The season of joy and giving arrives with the dazzling annual festival of Christmas, commemorating the birth of Lord Jesus Christ observed on December 25. Though typically the festival is a religious one witnessed by followers of Christianity, the revelries epitomize the spirit and cheer entailed in the hearts of billions across the world engaging one and all culturally and spiritually. Christmas traditions vary across countries and are much cherished as an integral part of the holiday season.
The traditional Christmas chronicle as described in the New Testament expresses that Christ was born to Joseph and Mary in a stable in Bethlehem. Soon the angels proclaimed the arrival of the messiah to all fellow shepherds in the vicinity. The original date of Jesus’s birth could not be derived, but by the fourth century and the Western Christian Church adopted December 25 as the day marking God’s arrival in the world in the human form to redress all sins against humanity. Though this date features in the Gregorian calendar and is universally celebrated as Christmas, the date on the Julian calendar followed by some Eastern Christian Churches corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. However, the soul of this festival transcends these differences. The first celebration of Christmas was documented in Rome in 336. Today, while in countries with Catholic majority people ring in religious processions as pre-celebrations, other realms witness secular parades featuring Santa Claus and other prominent figures like elves and angels ushering to spread the seasonal magic.
A time for family reunions, the excitement around setting up exquisite Christmas decorations and exchanging gifts constitutes the quintessential festive practices. The exercise of mounting decorations also has an interesting historical anecdote. It is said that it was a custom for every house and parish churches in London to be adorned with anything green and red that closely symbolized the season. The heart shaped ‘ivy’ leaves denoted Christ’s arrival on earth, while the ‘holly’ indicated protection against evil forces and the thorns and red colored berries represented the’ blood’ he shed and the ‘crown of thorns’ that Jesus wore at the time of crucifixion. In the Northern hemisphere, Christmas falls during the winter season and is represented by the verdant X-mas tree which embodies eternal existence with the evergreen tree that does not lose its leaves even in the severest of winters. Attending mid-night mass at the Church and signing Christmas carols that were originally sung as communal folk songs continue to be an ingrained part of the jubilation’s even today.
It is believed that Santa Claus arrives on his reindeer driven sleigh from the North Pole on Christmas-eve and leaves a present for every family member under the ornamented coniferous tree. Children eagerly wait for the Christmas morning and live every moment surrounding the enthusiasm around unwrapping surprise gifts. Good times and feast go hand-in-hand and Christmas celebrations are not complete without a special family meal that usually include a scrumptious spread of puddings, fruit and log cakes, mince pies, eggnog and the choicest of meals and beverages. As the Christmas spirit echoes the value of giving, many kind souls go out of their way to make this day special for those deprived and lonely by distributing essentials and goodies.
The essence of Christmas has always sounded a chime of belief in my mind. As I jingle my way each year to rejoice in its mirth and fervour, I fondly recollect childhood memories with this intriguing verse from Chris Van Allsburg’s “Polar Express”, “At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
Wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Article by Rochita.