Christmas is celebrated to remember the birth of JESUS CHRIST, who Christians believe is the SON of GOD.
The name 'Christmas' comes from the Mass of Christ. A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The 'Christ-Mass' service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight.
So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas.
Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world, whether they are Christians or not. It's a time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. People, and especially children, like Christmas as it's a time when you give and receive presents to remember the Magi who followed the Star of Bethlehem at the time of His first coming…
The Magi brought gifts to JESUS upon his birth; which where Gold, which speaks of His birth for JESUS CHRIST is born the King of Kings. Frankincense which speaks of the fragrance of His Life’s Beauty and His Resurrection. Myrrh speaks of His death, as that was the embalming fragrance that was used at the time.
No one knows the real birthday of Jesus as the actual date is not given in the Bible and the best guess currently that I know of is due to the birthing of lambs and herding practices of shepherds which is around is around March 17th?
So why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated.
Another point is that the birth of Jesus probably didn't happen in the year 1AD but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2BC and 7BC (there is no 0AD as the years go from 1BC to 1AD).
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor, well sort of). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be for and hence forth (anno Domini), celebrated on the 25th December.
Then again, there are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. A very early Christian tradition said that it is the day when Mary was told by the Arch Angel Gabriel that she would have a very special baby, who will be named JESUS. This was called the Annunciation and is celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December!
March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made by GOD and also the day that JESUS died on when he was an adult.
December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called 'Saturnalia' and 'Dies Natalis Solis Invicti' took place in December around this date so it was a time when pagan people already celebrated things such as Midvinterblot and Yule.
Midvinterblot and Yule, was called in Sweden and toward the time of the winter solstice (December 21st to December 25th), is when the days became the shortest and coldest. For them as it is now, the land appeared to be laid to waste, so to keep the fire of the life giving sun alight people often made sacrifices before a great oak tree.
St. Boniface is supposed to have stopped one such sacrifice and instituted the indoor Christmas tree at the same time. The burning of such logs in the midst of sacrifice has come down to us as the traditions of burning Yule logs and enjoying Christmas trees.
Our pagan ancestors, the holidays that marked the great seasonal changes were often fearful, terrible, and dark but with the coming of JESUS CHRIST came a great light that reclaimed not only individuals but also the holidays they celebrated. In the case of Midvinterblot and Yule, the holidays that once marked the terrible price required to provide light instead began to express the joyous arrival of GOD's true light!
Early Christians might have given this festival a new meaning to celebrate the birth of the Son of GOD the Unconquered Son. In the Bible is written the prophesy about the Savior, who Christians believe is JESUS CHRIST and whom is called “Son of Righteousness”.
The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time each December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion.
In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvahobservance and belief in GOD. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of GOD.
JESUS CHRIST was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas. During the spring (in March or April) there's a Jewish festival called 'Passover'. This festival remembers when the Jews had escaped from slavery in Egypt about 1500 years before Jesus was born. Lots of lambs would have been needed during the Passover Festival, to be sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews from all over the Roman Empire travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, so it would have been a good time for the Romans to take a census. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census (Bethlehem is about six miles from Jerusalem).
In the autumn (in September or October) there's the Jewish festival of 'Sukkot' or 'The Feast of Tabernacles'. It's the festival that's mentioned the most times in the Bible. It is when Jewish people remember that they depended on GOD for all they had after they had escaped from Egypt and spent 40 years in the desert. It also celebrates the end of the harvest. During the festival, Jews live outside in temporary shelters (the word 'tabernacle' comes from a Latin word meaning 'booth' or 'hut').
Many people who have studied the Bible, think that Sukkot would be a likely time for the birth of Jesus as it might fit with the description of there being “no room in the inn”. It also would have been a good time to take the Roman Census as many Jews went to Jerusalem for the festival and they would have brought their own tents/shelters with them. It wouldn't have been practical for Joseph and Mary to carry a shelter as Mary was pregnant.
So whenever you celebrate Christmas, remember that you're celebrating a real event that happened about 2000 years ago, that GOD sent his SON JESUS CHRIST into the world as a Christmas present for everyone!
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P.S. Oh by the way, FYI = XMAS?
I have often wondered what the X in Xmas meant as well. I do not care for it but; X representing the initial chi of Greek Khristos ‘Christ.’ Contrary to popular belief, the X in X-Mas was not made up by the secular heathens in California (no attack intended). X-Mas was a shorter version of Christmas, first used in Europe around the 1500s. In Greek, Christ's name started with an X, Xristos. Thus, it is literally, "Christ-mas", or "Christ's Mass".