It’s that time of the year again! You know what time… ‘tis the season to be jolly, lalalalalala! Yes, we’re getting closer to Christmas, when we’ll gather around family and friends, give and receive presents and have a kiss with our beloved under the mistletoe, but do we know more about what is behind some of the traditions and symbols for this holiday?
Why the 25th of December
Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God.
There is no date in the bible to state that the day that Jesus was born was the 25th of December, but there are different theories and traditions as to why this date has been chosen to celebrate this holiday.
An early tradition says that Virgin Mary was told on the 25th of March that she will have a very special baby, Jesus, the date of Annunciation. Nine months after this date is the 25th of December, which is the date that baby Jesus was born.
December 25th might have also been chosen because of the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan festivals of Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti which took place around this period as well, a time of celebration.
Name of the Holiday
Christmas comes from the Mass of Christ, which is a religious service where Christians remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us and his coming back to life. We have the name Christ-Mass, rearranged and shortened for Christmas.
On Christmas Eve the church bells signal the start of the service. In Victorian times people would go singing carols and holding small hand bells to accompany their vocal performance. Sometimes the bells took the place of the singing; the carol being played only with the sound of the bells. This custom is still very popular today.
Candy canes started first as simple white sugar sticks, about 250 years ago, in Germany. A story says that children during the long Christmas nativity service were given candy canes by the choirmaster to keep them quiet and since he wanted to remind them of Christmas, they were made in a shape of a J, like the crook of shepherds that visited baby Jesus Around 1900 the red stripes were added, which gives it other meanings, such as the white representing the purity of Jesus and the red stripes the blood he shed when he died on the cross.
Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe
Holly – the leaves represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified and the the berries resemble the drops of blood that resulting from this torment.
Ivy – Ivy represents the need to cling to God in our lives, from the basis of which this plant can only cling to something to support itself during its growth.
Mistletoe – The tradition of hanging it in the house dates to the ancient Druids, supposedly possessing mystical powers which brings good luck and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, thus explaining the custom of kissing under it nowadays.
The word nativity comes from the Latin word “natal”, which means birth – and on Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The cribs are used in Churches all over the world and even in some homes as a reminder of the story. Recreating the scene of Jesus’ birth, with dolls and figures representing Virgin Mary with Joseph and baby Jesus, the shepherds and the wise men.
The fir tree has been used during winter festival for thousands of years. The pagans used its branches to decorate their houses as a reminder of the spring that is to come, the Romans used it during Saturnalia. For Christians, the analogy with the fir tree’s evergreen lifespan goes well with the sign of everlasting life in the presence of God.
Some traditions use the Christmas tree upside down, dating back to Boniface, an English benedictine monk who came to Germany to preach the gospel. He used the triangle shape fir tree as a symbol to show the divine trinity of Son, Holy Ghost and God, the Father. By the 12th century it was being hung upside down, from ceiling at Christmas time, in Central Europe.
The custom of receiving gifts for Christmas is a reminder of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh. The presents received on this day are put in shoes or boots in some countries, and under the Christmas tree in others.
Since we love presents and traditions, this Christmas you can have a special present from us consisting of 1 month of the Mighty subscription plan with this coupon code: CHRISTMAS365. You can use it to test out our PowerPoint add-in, that gives you access to all YAY’s images directly from within PowerPoint, an easy and practical add-in that helps you create amazing presentations. Get it from the Microsoft Store and Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!