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In some countries, Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night , the evening of January 5. The earliest extant specifically Christmas hymns 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.
In the 12th 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 13th century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Assisi , a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native language developed.
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.
They are among the oldest musical compositions still regularly sung. 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! Felix Mendelssohn wrote a melody adapted to fit Wesley's words. William Sandys ' Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern contained the first appearance in print of many now-classic English carols, and contributed to the mid-Victorian revival of the festival.
Completely secular Christmas seasonal songs emerged in the late 18th century. 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 20th 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 special Christmas family meal is traditionally an important part of the holiday's celebration, and the food that 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 the United Kingdom and countries influenced by its traditions, a standard Christmas meal includes turkey, goose or other large bird, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, sometimes bread and cider. Special desserts are also prepared, such as Christmas pudding , mince pies , fruit cake and Yule log 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.
The Maltese traditionally serve Imbuljuta tal-Qastan ,  a chocolate and chestnuts beverage, after Midnight Mass and throughout the Christmas season. 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 have been long associated with special Christmas foods. Eggnog is a sweetened dairy -based beverage traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, and whipped eggs which gives it a frothy texture. Spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg.
Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. 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 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 Christmastide activities, snow scenes and the wildlife of the northern winter.
There are even humorous cards and genres depicting nostalgic scenes of the past such as crinolined shoppers in idealized 19th-century streetscapes. Some prefer cards with a poem, prayer, or Biblical verse ; while others distance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings". A number of nations have issued commemorative stamps at Christmastide. 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. The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making it the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the world.
On Christmas, people exchange gifts based on the Christian tradition associated with Saint Nicholas ,  and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which were given to the baby Jesus by the Magi. A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. The Scandinavian tomte also called nisse is sometimes depicted as a gnome instead of Santa Claus. The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins.
Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Myra , a city in the Roman province of Lycia , whose ruins are 3 kilometres 1. His feast day, December 6, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop's attire, accompanied by helpers, inquiring 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 6 to Christmas Eve. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of notable contributors including Washington Irving and the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast — New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition was reinvented as Saint Nicholas.
However, as new artists took over, Santa Claus developed more secular attire. By the s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the modern vision of the figure, perhaps based on the English figure of Father Christmas. The image was standardized by advertisers in the s  and continues through the present day. Father Christmas, a jolly, stout, 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.
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 other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. 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 , almost half a century after the end of the American War of Independence. 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.
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.
Greek children get their presents from Saint Basil on New Year's Eve, the eve of that saint's liturgical feast. 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. Multiple gift-giver figures exist in Poland, varying between regions and individual families. As of , there is a difference of 13 days between the Julian calendar and the modern Gregorian calendar , which is used internationally for most secular purposes.
As a result, December 25 on the Julian calendar currently corresponds to January 7 on the calendar used by most governments and people in everyday life. Therefore, the aforementioned Orthodox Christians mark December 25 and thus Christmas on the day that is internationally considered to be January 7. However, other Orthodox Christians, such as those belonging to the jurisdictions of Bulgaria , Greece , Romania , Constantinople , Antioch , Alexandria , Albania , Cyprus , Finland , and the Orthodox Church in America , among others, began using the Revised Julian calendar in the early 20th century, which at present corresponds exactly to the Gregorian calendar.
A further complication is added by the fact that the Armenian Apostolic Church continues the original ancient Eastern Christian practice of celebrating the birth of Christ not as a separate holiday, but on the same day as the celebration of his baptism Theophany , which is on January 6.
This is a public holiday in Armenia, and it is held on the same day that is internationally considered to be January 6, because the Armenian Church in Armenia uses the Gregorian calendar. However, there is also a small Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem , which maintains the traditional Armenian custom of celebrating the birth of Christ on the same day as Theophany January 6 , but uses the Julian calendar for the determination of that date.
As a result, this church celebrates "Christmas" more properly called Theophany on the day that is considered January 19 on the Gregorian calendar in use by the majority of the world.
In summary, there are four different dates used by different Christian groups to mark the birth of Christ, given in the table below. Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers in many nations around the world. Sales increase dramatically as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies to celebrate. In the UK and Ireland, the Christmas shopping season starts from mid-November, around the time when high street Christmas lights are turned on.
