Christmas is the festival celebrated all over the world to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, most customs and traditions related to Christmas celebrations were prevalent before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Nobody knows when and why Christmas started being associated with December 25 as no specific date has been given in the New Testament. Prior to the birth of Jesus, December 25 was celebrated in Rome to honor their God Saturn and mark the second birth of the Sun God, with people exchanging gifts and priests carrying wreaths of evergreen boughs in procession. Experts feel that could be the reason behind December 25 being celebrated as Christmas.
Through his book 'Chronographiai' written in 221 AD, Sextus Julius Africanus popularized December 25 as the day Jesus was born. Initially, feasts and celebrations were not the part of Christmas festival as many people believed that it was sinners and not saints who celebrated their birthdays. While Rome's Calendar of Filocalus recorded the first ever Christmas celebrations in 354 AD, in East the birth of Jesus was celebrated as a part of Epiphany on January 6, which marked the baptism of Jesus.
In Constantinople, Christmas feast was introduced in 379, made a silent exit in 381 with the resignation of Gregory of Nazianzus and was reintroduced in 400.
During the Middle Ages, ivy, holly and gift-giving formed a part of Christmas celebrations. Christmas carols gained prominence during the High Middle Ages.
In 1611, when the Bible became accessible to the common people in England, the purists banned the Christmas holiday as they felt that the festival had Pagan roots and was a kind of witchcraft. However, near the end of the nineteenth century, when other Bible versions began to appear, there was a revival of the celebration of Christmas.
Christmas trees or evergreen trees, which found its origins in Germany, symbolized life, good luck and fertility and were used to worship Yule God. Initially, oak trees were used for outdoors but later people in Germany took them inside their houses and started decorating them.
Christmas trees eventually became popular in Europe too. In England, the first Christmas tree, decorated with candles, fruits and gingerbread, was sighted at Windsor castle in 1841. In US too, Christmas tree became popular only in 1800s.
Initially, Christmas trees were decorated with fruits, candles, cookies and nuts. But now they are decorated with attractive Christmas lights and colorful Christmas ornaments.
Christmas carols originated in Italy in 13th century where St Francis of Assisi sang songs in praise of Jesus Christ. Generally, groups singing Christmas Carols have a lead singer and others form a part of Chorus and dance to the tunes of the songs. It is considered inauspicious to return the Carolers empty-handed.
Edward Johnson, who worked for Thomas Edison - the inventor of the Bulb, was the first person to use Christmas lights on the tree. Ever ready was the first company to mass produce Christmas lights in the beginning of 1900's.
The legend has it that St Nicholas, now known as Santa Claus, dropped three coins from a chimney of the home for three poor sisters living in it. Interestingly, each of the coins landed in separate stockings which were kept on the mantle of the fireplace to dry. From then on, tradition of leaving stockings near the fireplace or a window of the room or even the Christmas tree started.