The Origin of Christmas and its traditions Christmas Christmas was called "The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus". The word "nativity" derives from the Latin word Natalis, which means birthday. The traditions probably are not registered earlier than 200 AD and became widespread until the 4th century. The actual date of Jesus birth is unknown but Christian leaders became known in 336 A.D. The date of Christmas is closely related to the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a time of festivals among many ancient cultures. Santa Claus Santa Claus who his real name was as St. Nicholas; he did not smoke a pipe, fly around in a sleigh with any reindeer, go down chimneys, work with elves, or live at the North Pole. However he only brought presents to children every year. According to tradition, he was born in the city of Patara, where he became bishop of Myra. He was imprisoned during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians but was released under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great. After his death he was buried in his church at Myra. After the Reformation, Nicholas' disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend continued as Sinterklaas (a Dutch name for Saint Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (today New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country's Englishspeaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. Christmas Tree. The Christmas tree is one of the most well known images of Christmas. Almost every place you visit, it is the main point of people's decoration. You pile your gifts under the tree and you gather around your tree to sing Christmas songs. The idea of the Christmas Tree originated around 3000 B.C. in ancient Egypt. After the untimely death of King Osiris, his wife, Isis practiced the doctrine of the reincarnation of Osiris as a spirit. She claimed a full grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead stump, symbolising the new life of the Osiris spirit from his death. On each anniversary of Osiris birth, which was in late December, Isis would leave gifts around this tree. One other story is when Jesus was pursued by Herod's soldiers, many plants offered them shelter. One such plant was the Pine Tree. When Mary was too weary to travel longer the family stopped at the edge of a forest to rest. An old pine which had grown
hollow invited them to rest inside its trunk. Then it closed its branches down and kept them safe until the soldiers had passed. Upon leaving, the Christ blessed the pine and the imprint of his little hand was left forever in the tree's fruit, the pine cone. If a cone is cut lengthwise the hand may still be seen. Many pagan festivals used trees when honoring their gods and spirits. In Northern Europe the Vikings considered the evergreen a symbol and reminder that the darkness and cold of winter would end and the green of spring would return. The Druids of ancient England and France decorated oak trees with fruit and candles to honor their gods of harvests. At the festival Saturnalia the Romans decorated trees with trinkets and candles. The use of a Christmas tree indoors appears to have begun in Germany. German Christians would bring trees into their homes to decorate. The tradition of the Christmas tree eventually spread through out Europe. The English Royalty help popularize the tree in England by decorating the first Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1841. Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, decorated the first English Christmas Tree with candles, candies, fruits, and gingerbread. When the German immigrants went to America they also brought along their Christmas trees. In the 1830's most Americans still considered the Christmas tree an oddity. One of the first public displays of a Christmas tree was set up by German Settlers in Pennsylvania. At the time many still considered the tree to be a symbol of pagans and it wasn't until the late 1800's that Americans began accepting the Christmas tree. In 1880, Woolworths sold the first manufactured Christmas tree ornaments, and they caught on very quickly. Martin Luther, in the 16th century, was walking through the woods late one night as it was clear, many stars were shining through the branches of the trees giving the impression of twinkling lights. Luther was so inspired by the beauty of the sight that he cut down a small evergreen and brought it home. He recreated the stars by putting candles on the tree's branches. The first electrically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882. Calvin Coolidge in 1923 ceremoniously lit the first outdoor tree at the White House, starting that long tradition. Christmas Card The Christmas card began as a kind of stationery. The first card was produced by Sir Henry Cole who worked for the British Postal Service, and an artist he hired named John Horsley. This early card was a depiction of a Christmas scene framed in three panels. In the center panel was a homey table scene: children, parents and grandparents seated and some raising their glasses for a toast. On either side were panels depicting acts of Christmas charity: to the left, feeding the hungry and to the right, clothing the naked. Underneath appears the now familiar phrase "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You". Actually cards were preceded by Christmas Pieces written by school boys in England as greetings to their parents and as proof of their progress in the art of writing.
The Advent Wreath is a Lutheran custom that originated in Eastern Germany. They are round as a symbol of God's eternity and mercy. It is made of evergreens to symbolize God's everlastingness and our immortality. Green is also the Church's color of hope and new life. There are four candles, the three purple represent penance, sorrow, and longing expectation and one rose that represents the hope and coming joy. In Denmark, the Christmas season begins on December 1, with the lighting of the calendar candle. The candle is marked with 24 lines, one for each day before Christmas the burning of the candle represents the waiting and preparing for Christ's coming. Candy Cane A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God. The candymaker made the candy in the form of a J to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd. Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life. Christmas Gifts In ancient Rome, people exchanged gifts on New Years' Day. These might be jewelry, pieces of gold and silver, or homemade pastry, cookies and candies. Sweet things were given to ensure sweetness for the year to come, lamps to wish for the light and warmth, and money was given to wish for increasing wealth. Wrapping of gifts may have originated in Denmark. When the Apostles brought the Gospel to Rome, the people learned of the Three Wise Men who came from the Orient to present gifts to the newborn King. From then on, the old custom was only slightly changed. The exchanging of presents remained, but now it was done in imitation of the three wise men, on Christmas. There are so many more traditions like caroling, "The Nutcracker", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", stockings, "Charlie Brown's Christmas", Christmas Dinner, and many more. We now know how these traditions got started, but why? Christmas started because of the birth of a baby, who was King of the earth.