In other sectors, the pre-Christmas increase in spending was even greater, there being a November—December buying surge of percent in bookstores and percent in jewelry stores. In the same year employment in American retail stores rose from 1. 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 , whether laws require such or not.
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 to hopes of maximizing the chance of nominations for the Academy Awards.
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. 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.
Christmas has at times been the subject of controversy and attacks from various sources. Historically it was prohibited by Puritans when they briefly held power in England during the English Interregnum — , and in Colonial America where the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in Modern scholars such as E. Sanders , Geza Vermes and Marcus Borg consider both Gospel narratives of the birth of Jesus to be non-historical, arguing that there are contradictions between them.
One controversy is the occurrence of Christmas trees being renamed Holiday trees. Supreme Court ruled in Lynch v. 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.
American Muslim scholar Abdul Malik Mujahid has said that Muslims must treat Christmas with respect, even if they disagree with it. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Christmas disambiguation.
For other uses, see Christmas Day disambiguation. For Christmas traditions worldwide, see Christmas traditions. A depiction of the Nativity of Jesus with a Christmas tree backdrop. The Herald Angels Sing. Santa Claus , Father Christmas , and Christkind.
Christmas controversy and Christmas in Puritan New England. Persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union. Christmas portal Holidays portal Christianity portal. The Roman calendar used inclusive counting, so the eight days are 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 1.
Retrieved September 30, Retrieved December 16, World Religions in Practice. Coptic Orthodox Church Network. Retrieved January 17, The New York Times. Identity Politics and Popular Practice.
Robert Appleton Company, Armenian Churches observed the nativity on January 6 even before the Gregorian calendar originated. Retrieved May 23, University of California Press.
In the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself.
After Christmas and Epiphany were in place, on December 25 and January 6, with the twelve days of Christmas in between, Christians slowly adopted a period called Advent, as a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas. Introduction to Christian Liturgy. We noted above that late medieval calendars introduced a reduced three-day octave for Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost that were retained in Roman Catholic and passed into Lutheran and Anglican calendars.
Retrieved November 27, Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved November 18, The Christmas Encyclopedia 3 ed. Christians believe that a number of passages in the Bible are prophecies about future events in the life of the promised Messiah or Jesus Christ. Most, but not all, of those prophecies are found in the Old Testament Born in Bethlehem Micah 5: A Biographical History of the Christian Church. The birth narrative in Luke's gospel is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible.
Leaving their hometown of Nazareth, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to pay taxes. Arriving late, they find no vacancy at the inn.
They are, however, offered a stable, most likely a second room attached to a family dwelling where animals were sheltered—a room that would offer some privacy from the main family room for cooking, eating, and sleeping. This "city of David" is the little town of Bethlehem of Christmas-carol fame, a starlit silhouette indelibly etched on Christmas cards.
No sooner was the baby born than angels announced the news to shepherds who spread the word. Degenhard, Therese Brown, Robert C. Prendergast, Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays Commemorations of the Martyrs" , The Tertullian Project. Retrieved November 24, Retrieved April 2, Christmas is not really about the celebration of a birth date at all. It is about the celebration of a birth. The fact of the date and the fact of the birth are two different things. The calendrical verification of the feast itself is not really that important What is important to the understanding of a life-changing moment is that it happened, not necessarily where or when it happened.
The message is clear: Christmas is not about marking the actual birth date of Jesus. It is about the Incarnation of the One who became like us in all things but sin Heb. Christmas is a pinnacle feast, yes, but it is not the beginning of the liturgical year. It is a memorial, a remembrance, of the birth of Jesus, not really a celebration of the day itself. We remember that because the Jesus of history was born, the Resurrection of the Christ of faith could happen.
The origins of the celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany, as well as the dates on which they are observed, are rooted deeply in the history of the early church. There has been much scholarly debate concerning the exact time of the year when Jesus was born, and even in what year he was born. Actually, we do not know either. The best estimate is that Jesus was probably born in the springtime, somewhere between the years of 6 and 4 BC, as December is in the middle of the cold rainy season in Bethlehem , when the sheep are kept inside and not on pasture as told in the Bible.
