Starting of Christmas
The middle of Winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrate Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the logs burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.
The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most of the areas of Europe. At that time of the year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of the year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.
In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.
Invention of Santa Claus
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 A.D.. St. Nicholas gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick, becoming known as the protector of children and sailors.
St. Nicholas first entered American popular culture in the late 18th century in New York, when Dutch families gathered to honor the anniversary of the death of “Sint Nikolaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas), or “Sinter Klaas” for short. “Santa Claus” draws his name from this abbreviation.
In 1822, Episcopal minister Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known today by it’s first line: “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” The poem depicted Santa Claus as a jolly man who flies from home to home on a sled driven by reindeer to deliver toys.
The iconic version of Santa Claus as a jolly man in red with a white beard and a sack of toys was immortalized in 1881, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the image of Old Saint Nick we know today.
Celebratio of Christmas day
What Do People Do?
People celebrate Christmas Day in many ways. It is often combined with customs from pre-Christian winter celebrations. Many people decorate their homes, visit family or friends and exchange gifts. In the days or even weeks before Christmas Day, many people decorate their homes and gardens with lights, Christmas trees and much more.
It is common to organize a special meal, often consisting of turkey and a lot of other festive foods, for family or friends and exchange gifts with them. Children, in particular, often receive a lot of gifts from their parents and other relatives and the mythical figure Santa Claus. This has led to Christmas Day becoming an increasingly commercialized holiday, with a lot of families spending a large part of their income on gifts and food.
Many Sunday schools, churches and communities organize special events. These can include decorating the neighborhood or a shopping mall, putting up a Christmas tree and planning a Nativity display, concert or performance. A lot of plays and songs have a aspect of Christmas as a theme. Some groups arrange meals, shelter or charitable projects for people without a home or with very little money.
Christmas celebration in India
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India!
One of the largest Indian Christian Communities in a city is in Mumbai. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics. In India’s smallest state, Goa which is on the west of India, about 26% of people are Christians. Many of the Christians in Mumbai came from or have roots in Goa. The states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram (all on the very east of India) have high populations of Christians as well.
Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.
Christians in Goa love to celebrate Christmas! Goa has lots of ‘western’ customs as part of their Christmas as Goa has historical connections with Portugal. Most Christians in Goa are Catholics. People like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a week before Christmas. Christmas Trees are also very popular as is a ‘traditional’ rich fruit Christmas Cake! Lots of local sweets are also eaten at Christmas in Goa. Favorite sweets include neureos (small pastries which are stuffed with dry fruit and coconut and fried) and dodol (like toffee that has coconut and cashew in it). These are other sweets are often part of ‘consuada’ when people make sweets before Christmas and give them to their friends and neighbors. Most Christian families also have a nativity scene with clay figures in it.
On Christmas Eve, Christians in Goa hang out giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. The main Christmas meal is also eaten on Christmas Eve and is also ‘western’ with roast turkey or chicken being popular. After the meal, Christians head to Church for a Midnight mass service. After the service the church bells ring to announce that Christmas Day has arrived. Many Christians in Goa also celebrate Epiphany and remember the Wise Men visiting Jesus.
Star Lanterns hung in trees, via Wikimedia Commons Christians in Mumbai use many Christmas traditions from Goa including the star lanterns and manger scenes (people like to make sure they have the best the nativity scene!).
In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.
In South West India, in the state of Kerala Were, 22% of the state’s 33 Million population are Christians and Christmas is an important festival. Traditional Catholics fast don’t eat from 1st to 24th of December – until the midnight service. Every house will be decorated with a Christmas star. During the start of the Christmas season, almost all the stationary shops will be filled with new and variety Christmas stars. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He’s known as ‘Christmas Baba’ in Hindi, ‘Baba Christmas’ in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); ‘Christmas Thaathaa’ in Tamil and ‘Christmas Thatha’ in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and ‘Natal Bua’ (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi. In Kerala state, he’s known as ‘Christmas Papa’.