It all started in medieval England when the Christians of the island convened on December 25 for “Christes maesse” (Christ’s Mass in old English). Over the years the name of this special time of the year evolved to today’s “Christmas”.
Christmas today has grown from a purely religious celebration of the birth of Christ into a massive celebration marked by Christians and many non-Christians alike. This in itself is a great consequence of the holiday – a day in which people of different backgrounds unite. But there is so much more. Here are the 10 best things about Christmas:
10. A time for gifts
Some consider that the tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas predates the holiday itself with roots deep in the pagan past, which were bundled up in the Christian celebration. Some others consider the gift-giving tradition to stem from the gifts given to Jesus himself by the Wise men.
Whatever their origin gifts are a staple of the holiday and one of the best things about Christmas. If we ask the younger audience, presents are actually the best thing about Christmas. This fine tradition has evolved over the years and has grown today to an overall spirit of giving, generosity, and charity for the less fortunate ones.
This not only provides for the needy, and puts smiles on kids’ faces, but also brings about a unity across division lines, which is almost unmatched.
9. A time for decorations
Christmas is a time for festive decorations. This tradition has also evolved over the years and has included different elements from different parts of the world: the evergreen Christmas tree dates back to ancient times and symbolizes eternal life and the inevitable return of Spring following the winter months.
The decoration of the Christmas tree seems to have originated in 16 century Germany when the trees were adorned with candles, dried fruit, and berries.
Christmas tree toys grew in popularity in the US over the 19th century. Putting it all together, today we can marvel at the beauty of the Christmas decorations both in the house and all over the cities across the globe.
8. A time for tradition
As we saw above, Christmas is a holiday rooted in ancient times. Over the years it has amassed many a tradition. These encompass not only the spirit of giving and decorations, but specific religious, cultural and culinary traditions for the days leading to Christmas, Christmas Eve, and the day itself. Such are the cookies left for Santa and the socks for gifts close to the Christmas tree, to name but a few.
7. A time for Santa
What would a list of the 10 best things about Christmas be without Santa? The history behind the “good old man” goes back to the 4th-century Mediterranean port of Myra (in today’s Turkey) where St.Nikolas used to live. He was remembered for giving away his riches to help the needy and the sick.
Later his image was enriched with the German figure of Kris Kringle, the Dutch Sinterklaas, and the US actual image of Santa Claus first painted by painter Thomas Nast in the 19th century.
This elaborate mix of characters has brought about the figure and the image of the present Santa Claus, who travels in a magical sled with the help of his rain-deer to distribute presents to all children in the world with the help of his elves. Santa has become a staple of Christmas and one of the great things about Christmas.
6. A time for family
Christmas is a holiday for people coming together. Family and friends gather together to engage in all the traditions as mentioned above. The spirit of togetherness and belonging is strongly associated with the holiday.
If coming together is difficult for some reason the coming together of family and friends is substituted with postcards, posts on social media, and fun gifts with wishes for health and luck.
5. A time for reflection
Christmas is a festive, but also a tranquil time for reflection and thankfulness. With the end of the year drawing near, Christmas is a time for contemplating the past year and wishes for the upcoming year.
4. A time for art
Incorporating all of the traditions from various sources Christmas has become one of the only holidays which is associated with art in all of its various forms. Over the holiday we will certainly hear the music associated with the holiday – ranging from the children’s “Jingle Bells”, be it the pious “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night” to the relatively contemporary “All I Want For Christmas” and “Do They Know Its Christmas”.
But music is by far not the only form of art receiving a boost on Christmas. Decorations are pushing the limits of what is possible, but also setting the stage for pure works of art. Such are “The Nativity” by Martin Schongauer, “Adoration of the Magi” by Sandro Botticelli, “Christmas in the Brothel” by Edvard Munch, and “Nativity at Night” by Geertgen tot Sint Jans.
These artworks often serve as powerful visual interpretations of the biblical narrative and have become iconic representations of the Christmas tradition often re-created over the festive season. Another form of art for which all are in anticipation is undoubtedly cinematography.
No Christmas will be full without the traditional Christmas family movies which we all enjoy watching over and over again.
3. A time for culinary delights
One of the best things about Christmas is the culinary tradition associated with the holiday. Rooted in the pagan past, enriched with Christian traditions, and invigorated with inputs from various cultures over the centuries the Christmas meals are a thing to behold.
These vary across the globe from roasted meats in the US, through “the seven fish” in Italy to a strict vegie-nine-course-dinner on Christmas Eve in the Balkans. Whatever the menu, the traditional meals are tasty, usually fun to make and roll over to the next generations.
2. A Time for Hope
Christmas is a time for hope, wishes, and goodwill. So much so, that even in the dire circumstances of war, battles have been put on hold for this special of holidays.
1. A time to relax
Last but not least, Christmas is a nonworking holiday in most countries. If not engaging in the festive activities mentioned above, it provides a great time to relax.
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