Woohoo its four days to Christmas! If you haven’t yet, go check out the Nordic Christmas market outside Takashimaya or the Flashbang Christmas market at 313 Somerset for last minute present shopping. You can literally feel the festive atmosphere reverberating in the air.
Christmas is quite a significant holiday for my family because its a time when everyone comes home from their overseas endeavours and can finally have a meal as a complete family. But I find myself wondering, what really is Christmas? Is it just a time of thanksgiving, reunion, dancing in The Nutcracker, eating Log cake and dressing up as Santa? What were the historical events that shaped the present day notion of Christmas? Here are some FAQs regarding the origins of Christmas!
Why is Christmas held on the 25th of December?
A popular myth states that Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, hence Christmas came about to celebrate His birth. However, this belief has yet to be proven since nowhere in the Holy Bible states that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. What has been historically proven though, is that Christmas came about as a reaction to the Roman Saturnella festival held on the 25th of December. Saturnella was a rowdy festival which honoured Saturn- the God of Sowing. In response to this festival, Christians came up with their own festival, Christmas to replace the worship of Saturn, with the worship of the Son Jesus Christ. Hence Saturnella, which was originally held on 25th December, was gradually replaced by Christmas. (Source: https://rcg.org/realtruth/articles/169-ttooc.html)
Why do we give gifts?
According to Matthew 2:11, Shortly after Jesus was born, a small group of men traveled hundreds of miles to pay Him homage and give Him gifts. When they finally discovered Him, the Bible says, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh”.
Giving gifts can be seen as a custom to honour the birth of Jesus, to express love and respect towards those close to you (although this intention has been shrouded by centuries of events like the clash between the elites and poor in society). (Source: https://billygraham.org/answer/52872/)
How did the Christmas tree come about?
In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest, the shortest day and longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, occurs around 21-22 of December. Many ancient people believed that the Sun was the God and winter came yearly because the Sun God had fallen sick. The Winter Solstice symbolised the recovery of the Sun God, hence people hung Evergreen branches in their houses. Evergreen is a tree whose leaves unlike other trees, remain green throughout the year. The Evergreen branches reminded the people that spring was round the corner and they would see green plants again. Centuries later, people like Martin Luther and Queen Victoria popularised the decoration of the Christmas Tree, shaping the Christmas Tree tradition we see today. (Source: http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees)
Where did Santa Claus originate from?
This traces back to a bishop, Saint Nicholas. During his time, women had to give dowry to their husband’s family. Saint Nicholas wanted to help a poor noblemen with three daughters, but he wanted to do so anonymously. He did not want to be praised for his generosity. In the middle of the night, he threw three bags full of gold down the Nobleman’s chimney to serve as his daughters’ dowries. The nobleman found out much later that this mysterious gift giver was Saint Nicholas. From that day onwards, all anonymous gifts were attributed to him. Over the years, Saint Nicholas’s name slowly evolved to Santa Claus. (Source: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/how-did-santa-begin)
So the next time you recieve a present/see a Christmas Tree/Meet Santa Claus, I hope you think back to the historical significance behind these symbols associated with Christmas!