The lack of a consistent system of timekeeping in the first century, mistakes in later calendars and calculations, and lack of historical details to cross reference events has led to this imprecision in fixing Jesus' birth.
This suggests that the Christmas celebration is not an observance of a historical date, but a commemoration of the event in terms of worship. Throughout the Christian world the 25th of December is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ. There was a time when the churches were not united regarding the date of the joyous event. Many Christians kept their Christmas in April, others in May, and still others at the close of September, till finally December 25 was agreed upon as the most appropriate date.
The choice of that day was, of course, wholly arbitrary, for neither the exact date not the period of the year at which the birth of Christ occurred is known.
For purposes of commemoration, however, it is unimportant whether the celebration shall fall or not at the precise anniversary of the joyous event. For Christians, the precise date of the birth of Jesus is actually something of a non-issue. What really matters is that he was born as a human being, and entered into human history. While the Washington and King birthdays are exclusively secular holidays, Christmas has both secular and religious aspects. In a changing nation, Santa endures" , Associated Press, December 22, Robert Appleton Company, accessed December 21, Sinai and the Monastery of St.
Retrieved December 12, Commemorations of the Martyrs. See the first entry. Retrieved December 28, There is no doubt that A Christmas Carol is first and foremost a story concerned with the Christian gospel of liberation by the grace of God, and with incarnational religion which refuses to drive a wedge between the world of spirit and the world of matter.
Both the Christmas dinners and the Christmas dinner-carriers are blessed; the cornucopia of Christmas food and feasting reflects both the goodness of creation and the joy of heaven. It is a significant sign of a shift in theological emphasis in the nineteenth century from a stress on the Atonement to a stress on the Incarnation, a stress which found outward and visible form in the sacramentalism of the Oxford Movement, the development of richer and more symbolic forms of worship, the building of neo-Gothic churches, and the revival and increasing centrality of the keeping of Christmas itself as a Christian festival.
By the later part of the century cathedrals provided special services and musical events, and might have revived ancient special charities for the poor — though we must not forget the problems for large: The popularity of Dickens' A Christmas Carol played a significant part in the changing consciousness of Christmas and the way in which it was celebrated.
The popularity of his public readings of the story is an indication of how much it resonated with the contemporary mood, and contributed to the increasing place of the Christmas celebration in both secular and religious ways that was firmly established by the end of the nineteenth century.
Retrieved December 25, Towards the Origin of Christmas. A sun connection is possible because Christians considered Jesus to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied in Malachi 4: You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. Retrieved February 24, Therefore let us celebrate the festival…" Tally, pp.
The Origins of Christmas. Toward the Origins of Christmas. Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen , part 1. Note that the first edition, , doesn't have the discussion of Natalis Solis Invicti ; also Sol Invictus The Origins of the Liturgical Year.
Retrieved December 27, The Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome. Archived from the original on May 10, Theology, ritual, and kinship in music for John the Baptist and St. The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought. Brunner, "Arnobius eine Zeuge gegen das Weihnachtsfest? Inscriptiones Latinae Antiquissimae , Berlin , pp. Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany of Saint Augustine.
Toward the Origin of Christmas. The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Retrieved February 3, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Archived from the original on April 30, Retrieved April 30, Retrieved October 19, The Man Who Invented Christmas: A Study in National Culture.
Retrieved November 19, Retrieved September 10, University Press of Kentucky. Milton was raised an Anglican, trained to become an Anglican minister, and remained an Anglican through the signing of the subscription books of Cambridge University in both and , which demanded an allegiance to the state church and its Thirty-nine Articles.
His father had wanted him to practice law but Milton considered writing poetry his life's work. At 21 years old, he wrote a poem, "On the morning of Christ's Nativity," a work that is still widely read during Christmas. Reformed According to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press. Within a few years the Reformed church calendar was fairly well established.
The heart of it was the weekly observance of the resurrection on the Lord's Day. Instead of liturgical seasons being observed, "the five evangelical feast days" were observed: They were chosen because they were understood to mark the essential stages in the history of salvation.
