Christmas is one of the most popular feast celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Protestants. It’s celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The celebration includes attending church, sharing of gifts, decorating of houses and trees etc.
The word Christmas is gotten from the middle English word Cristemasse which means Christ’s Mass. Later on , people started calling it Christmas and in our today’s world a shorter version of it was made, from Christmas to Xmas. The X is a Greek word for Christ.
Origin of Christmas
There’s no passage in the Bible that stated the date Jesus was born. The origin of celebrating Christmas on 25 of December is unclear.
The most popular explanation of the origin, is the adoption of the Roman pagan feast called Saturnalia. Saturnalia is a Roman pagan feast in honor of Saturn the God of agriculture. Also member of the higher class in Rome celebrate the birthday of Mithra the god of unconquerable sun on 25 December.
The feast falls during the winter solstice when food and drinks were plenty, it was celebrated as symbol of casting away of winter and the rebirth of spring and summer.
During this feast , all the courts in Rome are shut down , and Roman law states that no one will be punished for committing any crime in the week long feast. The festival starts with Roman authorities choosing “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” . Each community in Rome selects it’s victims whom they force to eat a lot and engage in physical pleasure throughout the week. At the end of the festival, December 25, the victims are brutally murdered as a symbol of destroying the forces of darkness and evil.
In the fourth century, the church officials decided to add the birthday of Jesus in the church Calender as a feast and holiday. Unfortunately there’s no place in the Bible that stated when Jesus was born.
Pope Julius 1 decided that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated on 25 December. Scholars believe that the church decided to celebrate it on that day to replace and absorb the pagan feast Saturnalia thereby making it easier to convert pagans and also replacing the worship of the Sun by referring Jesus as the light of the world.
Another explanation of why Christmas is celebrated on 25 Dec is the belief and priori reasoning that specifies spring equinox as the date of the creation, then on the fourth day when light was created as the day Mary became pregnant (Annunciation) March 25. Nine months later Jesus was born on 25 Dec which is the Christmas day.
How are these dates linked? Because both dates shows events when God entered the world: Firstly through process of creation and secondly through the Incarnation. Nine months after the conception, we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth on Dec. 25. And also the date lines with the winter solstice, which is the time when the days are longer. This shows that the birth of Christ, the Light coming into the world(fourth day of creation), coincides with the days of more light (winter solstice) .
In Saint Augustine of Hippos’ Sermon 192, he stated “Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase.”
The origin of Christmas tree
During the Christianization of the Roman pagan, the early Christian also adopted the use of trees during Christmas. Pagans has always worshipped trees in the forest or bring them into their home and also decorate it. The early Christian adopted this practice as they associated Christmas with Saturnalia by decorating tress as Christmas trees.
Catholic saints quotes about Christmas
Below are some famous quotes about Christmas from the Saints who have lived life of holiness and now dwells in the presence of God, these quotes will help you understand more about Christmas.
- “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.” –Mother Teresa
- “Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”-St. Augustine of Hippo
- “Open wide your door to the one who comes. Open your soul, throw open the depths of your heart to see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the sweetness of grace. Open your heart and run to meet the Sun of eternal light that illuminates all men.” –St. Ambrose of Milan
- “Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for your salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonour to him who made him. Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God?”-St. Peter Chrysologus
- “Arise, all ye nobles and peasants; Mary invites all, rich and poor, just and sinners, to enter the cave of Bethlehem, to adore and to kiss the feet of her new-born Son. Go in, then, all ye devout souls; go and see the Creator of heaven and earth on a little hay, under the form of a little Infant; but so beautiful that he sheds all around rays of light. Now that he is born and is lying on the straw, the cave is no longer horrible, but is become a paradise. Let us enter; let us not be afraid.” –St. Alphonsus Liguori
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My name is Ofomah Stephen. I'm a Catholic writer. I publish articles based on Catholic teachings and doctrines which will help you to understand and know more about the Catholic practices, history, doctrines and teaching.