How much do you know about Christmas – about its origins and its many beloved traditions? Do you know where the tradition of the Christmas tree come from? Lights on the Christmas tree? Do you know where the idea of stocking-stuffers comes from? Even the idea of gift-giving?
No holiday has a richer and more varied tradition than Christmas. So let's look into its history and see if we can uncover some of that richness and tradition. And if you don't celebrate Christmas, well, at least you will have a better appreciation of why so many people do.
First, we may like to enjoy a lovely story about the birth of Jesus Christ, to make you know better about Christmas history.
The Christmas Story - Birth Of JESUS CHRIST
Do you know we call it Christmas because Jesus Christ was born that day?
About 2000 years ago, in a small town called Nazareth, there was a little house, where lived a young Jewish girl named Mary. She was not married. But she was going to be real soon, to a good man named Joseph. Well, one day something amazing happened.
An angel of the Lords Gabriel, a very important angel, appeared to Mary.
“Who are you?” Mary asked.
“I am Gabriel. Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favour with God. He loves you very much. God has sent me here to tell you that soon you'll have a son.”
“Hun! Me? A son?” Mary was confused.
“Yes, a son. He will be called Jesus. He will be called ‘the son of God’.”
Mary was very obedient and she said “I am the handmade of the Lord! May God do with me as he wants to.”
Mary wanted to do just as God told her to do. Just near the time Mary was about to have her baby, the Roman emperor sent soldiers to announce a new law.
“OK, listen everyone! The emperor Caesar Augustus says that all of you need to pay some taxes now, and register for census.”
So Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem, because that's where Joseph had to pay taxes.
It was about 65 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And the trip took many many days. And when they reached Bethlehem, guess what happened? All the places were full. All the inns were full.
“Mary, you wait here, make yourself comfortable. By then, I will try to find a suitable place for us to stay.”
Joseph kept knocking and knocking, again and again. He had been looking and looking for a place to stay, and Mary was about to have a baby!
“Well, I have tried almost all the inns. And it looks like all of them are full. Dear Marry, how do you feel?”
“I am very tired Joseph. But please don't worry. I am sure, God will provide a place for us!”
Poor Joseph and Mary were so tired and didn't know what to do.
“Oh God, tell me what to do. Help me! I have no idea, no clue!”
It’s sad that Mary and Joseph had no place to stay, no place to go! A place no one would have expected the son of the God to be born in. It wasn’t a palace, not some castle, not in a fancy building either. God’s son was born in a humble small stable!
“I’ll go and get some fresh hay where you can sleep comfortably tonight.”
That night, Jesus was born. And it was a wonderful night. Big star shining in the sky. There was no crib, so they laid baby Jesus in a manger. It was full of fresh hay and made it a little comfortable for the baby.
Near Bethlehem, that night, there were some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks of sheep, when suddenly an angel appeared to them.
“I have good news for you. There is a Savior who has been born.”
“ What? Really? What savior? Can we see him? where is he?”
The Angel told them where to find him. The Shepherds were so excited and happy. They ran to the stable and found Jesus there just as the angel had told them. After they had seen Jesus, they spread the news and everyone who heard was in wonder! In wonder just like you are.
The Amazing History of Christmas
Here's what everybody knows: Christmas is when Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. That in itself is a very big deal. Christians, in all its many iterations, remains the most popular religion in the world.
Aside from its obvious religious significance, the first Christmas stands as the great divide for the recording of human history. Until recently, history was divided between BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, which is Latin for “Years of Our Lord”). Now you'll often see BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era). No matter. The divide is still Jesus's birth.
The great kings of the first Millennium recognized the significance of the day and attached themselves to it. Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and William the Conqueror, among many others, were either Baptized or coronated on December 25th.
