Special Edition: Christmas
By Jiachen Sun
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
It is almost the time for Santa’s yearly visit… and his jolly route can even be tracked with noradsanta.org!
In the United States, the 25th of December of each year is probably one of the most widely celebrated holidays. Christmas is mainly characterized by the practice of gift-giving, as well as the decorating of pine trees to transform them into Christmas trees. Christmas is typically when families get together to celebrate and enjoy a big meal, much like Thanksgiving. People go to church for religious services. And of course, there is the wait for Santa Claus, who only visits once a year!
The Origins of Christmas
Long before the birth of Jesus and the declaration of Christmas as a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus, holidays and celebrations around the winter months of the year already existed. Early Europeans celebrated on the winter solstice, because it marked the end of the long winter days, and there would be more sunlit hours than darkness in the months following. December was also the perfect time for feasting because many animals (pigs, cattle) would be slaughtered for meat so that they would not have to be fed during the winter. The Norse in Scandinavia celebrated Yule, beginning on the winter solstice. The Germans honored the god Oden during this time of year.
The roots of Christmas, however, probably comes from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia — a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. This was a time full of fun and festivities. During the early years of Christianity only Easter was observed, but it was eventually decided that the birth of Jesus should also be celebrated. The Bible does not explicitly state the exact date of Jesus’s birth, so Pope Julius I established it on December 25. The reason for this could be so that it adds to Saturnalia’s festivities, which occurs around the winter solstice. The birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, was celebrated by Roman higher class members on December 25 as well, so it was already considered a very sacred day of the year. The observation of Christmas quickly spread to many places in Europe.
Christmas in the United States
FUN FACT: Eggnog—a popular holiday drink—that was first made in the US was consumed in Captain John Smith’s settlement in Jamestown in 1607!
In the United States, Christmas has been a federal holiday since 1870. That is when Americans began celebrating Christmas the way it is today, with decorating trees and gift-giving. Although many changes have been made to the original Christmas tradition throughout the years, one thing remains the same: the sense of togetherness while spending time with family and friends. According to research conducted by Pew Research Center, nine out of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, although only half of those people view it as a religious holiday. Certainly, Christmas has become much more than just that (especially in the culturally diverse United States). People from all over the world with all different backgrounds celebrate it, whether they are Christian or not.
Let’s Talk About Santa!
Let’s face it: At one point in our lives, waiting for Santa Claus to bring gifts from the North Pole was probably the highlight of our entire year. Whether that still holds true for you right now, well, that’s beside the point. While today Santa is mainly viewed as a porky man with a giant white beard and wears red and brings presents in a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer, his story goes all the way back to the third century. There was a man named St. Nicholas who was known for his kindness and became the subject of many legends. He was a protector of children and sailors. He was honored each year on the anniversary of his death, December 6. St. Nicholas became well known in the US when Dutch families had gathered in the 18th century in New York to honor him, whose name in Dutch was “Sinter Klaas.” From it, “Santa Claus” evolved.
“Merry Christmas” Around the World (in Different Languages)
SWEDEN: ‘GOD JUL!’
FINLAND: ‘HYVÄÄ JOULUA!’
NORWAY: ‘GLEDELIG JUL!’
GERMANY: ‘FROEHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN!’
MEXICO: ‘FELIZ NAVIDAD!’
FRANCE: ‘JOYEUX NOËL!’
ITALY: ‘BUON NATALE!’
UKRAINE: ‘SROZHDESTVOM KRISTOVYM!’
GREECE: ‘KALA CHRISTOUYENNA!’
Happy Holidays from Wuz Up!