Journal of the History of Ideas. University of Pennsylvania Press. However, when Thomas Mocket, rector of Gilston in Hertfordshire, decried such vices in a pamphlet to justify the parliamentary 'ban' of Christmas, effective since June Domestic Annals of Scotland , p. Archived from the original on May 19, Retrieved February 29, The Victorian Christmas Book.
The Diary of a Country Parson — Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday. Moravian Christmas in the South. Christmas in Colonial and Early America. World Book Encyclopedia, Inc. Carols were altered by substituting names of prominent political leaders for royal characters in the lyrics, such as the Three Kings. Church bells were melted down for their bronze to increase the national treasury, and religious services were banned on Christmas Day.
The cake of kings, too, came under attack as a symbol of the royalty. It survived, however, for a while with a new name—the cake of equality. Archived from the original on November 1, How did people celebrate the Christmas during the French Revolution?
In white-knuckled terror behind closed doors. Churches across France were renamed "Temples of Reason" and the Notre Dame was "de-baptized" for the occasion. The Commune spared no expense: Archived from the original PDF on June 3, Retrieved January 12, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. What Dickens did advocate in his story was "the spirit of Christmas".
Sociologist James Barnett has described it as Dickens's "Carol Philosophy", which "combined religious and secular attitudes toward to celebration into a humanitarian pattern. It excoriated individual selfishness and extolled the virtues of brotherhood, kindness, and generosity at Christmas.
Dickens preached that at Christmas men should forget self and think of others, especially the poor and the unfortunate. University of Toronto Press, , p. The Ritual Year in England. Oxford University Press, p. Christmas in My Heart , Volume 10, p. Review and Herald Pub Assoc, Inverloch Historical Society Inc.
Retrieved July 25, Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe , p. Godey's copied it exactly, except he removed the Queen's tiara, and Prince Albert's moustache, to remake the engraving into an American scene. Broadview Literary Texts, New York: The history of Christmas: Christmas history in America , Archived from the original on December 19, A History of Graphic Design.
Straus November 16, Retrieved January 2, Facts Behind the Myths and Magic of Christmas. Retrieved October 23, Christmas at the Movies: A chapter on representations of Christmas in Soviet cinema could, in fact be the shortest in this collection: Religious Policy in the Soviet Union.
The League sallied forth to save the day from this putative religious revival. Antireligioznik obliged with so many articles that it devoted an entire section of its annual index for to anti-religious training in the schools. More such material followed in , and a flood of it the next year. It recommended what Lenin and others earlier had explicitly condemned—carnivals, farces, and games to intimidate and purge the youth of religious belief.
It suggested that pupils campaign against customs associated with Christmas including Christmas trees and Easter. Some schools, the League approvingly reported, staged an anti-religious day on the 31st of each month. Not teachers but the League's local set the programme for this special occasion. As observed by Nicholas Brianchaninov, writing in —, after the NEP and just as the worst of collectivization was beginning, the Soviets deemed it necessary to drive into the heads of the people the axiom that religion was the synthesis of everything most harmful to humanity.
It must be presented as the enemy of man and society, of life and learning, of progress. In caricatures, articles, Bezbozhnik , Antireligioznik , League of Militant Atheists propaganda and films. School courses [were give] on conducting the struggle against religion how to profane a church, break windows, objects of piety. The young, always eager to be with the latest trend, often responded to such propaganda.
In Moscow in children were brought to spit on the crucifixes at Christmas. Priests in Tiraspol diocese were sometimes betrayed by their own young parishioners, leading to their imprisonment and even death, and tearing their families apart.
Orthodox Church celebration is the first under Communists. But, as with most of Yeltsin's pronouncements, the holiday stirs a controversy". Retrieved November 22, For the first time in more than seven decades, Christmas—celebrated today by Russian Orthodox Christians—is a full state holiday across Russia's vast and snowy expanse.
Yeltsin's ambitious plan to revive the traditions of Old Russia, the republic's legislature declared last month that Christmas, long ignored under atheist Communist ideology, should be written back into the public calendar. Polosin, head of the Russian legislature's committee on religion.