Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. This feast was created by the pope to promote Christianity and remove pagan festivals celebrated at the winter solstice.
During the IVth century, the pope decided to bring the Christmas day on December 25th.
Christmas has always been represented by religious ceremonies and gifts and
Here are some Christmas symbols:
* The Advent consists of a burning candle each Sunday four weeks before Christmas;
which symbolize the rebirth of light after the winter solstice.
* The December 24th Christmas Mass; which celebrates the birth of Jesus.
* The Christmas Crib; which symbolizes the birth of Jesus in Christian homes.
* The Christmas tree, a symbol from the pagan celebration and representing life.
* The Yule log; which represents the log that we put in the fireplace to warm up on Christmas Eve.
* Santa Claus, an American creation, inspired by the Christian Saint Nicholas (celebrated in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Alsace. This character wears a luxurious red cape, he has a long white beard and wears a red miter, he also holds a golden crosier. Saint Nicholas rewards good children while his companion Pere Fouettard/Black Pete punishes nasty children) and the elf Yule Goat, celebrated in Scandinavian countries.
Over the centuries, Christmas has evolved and Christmas Eve with our family, replaced the religious ceremonies.
The gift exchange: luxurious for the rich people and useful – sometimes only one orange – for the poor people, has been replaced by the modern marketing. People not only buys gifts but also spend lots of money in decoration items, food, drink…
The secularization of our society removed the true meaning of Christmas Time; which is, obviously, becoming a pagan feast.
Here are some countries which celebrate Christmas:
Belgium: Belgians have a festival especially dedicated to children; which is Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaas) on December 6th. The Great Patron of Schoolboys, who is supposed to bring candies in their shoes, brings in fact toys by the thousands to our children.
In Belgium, Christmas is rather reserved for adults: the streets are decorated and illuminated, we decorate our houses, windows, gardens, Christmas trees. Belgium seems to forget that it is a Catholic country and closes more and more churches, therefore, the Midnight Mass on December 24th usually happens at 6 or 8 PM. We then eat with our family and at 12 PM we exchange our gifts. Children usually receive a book or some clothes.
Christmas Day has little meaning but practicing Catholic go to church. Belgian people visit their family on January 1st. In the Belgian Ardens, people celebrate December 31st and not Christmas.
France: Christmas is dedicated to children. The streets and the houses are decorated several weeks in advance. French people have lots of Christmas customs: Christmas Markets, the Christmas tree, the Christmas Dinner, PÃ¨re NoÃ«l, Christmas gifts, stories, songs, Christmas turkey, The Christmas Crib, the Yule Log, and so on. In Alsace, however, Saint Nicholas predominates on Santa Claus.
The Netherlands: They organize their St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas) festival: the old bearded man traveling by boat and accompanied by many black aids, who distributes gifts to good children. Dutch people reserve the big gifts for Christmas Time because they profit for some great bargains after Sinter Klaas.
Germany: Christmas in Germany lasts two days. On December 26th they visit their family and their friends. Christ-Kind offers gifts to the children on December 24th families and friends. Germany has also a Saint Nicholas festival on December 6th.
Great Britain: Christmas is celebrated in England with enthusiasm. Children sing “Christmas Carols” in the streets, they eat the famous “Christmas Pudding” at the end the Christmas Dinner. In England, Santa Claus fills the English children socks with gifts. British people also exchange greeting cards; which are a British creation.
Spain: If Santa Claus has little importance in Spain (Magi distribute gifts to children on January 6th), Spanish people decorate the streets with lights during the month of December. The windows of the shops are filled with lots of gifts and Spanish celebrate the Christmas Evening with their family.
Portugal: Christmas Eve is a holiday. The Portuguese attend the Christmas Midnight Mass; which is the “Missa Do Galo.” If there is no Christmas tree in Portugal, there is nevertheless a “Wooden Christmas”.
Italy: Christmas lasts three days, from December 24th till 26th. However, Christmas traditions vary from one region to another one and, depending on the region it is Babo Natale (Father Christmas) or the “Gesu Bambino” (Little Jesus) who brings gifts on December 25th. The Italian Christmas dessert is “Panettone”.
Scandinavian Countries: During the Christmas Dinner, Scandinavian people reserve a place for the souls of the deceased members of their family. Once they finish to eat, they read the bible. The whole family is singing Christmas songs and dance around the Christmas tree.
Other European countries: In Romania, on December 24th, there is a Christmas candle burning until the morning of December 25th. In Russia, Christmas Day happens on January 7th, according to the Orthodox calendar. In Greece the Christmas period begins on Christmas Eve and ends at the Epiphany. Christmas is less important than Easter.
USA: The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Santa Claus is coming to announce the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. American people love to celebrate Christmas and set up a decorated Christmas in their home. Children hang empty stocks empty on the fireplace and on the Christmas morning they find them filled with candy and small toys.
Canada: Houses, shops and streets are decorated with lights. Canadian people decorate their house with a Christmas tree, a Christmas wrap, a Christmas Crib… After the “Midnight Mass” people have a Christmas Eve with their family. Turkey and the Christmas log are the essential ingredients of a Canadian Christmas Dinner.
They send greeting cards to their friends and family who live far away.
South America: Peruvian people have Christmas parties but also learn to live better on christmas time. Their Christmas season lasts a full week. Mexican people celebrate Christmas with Las Posadas (pilgrimages representing the path by the Mary and Joseph). They celebrate the last Posada on the Christmas morning and then start the Christmas dinner. I Guatemala, immigrants have imported their German customs and the Christmas tree is essential but the Christmas gifts are reserved to the children. Gift exchange for adults is on January 1st.
Australia: Christmas happens during the summertime, so Australian people celebrate Christmas at the beach. People eat cold turkey and pudding.
New Zealand: If there are few decorations, New Zealand people organize Christmas parades and people sing in the parks. They also organize their famous “Christmas barbecue”.
Japan: Christmas is merely commercial significance in Japan. This festival represents Saint Nicholas and it is an opportunity to offer gifts to small children.
China: If Christmas Day is not a holiday, Christmas is celebrated in Chinese cities. This festival was imported into this country by foreign missionaries. For the Chinese people who celebrate it, Christmas is a religious event.