The idea of Christmas is a time of gift-giving also goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. The story is told that a third-century church bishop, Nicholas, would anonymously throw bags of gold coins into the windows of the poor. The coins supposedly landed in the shoes or stockings that were drying by the fireplace. Thus, was the stocking stuffer born. After Nicholas died and was declared a saint, his popularity and positive Christmas message spread across Europe. Each nation adding its own distinct contribution.
In Germany, the winter tradition of placing evergreen in their homes took on a new significance in the 16th century when Protestant reformer Martin Luther put candles in the branches. He told his children the lights were like the sky above Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth.
The idea that St. Nicholas would judge whether you’ve been good or bad during the year stems from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, which depicts Christ returning to earth riding a white horse..
In the Middle Ages, the legend sprang up that St. Nicholas had been chosen as the Savior’s advance guard. He wouldn't come at the end of the world, but every year to check things out and give a report.
When this notion arrived in Norway, it encountered a problem: there were no horses in Norway. But they did have a plenty of reindeer. And, of course, Norway abuts the Arctic Circle and the North Pole, so St. Nicholas found himself with a new domicile.
All these various European traditions came together in the great melting pot of America.
In New York, in 1823, a professor at the Protestant Episcopal Seminary, Clement Moore, wrote a poem for his children: “Twas the night before Christmas; the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
The poem caught on and became a Christmas staple every school child could recite.
The holiday got another push in 1843, when the great British writer, Charles Dickens, published his short novel, A Christmas Carol. The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge perfectly captured what we now refer to as “the Christmas spirit”: the idea that the holiday brings out the best in all of us.
As the new century turned, Hollywood got into the act. Almost as soon as there were movies, there were movies celebrating Christmas. To this day, a year doesn't go by without a new one.
Madison Avenue saw a big opportunity, too. In 1931, Coca-Cola hired artist Haddon Sundblom to create a Christmas ad of Santa Claus (which is Dutch for Saint Nicholas) drinking Coke. The Jolly white-bearded fellow in a bright red suit remains the personification of old St. Nick.
And, in perfect melting-pot fashion, Irving Berlin, the son of a rabbi, wrote the definitive yuletide song- “White Christmas”.
Some Surprising & Interesting Christmas Facts
About 2 billion people celebrate Christmas. In the United States, 9 out of 10 people celebrate Christmas. Christmas is really popular.
Here are some interesting facts that will bring your heart some holiday cheer.
- The 1st Fact: Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a holiday. Isn’t it interesting? President Ulysses S. Grant made Christmas a federal holiday in 1870, and if you didn't know this, Ulysses S.Grant was the 18th president of the United States!
- The 2nd Fact: Now you might remember about 2 billion people celebrate Christmas that means Christmas is celebrated around the world.
- But not everyone celebrates Christmas on December 25th. Did you know that? It is kind of interesting. Some people in Egypt, Russia, Ethiopia and other countries celebrate Christmas on January 7th.
- The 3rd Fact: And some countries have different Christmas traditions. For example, people who celebrate Christmas in India often decorate mango trees, or even banana trees.
- The 4th Fact: Some Christmas traditions change over time. For example, the first Christmas tree decorations were foods like apples, nuts, and dates. We really eat our Christmas decorations today.
- The 5th Fact: There’s another interesting fact, most of the Christmas trees are artificial that means they're not real. In fact, since 1991, more artificial Christmas trees are sold each year than real ones! Christmas trees are awesome!
- The 6th Fact: OK, now here is the final interest facts. Did you know Rudolph was almost named Rollo. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was almost called Rollo. Rollo was the name of a Viking who became the first Duke of Normandy.
Many complain today that the religious aspect of Christmas has been overwhelmed by commerce. Retail sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas are now 1 trillion dollars.
This is not a new complaint. The Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas because they thought it trivialized the holiday’s religious message. But this remains the minority view.
Most people love Christmas and all the things-- the lights, the trees, the songs, the movies, and the gifts that come with them. And who can deny that people tend to act a little nicer, a little happier, as the special day draws near.
In a world that feels so divided, Christmas still unites us. For that, we should all be grateful.