How the Christmas celebration started?
Learn about the history of the biggest celebration in Christianity and why we celebrate it today in this way.
Christmas (composite word of the communal Christ + birth) is the annual Christian celebration of the birth of Christ and therefore all the holidays from that day, December 25, to Epiphany (“Christmas Holidays”).
The period that encompasses Christmas, New Year and Epiphany celebrations is called in Greek Orthodox Tradition and Twelve Days.
The history of Christmas celebration
The birth of Jesus as a human being is presented as one of the most important events in the history of all mankind (Matt. 1: 18-23; Luke 2: 1-7; Phil. 2: 6–7). Similar is the case with ecclesiastical writers in the first centuries after Christ.
The important Despotic Feast of Christ’s Nativity is a special celebration, which according to Gregory of Nazianzus should not be confused with any other man’s birthday, since on these Birthdays we celebrate the unique and unparalleled fact that ” Apparently God forbid people by birth “.
The Birthday of the Savior, in the sense given by Gregory, ie as Theophany, is a “most ancient” celebration that “co-existed until the 40th century, under the most universal invocation of the Surface, in January … after the great … the feast of the Baptism … the celebration of these two … feasts rested upon her, right after the confession of Jesus’ baptism rather than John, the resurrection of Luke the Evangelist, and Jesus was thirty-three years old … is commemorated on the feast of Clement of Alexandria … Antiquity “refers to 3 century and onwards as it is clear that the Church of the first two centuries did not observe any celebration of the birth of Christ .
Jesus did not celebrate other peoples’s birthdays
According to the New Testament narratives, both Jesus Christ and his disciples did not celebrate people’s birthdays, and he explicitly asked his followers to observe the remembrance of his sacrificial death. (Luke 22:19, 20). The Jews also rejected the birthday celebration as being considered a pagan custom and this was followed by Christians in the first two centuries of the Christian church.
Indeed, in the 3rd century, Origen believed that “the envelope of birth is celebrating a birthday” and that “the writing of a birthday is coming after a lawful birthday“.
The New Testament states that the day of Jesus’ birth was an extremely joyous event for both humans and angelic creatures as the Savior of obedient mankind was born as a human being , a joy expressed in hymns in the sacred texts.
Thus, for many Christian confessions, the celebration of Christmas is essentially a remembrance of the salvific event of Christ’s incarnation.After all, as far as the Orthodox Church is concerned, any institution or its custom is considered to be incapable of functioning and evolving within its organization unless it has a new vestment.
Near the time when the “Savior” of mankind was born, there was no particular interest in precisely identifying the unknown date on which Jesus was born, since they considered the event of the Messiah’s embodiment and salvation of mankind more important, a celebration and at Christmas celebrations in most Christian churches.
The timing of the celebration of Jesus’ birth cannot be ascertained with certainty. For some scholars, the first references to the celebration of Christ’s birth (on 6 January) are found in the texts of Pope Telesphorus (125-136 AD), data which are not regarded by others as authentic, but subsequent interference.
In other cases, the beginning of the celebration of Christ’s birth is generally thought to be the second or even the third century. According to some scholars, Christmas was celebrated for the first time in Antioch in the 4th century by the Eustatians, a Christian movement that had a direct relationship with the Church of Rome.
According to an 8th-century tradition, in the work On the Nativity of Christ to Zacharias by the Catholicos of Greater Armenia by Archbishop Nicaea, the archives of the Church of Rome allegedly contain a document by Josephus that indicates was born on the 9th of the month Shapet, which corresponds to the 25th of December.
According to the latest research, this work goes back to the late 9th century and is considered controversial and a law.
In 386 Saint John Chrysostom urged the Church of Antioch to agree on December 25th as a day of celebration of the Nativity, and in Rome the Calendar of Philosophy (354 AD) includes the date of December 25, opposite the pagan Natalis inv. birth of the invisible (sun) “, the phrase” VIII kaalitan nattis Christus in Bethleem Iudea “.
At the time of St. August is the date of the Feast of Nativity, but Augustus omits it from his list of important Christian anniversaries. It is considered that fundamental to the prevalence of this date was not only the manuscript of Joseph, but also the rival of the Christianity of the sun, with the feast of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, as its full title (day of birth of the invisible Sun).
It was said that the early Christians did not celebrate people’s birthdays, probably because of the relationship between birthdays with astrology and divination, pagan customs of the time and perhaps for reasons of distancing themselves from the birthday celebrations of the Roman emperors, but also other deities who have been used to celebrating their birthday for centuries.
Maybe the 3rd century AD was the first Christmas Celebration
In the 3rd century AD, with the radical changes made to the Church by the sun-worshiping Emperor Constantine, it seems that the objections to the celebration of Christ-God’s birthday, as modeled on the celebration of the birthday of the sun god on 25 December, were abandoned.
Some believe that this was because the majority of Christians were now ethnic (non-Jews) who considered themselves law-abiding Romans for whom birthday was simply part of their culture.
