Excerpt for Christmas Traditions and Customs. by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Christmas Traditions And Customs



by



Kerry Butters




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Find out about the history of Christmas Customs and Christmas Traditions. How many Traditions and Customs started and how they are celebrated. The history behind Christmas!




Table of Contents

When Christmas is Celebrated

Why the 25th of December?!

Advent - Before Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas

Epiphany - After Christmas

Christmas or Xmas?

Christmas Bells

Boxing Day

Candles

Candy Canes

Chrismons

The History of Carols

Carol Stories

Nine Lessons and Carols

Christmas Cards

Christmas Eve

Christingles

Christmas Crackers

The Colors of Christmas

The Holly and the Ivy

Gift Bringers Around the World

Jesse Trees

Merry Christmas in Different Languages

Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas?

Mince Pies

Mistletoe

Nativity Plays and Cribs

Pantomime

The Christmas Pickle

Poinsettias

Presents

Christmas Pudding

Snow and Ice

St. Nicholas, Santa Claus & Father Christmas

The Star of Bethlehem

Christmas Trees

Wassailing and Mumming

Hanukkah

Kwanzaa

The Yule Log




When Christmas is Celebrated

Many people think Christmas is on December the 25th and that's all there is to Christmas. However, for many people around the world, in different countries and in different Christian traditions, Christmas lasts for a lot longer than that - and it's even celebrated at different times!

Although December 25th is the date when most people celebrate Christmas, there are some other dates as well!

Some churches (mainly Orthodox churches) use a different calendars for their religious celebrations. Orthodox Churches in Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Ethiopia and other countries use the old 'Julian' calendar and people in those churches celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

Most people in the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas on December 25th. But some still use the Julian calendar and so celebrate Christmas on 7th January! Some Greek Catholics also celebrate on January 7th.

In Armenia, the Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on January 6th. It also celebrates 'Epiphany' on this day.


Advent - The Time Before Christmas

Before Christmas, many Christians use the time of Advent to prepare themselves and get ready to celebrate the joy of Christmas, when Christians celebrate of the birth of Jesus, who they believe is the Son of God.

Advent is normally a period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. In many Orthodox and Eastern Catholics Churches Advent lasts for 40 days, starting on November 15th.

In Orthodox Churches which celebrate Christmas on 7th January, Advent start on 28th November!

During Advent many people fast (don't eat certain foods). The types of food people give up depends on their church tradition and where in the world they live.


After Christmas - The 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany

After Advent, traditionally, Christmas celebrations (and often a feast!) started on Christmas Day and lasted for 12 Days - so they were known as The 12 Days of Christmas! The celebrations finished on the evening of 5th January, which is better known as Twelfth Night.

Throughout history, the 12 Days of Christmas were a time of feasting and fun.

Following Twelfth Night, on 6th January, is Epiphany, when people remember the Wise Men (also sometimes called the Three Kings) who visited Jesus and/or the Baptism of Jesus.

Epiphany/Twelfth Night is also the time when it was traditional to take your Christmas decorations down - although some people leave them up until Candlemas.


Candlemas - The End of Christmas

You might think that Christmas ends when you take the Christmas Decorations down - but it doesn't! After both Christmas and the season of Epiphany, the end of the Christmas celebrations come on February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas, with Candlemas.

Candlemas, also known as the 'Presentation of Jesus at the Temple' or the 'Feast of the Purification of the Virgin (or Mary)' is the when some Christians remember the time when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks to God for giving them a son.

It's a very important day in some Orthodox and Catholic churches.

The name Candlemas comes from 'Candle Mass' because in many Candlemas services, the candles are blessed to be used in churches during the coming year or are given out to people for them to use in their homes and private prayers.

In many Catholic churches, it's a time when people remember and renew promises they've made to the church and celebrate some of the prophesies which were given about Jesus.

In many Eastern/Orthodox churches, an all night vigil is held on the night before the candle blessing ceremony. In the morning, the candles are blessed and are given out to people.



Why the 25th of December?!

Why is Christmas Day on the 25th December?

Christmas is celebrated to remember the birth of of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God.

The name 'Christmas' comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The 'Christ-Mass' service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight! So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.

Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world, whether they are Christians or not. It's a time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. People, and especially children, also like Christmas as it's a time when you give and receive presents!


The Date of Christmas

No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn't happen in the year 1 but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2 BCE/BC and 7 BCE/BC (there isn't a 0 - the years go from 1 BC/BCE to 1!).

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

However, there are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th.

A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th - and it's still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult. The date of March 25th was chosen because people had calculated that was the day on which Jesus died as an adult (the 14th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar) and they thought that Jesus was born and had died on the same day of the year.

Some people also think that December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December around this date - so it was a time when people already celebrated things.

The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens on December 21st or 22nd. To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from. In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda.

The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means 'birthday of the unconquered sun' and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the 'birthday' of the Pagan Sun god Mithra. In the pagan religion of Mithraism, the holy day was Sunday and is where get that word from!

The Roman emperor Aurelian created 'Sol Invictus' in 274. But the records of early Christian connecting 14th Nisan to 25th March and so the 25th December go back to around 200!

The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion.


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