Tis’ the season for carolling and gifting!! Christmas is the time to spend time with your family and enjoy the festive mood around the neighbourhood. This festival is of grave importance to the Christian culture since it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. We can see houses decorated with vibrant lighting, small statues of elves, snow (of course), Christmas special cakes, and Christmas special Hanging Door Ring!!
Did you know that the term ‘Christmas‘ originates from the words ‘Cristes Maesse‘, which means ‘mass of Christ‘!? Christmas’ history dates back to over 4000 years ago as several customs and traditions were celebrated before the birth of Christ. We can trace Christmas’ origin back to some civilizations that gave way to this festival.
- Mesopotamian (New Years)– Several traditions began from the Mesopotamian culture. The people believed in many Gods, but one chief God- Marduk. In his battle with monsters of chaos every year, the Mesopotamians would assist Marduk by holding a festival known as Zagmuk, lasting for 12 days.
- Scandinavia (Yuletide)– Scandinavia is the Northern part of the European continent where, during winter, the Sun would disappear for months. Villages would send scouts to track the Sun’s first light. After any sightings of the Sun, people would organise a festival called the Yuletide, which would consist of huge feasts and have a bonfire made from the Yule log.
- Roman (Saturnalia)– For Romans, this festival began in mid-December, ending on January 1st. They named the festival Saturnalia as they worshipped their God, Saturn. Celebrations included masquerades in the streets, festival meals, visiting friends, and exchanging gifts called Strenae.
- Persians and Babylonians (Sacaea)– This culture follows a unique way to celebrate where the slaves were the masters, and the masters were to obey them.
Throughout its history, Christmas has had many names. Nativity, meaning ‘birth’, originates from the Latin word, ‘nativitas‘. Christmas also derives from Christenmasse, meaning “Christian Mass“. However, some say it was the date of Winter Solstice according to the Roman calendar, which was nine months after March 25, the date of Vernal Equinox and the date linked to Jesus’s conception. The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25, A.D.336.
But some wonder, how did Santa Claus come into existence?! We all know Santa Claus is a prominent figure wearing red and white clothes and is portrayed with his eight flying reindeers. The American version of Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, originates from the Dutch version called ‘Sint Klass‘. Over the years, Santa’s visual forms have developed. According to folklore, Santa Claus’s home situates near the North Pole and has a habit of filling people’s stockings with gifts on the night of 24th December.
Even though the celebrations are grander every year, the traditions remain among the Christian community-
- Usually, Catholics visit Church mass early in the morning for their prayers. According to a study, Christmas and Easter have the highest attendance in Churches.
- For decorations, usually, red, green, and golden are the primary colours, where red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, shed during the crucifixion. The green colour represents eternal life, specifically the evergreen tree, which does not shed its leaves during winter. The colour gold portrays Royalty and is one of the three gifts of the Magi. People put up different statues of Santa, reindeers, and elves to decorate their houses with colourful lights. Bells, candy canes, candles, stockings, and wreaths are a few traditional decorative items.
- During Christmas, the nativity play is one of the oldest traditions originating in A.D.1223 by Francis of Assisi. The play depicts the birth of Jesus Christ.
- Folk music and carols are the best way to get into the mood for Christians. They sing different songs, which originated in the 9th and 10th centuries. Groups of people roam on the streets and visit various homes to spread the holiday cheer.
- Exchanging gifts is probably one of the most important traditions in recent times. Some say the gift-giving tradition started from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. According to the culture, gifts are wrapped well in advance and kept beneath the Christmas tree for everyone.
Christmas is time to get together with your family and enjoy the festive treats to satisfy your belly. People enjoy delicacies that are available only at this time of the year.
- Pudding is also a popular delicacy which people specially prepare during this season. It is part of almost every Christmas dinner, mainly in the U.K. and Ireland.
- Christmas brings us different types of cakes (of course) but the main attraction of the cakes are the Rum Cake and Plum Cake. Rum cake consists of dried fruits soaked in rum for at least a month and then baked to perfection.
- Eggnog is an alcoholic and, dairy based-beverage often found at everyone’s home during Christmas. Its origins trace to the United Kingdom and the U.S. The ingredients are mainly sugar, milk, cream, whipped egg, and alcohol of choice.
- Cranberry sauce is also a must at every Christmas party. Also known as Cranberry jam, the first recipe for this dish dates back to a cookbook published in 1796.
- Gingerbreads are a popular snack during this festival and are prepared in two types- Gingerbread man and a Gingerbread house. It’s flavoured using different spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, and molasses.
Well, all this has got me in the mood to decorate my house with all the Christmas goodies and enjoy some festive treats with my friends and family. Let us know how you are celebrating the season of gifting!!