Where Did Christmas Come From?
Have you ever wondered where Christmas came from? Have you ever wondered how it all got started and how it turned into one of the biggest and most important celebrations of the year. But the truth is, the origin of Christmas is actually a pretty big mystery. Just like any good mystery, the answer is hotly debated. Nobody can say for sure when Christmas actually started because historically speaking, it is impossible to pinpoint the very first Christmas festivities. However, various theories exist that offer real insight into when the first Christmas celebrations took place.
Roots of Christmas
Christmas, meaning the Mass of Christ, has long been a traditional holiday in the Christian calendar. The earlier roots of Christmas are traced back to the 4th century, when the practice of celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th started to be gradually adopted by early Christian churches. This practice of honoring the birth of Jesus was known as “Christes Maesse”, which means Christ Mass. However, in many areas of the Christian world this practice took longer to adopt because according to them, the exact date of Christ’s birth was still unknown. This is why many eastern orthodox churches today celebrate Christmas starting on January 7th, because the December 25th birth date is not accepted as the true date of Christ’s birth.
While the early 4th century is accepted by most Christians as the origin of Christmas, many scholars actually disagree. These scholars point to the various winter festivals that many earlier cultures had during this exact same time of year. For example, according to the ancient Roman calendar December 17-24th was the period of Saturnalia, a well known Roman festival. The next day on the Roman calendar, December 25th, was the birthday of one of their chief Gods, Mithra, the God of Light.
Even earlier celebrations have been discovered during this same time of year by the Babylonians, Persians, and the Mesopotamians. Many of these celebrations had to do with gift giving, decorating trees, and large feasts. Because these festivals were so popular during the time of the early church, many scholars believe that December 25th was actually adopted as the birth date of Christ, to try to counteract the effects of these pagan celebrations.
Meaning of Christmas
Regardless of whether you’re a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu or an Agnostic, Christmas has different meanings for everybody. For some it is a spiritual, holy day where they celebrate the birth of their lord and savior. For others it is a day of gift giving, laughter, and spending time with friends and family. For many others around the world Christmas has been absorbed into their own culture’s rituals and customs and might be a totally different type of celebration than what we’re accustomed to. However, while the true origin of Christmas continues to be a hotly debated mystery, the true meaning of Christmas, friendship, love, and happiness, has never been in question.