However, even at the beginning of the 5th century some Christians refused to accept the celebration of Christmas, but this was not a substantive problem based on the teaching of the New Testament.
It should be borne in mind, however, that according to the biblical texts and the ecclesiastical writers, in no way was the birth of Christ perceived in the same way as the birth of any other human being. After all, most understood Christianity as essentially historical and therefore dynamic rather than static or inert.
Since the structures had changed dramatically, it was difficult for the pagan dominions to continue to prevent the celebration of such an important moment in the history of Christianity. Especially when the commencement of Christmas celebration was considered not to be contrary to the New Testament.
When Christianity emerged from the time of persecution and was called upon to contribute as a reforming and unifying factor to the Roman Empire, it attempted to annul the content of pagan customs that were popular at the time by converting their content to Christian.
Three centuries after Christ’s birth, the Annunciation and the birth of Christ were chronologically defined. Historical sources indicate that Christmas celebrations began in Rome around 335.
Although some researchers based on ancient Christmas-themed hymns believe that the first steps that led to this celebration were made in the 3rd century. Tradition holds that the earliest speech on the occasion of Christmas was spoken by Caesarea of Cappadocia in the year 376 AD.
On Pope Julius I (336-332) Christmas stopped celebrating with Epiphany and was instituted as an anniversary December 25 after searching Rome’s archives, t is believed, according to the census taken by Emperor Octavian Augustus, in conjunction with a calculation of the Gospel (which he composed) of the Forerunner said of Christ: “He sees increase, and I decrease” (John 3:30). Based on this hypothetical source, the Nativity of Christ was set in the winter solstice where the days began to increase.
One of the many interpretations of December 25 as a celebration date refers to the desire of Christianity to deliberately christen ancient pagan festivals such as the great national holiday of the “invincible” sun god (Dies Invictis Solis) and the festivities. Mithra’s birthday that was widespread throughout the Roman Empire.
The celebration of this day as Christ’s birth day should have contributed to the elimination of important pagan (non-Christian) celebrations of that time, such as Saturnalia and Brumalia. In this way Christians have reaffirmed their predominance against pagan deities, giving a whole new, Christian content to these feasts.
The Sun of Righteousness was the Christ of the Old Testament, the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and not the sun of the Romans, while the Christian world was celebrating with doxology (“with the angelic crowd of heavenly armies” … glory to the supreme God and peace on earth, to human well-being “Luke 2: 13-14) this rejoicing for all (” I preach the gospel with great joy, because I am always with him “(Luke 2) : 10).
One practical reason that calls into question that Christ was born on December 25th is the fact that according to the Scriptures, shepherds in Bethlehem had their flocks in the open, when the Lord’s angel announced to them the birth of the Savior. In temperate climates, the winter months are frosty, it is very cold and there is a lot of rain. That is why shepherds with their flocks are not in the countryside, but in their flocks.
From the West, the celebration of Nativity on December 25th passed to the East around 376. Over the years, it spread throughout the Christian world except the Armenian Orthodox Church which continues its alignment with the Epiphany.
In 529 Emperor Justinian banned work and public works during Christmas and declared them a public holiday. By 1100, as missionary activity had spread to pagan European tribes, all of Europe’s nations were celebrating Christmas. Later, however, because of the Reformation their observance was celebrated or restricted from time to time in various European countries and in America, as they were considered to contain largely pagan elements.
When Christmas Celebrations were banned in America?
When Christmas was cancelled: From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
When the extreme English Protestants, also known as Puritans, arrived in the US in the 1620s it was already Christmas. They called it a “feast” and banned it for all their followers until the 18th century. The only religious celebration they accepted was Saturday. When the governor of colonial Massachusetts, Sir Edmund Andros, sought to change that decision, he was attacked by a crowd of people dressed in red capes.
Etymology: Why we use Christmas in plural form
The origin of the plural is supported by two views. One links him to the view that the plural originates in correspondence with the name of ancient Greek and Roman festivals, such as Kronia and Saturnalia. In the second one with another ancient custom that had been practiced since around the 5th century BC. century in the Jewish festival of Purim (“That is why they called these days Purim by the name of Pur”, Esther 9:26).
Christmas Celebration in America
In many countries around the world Christmas is recognized as a national holiday. On June 28, 1870, the Government of the United States of America recognized Christmas as a federal holiday. Christmas Day is the only common public holiday in all ports of the world.
In the predominantly Christian countries, Christmas is the most important holiday season of the year and is also celebrated as a secular holiday in many countries with small Christian populations. They are largely characterized by the exchange of gifts within families and by the gifts brought by Santa Claus (for the Orthodox) or Santa Claus (for the Western world), a great cheerful man with a white beard.
Local and regional Christmas traditions are even richer and varied despite the great influence of American or British Christmas motifs spread through literature, television and other media.
See more about birthday wishes:
- Savoir Vivre: How do we wish in birthdays and celebration
- The Original Meaning of Wishes
- When people started celebrating birthdays?
- When was introduced the first birthday cake and by whom?
- Why don’t we want to celebrate our birthday?