Christmas

Joylina Goodings

Christmas is a 3 day celebration by Christians the world over. It celebrates the birth of Jesus as the "Light of the World".  It begins on Christmas Eve the 24th December and continues through Christmas Day, 25th December and St Stephen's Day (more commonly known as Boxing Day) 26th December. Celebrations differ throughout the world although in most countries they begin on Christmas Eve. In some countries gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day itself. 

No-one knows exactly when Jesus was born, but it is generally accepted that it was in the middle of the night. The date was set by the Romans when they officially adopted Christianity as their main religion.  It is believed the date was chosen because of the many different pagan and other religious celebrations that took place at this time of year, such as: the Festival of Saturnalia, Yule, Winter Solstice, Channuka and many more, many of which were celebrations of the "return of the light" which would make it easier for people to accept.  

Nowadays celebrations usually start earlier in the month with lights going up in homes and gardens from as early as 1st December.  Traditionally it began with the lighting of the Yule Log but it is more common nowadays to have a Christmas Tree. This tradition was introduced in England by Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband) where it had been traditional in Germany for many years. 

Many people start with a family meal on Christmas Eve, in preparation to going to Midnight Mass (Church) to celebrate Jesus's birth. Children put out Christmas Stockings, milk, mince pies, apples and carrots, in expectation of Santa arriving on his sleigh, pulled by 8 reindeer, coming down the chimney to deliver presents to them. After all, they must get very hungry delivering presents to all the children in the world in just one night. 

Christmas Day is an official bank holiday and every family has their own unique way of celebrating.

The day after Christmas Day is St. Stephen's Day, also known in the UK as Boxing Day. Again this is celebrated in many countries. St. Stephen who was the first Christian Martyr. He was stoned to death (circa 34AD) by an mob that was encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, who later became Saint Paul. There is however another St. Stephen who was a Missionary, in Sweden during the dark ages, hence the carol Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen, When the snow lay 'round about Deep and crisp and even.  Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel, When a poor man came in sight, Gath'ring winter fuel.

It is also, in the Fasli Zoroastrian Calendar, commemorating the anniversary of the death of the prophet Zarathustra.