Christmas is the Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is The Son of God. In earlier times, many people were more attracted to the church than they are today, and the meaning of the celebration (to celebrate the coming of the Son of God) has been lost in many families.
Over the least few decades Chrismas has been commercialised more and more. Now, it is celebrated also by people who do not believe in god (and who perhaps do not even pray to the same god). The religious signification was almost lost, and the retail industry has pushed hard to focus the festival on giving (many, preferably expensive) gifts or presents to one another.
Religious Christians observe a month of fasting (they will eat less during that month, which is probably comparable to Islamic Ramadan).
The common abbreviation for Christmas to Xmas is derived from the Greek alphabet. X is letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek alphabet.
Oliver Cromwell, in England banned Christmas Carols between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he banned carols and parties. The only celebration was by a sermon and a prayer service.
In 1643, the British Parliament officially abolishes the celebration of Christmas.
The Puritans in America tried to make Thanksgiving Day the most important annual festival instead of Christmas.
Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.
St Francis of Assisi introduced Christmas Carols to formal church services.
26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.
The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531
In 1836, Alabama is the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
In 1843, the first Christmas card was printed in England for Sir Henry Cole. He was busy man who wanted to save time in his own Christmas letters, but was also interested in encouraging the expansion of the postal system. 1000 copies of the card were sold at one shilling each. It was not until the 1860s that the production of cards accelerated, with cheaper printing methods. Then in 1870, the Post Office introduced a half penny stamp for sending cards.
In 1856, President Franklin Pierce decorates the first White House Christmas tree.
In 1907, Oklahoma became the last USA state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. A German brass band began playing Christmas carols. Early, Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas". At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers. The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of Soccer.
In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.
In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family.
6 December is St Nicholas's Day - the first of the gift giving days, especially in Holland and Belgium.
Some priests in Australia advise you to say "Happy Christmas", not "Merry Christmas", because Merry has connotations of getting drunk - which brings its own problems. One should say "Happy" instead.
Every year since 1947 the people in Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster. The gift is an expression of goodwill and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway in the 1939-1945 war.
The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named John de Brebeur and is called "Jesus is Born".
Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night" - the Holy Night is the Mexican way of saying "Christmas Eve".
Tom Smith who owned a sweet shop in London was the originator of the cracker. In the 1840s Tom found that people like sugar almonds, but while he was in France he discovered a variety of sweets wrapped up in a twist of paper. These bonbons were popular, so Tom decided to copy them. When Tom noticed that young men were buying them to give to their sweethearts he began to place "love mottoes" on small slips of paper inside the sweet wrapping.
In 1846 Tom's thoughts turned towards Christmas - instead of sweets he thought he would place toys and novelties inside the twisted wrapping. He experimented with this and the idea of producing a wrapping that could be pulled apart - just like the cracker as we know it today.
The word carol is derived from the old French word caroller which derives from the Latin choraula. This itself was derived from the Greek choraules.
The first commercial Christmas card, produced in 1846, featured a drawing of family members happily toasting each other with glasses of wine - a shockingly decadent portrait that was immediately condemned by temperance advocates. In New South Wales, Australia, the average daily mailbag of six to seven million items of mail can triple over Christmas. The heaviest day ever was on 23 December 1997, when a record 23 million items were delivered in this state in Australia.
Hanging the Christmas stocking on the hearth on Christmas Eve in the hope that it will be filled with presents the next morning is a custom that goes back about 400 years. It derived from the custom in Holland of children placing wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of St. Nicholas. The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas's for the donkey that carried the gifts. In exchange he would leave them a small gift such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts. Stockings were substituted for the shoes in Britain, most of Europe and in North America.
A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the 17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolised the thorns in Christ's crown-of-thorns. Red berries symbolised the drops of Christ's blood. A wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated to birth of Christ.
On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to announce to the world the coming of the saviour. It was customary from the 18th century to wear clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of the His Birth.