The Season of Christmas begins with Christmas Eve on
the evening of December 24 and continues until the Feast of the Baptism of
Christ, which in the present form of the Roman Rite is celebrated on the
Sunday after 6 January.
The Octave of
Christmas lasts for eight days (octave means eight),
beginning with Christmas day and ending
with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Should We Celebrate Christmas?
Christmas celebration is about more than the birth of a child; it
is about the salvation of the world. Christmas is a time to celebrate the
fulfillment of God's promise, the one who took flesh in the womb of the
Virgin Mary. The child is given the name "Jesus,"
(Joshua, Yeshua) meaning "Yahweh
saves" us from our sins. Jesus is born so that we might be reborn to a
life of grace. Christmas is the affirmation of Emmanuel,
"God who is with us." Everything Jesus
did, and suffered reveals God's love for us. Christmas
challenges us to live the kind of life that God's kingdom demands now,
with hope and promise for tomorrow. Christmas is not just a day but a
season that lasts twelve days. It continues through Epiphany and ends with
the Baptism of the Lord, a celebration of God's faithfulness manifested to
the whole world in Jesus Christ.
Why is Christmas abbreviated "Xmas"?
Because the Greek letter "X" is the first letter of the Greek
word for Christ, Christos. "Xmas" therefore means "Christ's Mass." The abbreviation has been around since at least the sixteenth
century and is not, as some people have claimed, an attempt to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas" and make it a secular
from the Roman Martyrology often read on Christmas Eve
twenty-fourth day of the month of December; In the year five-thousand
one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth; In the year two-thousand
nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood; In the year two-thousand and
fifty-one from the birth of Abraham; In the year one-thousand five-hundred
and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under
Moses; In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David
as king; In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel; In
the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; In the year seven-hundred and
fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome; In the forty-second
year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus; In the sixth age of
the world, while the whole earth was at peace— JESUS CHRIST eternal God
and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His
gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine
months of His conception being now accomplished, was born in Bethlehem of
Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man.
we arrive at Dec. 25 for the date of Christmas?
The Western Church
Christmas appears to have begin in Rome as a response to pagan
festivities centering around the winter solstice, which was locally
considered to be 25 December. The pagan celebration, which was established
by the Roman emperor Aurelian in AD 274, was called "The Birth of the
Invincible Sun." Christians were in the minority in those days, so they
either had to abstain and look dour or participate and betray their faith.
The earliest evidence we have for a Christmas celebration dates from about
AD 335. At some point in or before that year, Roman Christians either
began celebrating the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ on 25 December or
moved it to that date, to assert their Christian faith during the pagan
feast. If Jesus were born on 25 December, then He would have been circumcised and
given His name on 1 January, the eighth day of His life on earth.
Therefore, 1 January is known in the historic church as The Circumcision
of Our Lord or Holy Name. (See Luke 2:21 and Leviticus 12:3.)
Meanwhile, back in the east, the winter solstice was considered to be
6 January, so the pagan festival of The Birth of the Invincible Sun was
held on that day. Alexandrian Christians began celebrating the Incarnation
on 6 January so that they could have something Christian to celebrate
while everyone else was having a party. They called their celebration
Epiphany, which means manifestation in Greek, a "recognition" of or
"insight" into a reality of something. Epiphany is about a
journey and the one who guides our quest to uncover the full meaning of
Christ in our lives: the gift of God's love revealed through the Word,
prayer, worship, and sacrament. For those who have the eyes to see, it is
a time to perceive the signs of Christ's presence here and now -- the
ordinary and extraordinary appearances of the Lord in a star in the night
sky, in strangers and visitors from afar, in families and loved ones, in
light and life, in bread, wine and water, in Spirit and grace.
