionally, the presents are not big, and are sometimes hidden, or have a funny joke or poem that must be read. In many towns of Europe a man dressed in bishop's robes comes on a horse or in a boat, acting as St. Nicholas. His name was often shortened to Sante Claus, or Santa Claus in English.

File:Reyes Magos en centro
In Spain it is the Three Wise Men who bring gifts to children.

In English speaking countries, where presents are usually given on Christmas Day, not December 6th, Santa Claus, (or Father Christmas) is usually thought of as coming on Christmas Night, when his magic sleigh is pulled across the sky by reindeer, and he comes into houses through the chimney. While in Europe, children put out their shoes for St. Nicholas, the English tradition is to hang up stockings (or long socks) in front of the fireplace. Santa Claus would traditionally fill the socks or shoes with nuts, raisins, chocolates and an orange. Nowadays children usually get much more expensive presents, and hang up pillow cases or have the presents in a big pile under the Christmas tree.

Another Christmas tradition is the sending of cards to friends and relatives. These contain warm greetings and may also have a letter telling all the things that have happened to the person or family during the year.

Other holidays around Christmas

There are other holidays that take place around Christmas time.

The Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, although this feast of lights is not their holiest time of the year. Hanukkah is a remembrance of the miracle of Jewish survival against mighty empires (on this occasion, 165 BCE, against the Seleucid Greeks). A popular later legend suggested that one day's worth of oil for the candelabra in the Temple in Jerusalem miraculously lasted for 8 days whilst new oil was prepared, after the Jews had fought off their enemy and rededicated the Temple.

Some African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, although many African Americans have a deeply rooted Christian faith, so they may celebrate Christmas first and Kwanzaa as a cultural versus spiritual celebration.

For Wiccans and Neopagans, Yule celebrates the rebirth of the earth during the winter solstice (usually December 20-22). At Yule, the Holly King, God of winter, is taken over by the Oak King, God of Spring or rebirth, also known as the Divine Child. Common shared traditions between Yule and Christmas include: caroling, decorating the Yule tree, kissing under the mistletoe and honoring Kriss Kringle (Santa Claus), the Germanic God of Yule. Some secular or non religious groups also celebrate Yule on the Winter Solstice as the middle of winter and for its cultural importance.

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