To immerse yourself in the atmosphere, here is the short story of Christmas in short:
What is Christmas?
Initially, it is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, called Nativity, set for December 25th. But it is also a pagan festival marking the winter solstice.
Today, it is always a Christian holiday but also a tradition that allows family reunion around a meal and a gift exchange.
Although the date of Jesus’ birth is not known precisely, Christmas was set on December 25 in an attempt to substitute this feast for those pagans who were celebrating the rebirth of the Sun.
The pivotal time of the year, many beliefs were related to fertility, motherhood, procreation and astronomy. So there were many demonstrations.
In Near Eastern Antiquity, the Mithragan (Mithraic Feast of Feast) was held each year on the day of the Winter Solstice, the birth-celebrating day of the deity and the victory of light over darkness. It was a tradition from Asia Minor celebrating the miraculous birth of Mithra that springs from a cave under the astonished gaze of shepherds. Similarities with Christian worship, no?
In the Judaic cult, the Chanukah Feast commemorates the re-inauguration of the Temple of Jerusalem desecrated by the ancient Greeks. It was set on the 25th of the ninth lunar month, named Kislev.
In ancient Rome, the Saturnalia were celebrated: first from December 17 to 21, and then again from December 17 to 24, men and women wore garlands around their necks and offered all sorts of gifts.
For the anecdote, the fixing of the date of December 25th of the Winter Solstice is due to an error made by the astronomer Sosigene, during the reform of the calendar at the initiative of Julius Caesar in 46 BC. He fixed the beginnings of the seasons with a delay of one or two days compared to reality.
The feast of sigillaries, “ancestor” of New Year’s Eve ended the festivities of December, where people offered gifts and where slaves became masters and vice versa.
The Romans ended with the sacrifice of a bull, the Sol Invictus corresponding to the birth of the young solar God who, taking up the Mithraic traditions, was supposed to arise from a rock or a cave in the form of a newborn child.
Tradition and symbolism
This is the period that encompasses the four Sundays that precede Christmas, when Christians light a candle on the first Sunday, then one more each following Sunday. This tradition is the symbol of the light that will be reborn on Christmas Eve.
Thus was born the famous calendar of the advent which consists, in a big board in precut cardboard, to open small windows, one per day from the 1st of December until Christmas (24 days). Each window contains a gospel sentence (Christian version), or a small confectionery (secular version).
It takes place on the evening of December 24 and celebrates the Nativity of Jesus. Formerly, it began at midnight, but today it is most often in the early evening.
The crib of Christmas
It is a representation of the scene of the birth of Jesus. The crib is performed on a table, or on the floor, with a miniature barn and characters. The tradition of the nursery has continued throughout the Catholic world. In Provence, new characters have been added, the santons that often appear traditional trades of the nineteenth century or scenes of the daily life of the region.
Christmas Eve and Christmas
This is the evening meal of December 24, called Christmas Eve. For Catholics, the evening of December 24 is cut off by midnight mass, but for most everyone, it is primarily a family reunion.
The Christmas meal is a festive meal with traditional Christmas turkey, seafood, foie gras and traditionally culminating in the Christmas log. This last recalls the old tradition where one put in the fire a big log in the early evening. This log was chosen for its size and quality because it had to burn during the whole evening.
Invented by Anglo-Saxons in the nineteenth century, it is inspired by the character of Saint Nicolas. An old man with a long white beard and a red suit, he lives at the North Pole and is responsible for bringing gifts. He also has a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day with people gathered under the same roof, and in the days that follow with family and close friends. They open on Christmas morning.
For Christians, these gifts represent the offerings made to the baby Jesus on the day of his birth.
Although the tradition of gift exchange has become very commercial today, it is still the magic of giving to someone we love.
Christmas and decorations
Present, both inside the homes and in the streets, they give an air of celebration. They are often bright to be able to be lit as soon as night falls.
The Christmas tree
Symbol of the tree of life, the first tree would have appeared in Alsace in 1521. It would come from theatrical representations where the tree represented the tree of life in the middle of the terrestrial paradise.
Today, it is decorated outside houses, but also inside. It is the central point of grouping gifts before their distribution. We always put our gifts at the foot of the tree!
In the past, this tree was decorated with oblates (offerings, small treats representing the hosts), and apples representing the forbidden fruit, object of the first sin. Today, the tree is adorned with multitudes of decorations, garlands of light, Christmas balls, little angels, etc …
Christmas is now a family celebration whether Christian or pagan, in the wonderful tradition of moments of sharing, conviviality and Christmas illuminations.
(Sources: http://ecoledusacrecoeur.e-monsite.com, http://architecture.desktopnexus.com , http://cultures.wp.mines-telecom.fr , http: //www.le-village-du -pere-noel.fr, http://www.christianophobie.fr , http://en.wikipedia.org )
Happy Holidays to all !