Christmas spread to the east and Epiphany spread to the west and the two
days became differentiated. Today, Christmas is the celebration of the
Incarnation and the Epiphany is the celebration of Jesus’ ministry to
the Gentiles. Some Oriental Christians, notably the Armenians, still do
not have Christmas, but celebrate the birth of Christ on 6 January of the
the History of the Nativity Crèche?
of having some kind of Nativity scene, also known by its French name (crèche),
in churches and homes evolved during the Middle Ages, first in churches as
a prop for Nativity plays associated with Mass. A crèche is a reproduction
of the cave of Bethlehem with the principle characters: Mary, Joseph, the
infant Jesus in a manger, shepherds, angels and animals. St. Francis of
Assisi popularized this custom with a living Nativity scene at Greccio,
Italy, in 1223. These scenes, constructed from every sort of material,
spread throughout Christendom.
Christmas Around the World
Arabic: Milad Majid;
Nor Vesele Vanoce;
Sheng Dankuai Le;
Croatian: Sretan Bozic;
Danish: Glaedelig Jul;
French: Joyeux Noel;
Lesimkha Chena tova;
Hindi: Shub Naya Baras;
Irish: Nollaig Shona
Italian: Buon Natale;
Sung Tan Jul Chuk Ha;
Navajo: Merry Kashmis;
Polish: Wesolych Swiat
Russian: S Rozhdestvom
Samoan: Manuea le
Spanish: Feliz Navidad;
Ukraninian: Z Rizdvom
Vietnamese: Chuch Mung
the meaning of the Christmas Star?
the gospel of Matthew, wise men, probably astrologers from the East,
followed a star to Bethlehem where they found the Christ Child (Mt
2:1-11). The same stars that appear in the sky today look just like they did two thousand years ago. Some of them may even be the very same stars, for like us stars are born to die. What was the mysterious star that appeared in the sky when the Christ child was born? Astronomers say it was not a comet and it couldn't have been a shooting star since they only last from seconds to minutes and then they're gone. The wise men followed this star for weeks, maybe even months.
Some claim that if we move the birth of Jesus to the spring of 6 B.C. we can connect the star to the time when three planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn came very close together in the heavens. These three planets formed a triangle in the group of stars known as Pisces. According to the Jewish rabbis, the wise men, were astrologers who studied the stars and planets. They were well aware of the forming of the triangle and also conscious of the fact that it appeared in the sky before the birth of Moses. That is why Pisces became the unique constellation to the Hebrew
is the meaning of the song "12 Days of Christmas"?
The Twelve Days of
Christmas are December 26 to Epiphany, January 6. The song, "The Twelve
Days of Christmas" is an English carol written during the time of the
Penal Codes enacted by Parliament, which made the Roman Catholic Church
illegal in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. "The Twelve Days of
Christmas" was a memory aid to help young Catholics learn the tenets of
their faith and be able to recite them without fear of imprisonment. The
"gifts" have hidden meanings concerning teachings of the Catholic faith.
The "true love" mentioned doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to
God the giver of all good gifts. The "me" who receives the gifts refers to
every baptized person. The Pear Tree is the cross and the Partridge is
Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ is symbolically portrayed as a mother
partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless chicks.
It reminds us of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "How often
have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood
under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Mt 23:37). The other symbols
in the song are:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, also the
Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity,
4 Calling Birds =The Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists -- Matthew,
Mark, Luke and John
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, also the five
wounds of Jesus Christ
6 Geese A-laying = The Six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = The Seven Gifts of the Spirit and the seven
sacraments of the Catholic faith
8 Maids A-milking = The Eight Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping = The Eleven Faithful Apostles after Judas' betrayal
12 Drummers Drumming = The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostle's
Who were the Magi?
The Magi were Wise Men who came from the East
to adore the newborn Jesus (Mt 2). They were the first to tell King Herod
of the birth. A star (the Star of Bethlehem) had been a sign for them.
Christian tradition has elaborated the biblical account. It has set their
number as three, perhaps from their gifts of gold, frankincense, and
myrrh. It has called them kings, perhaps from Ps 72:10,11 and Is 49:7,23
considered as prophecies. And it has given them names, Caspar
Melchior, and Balthazar. The feast of the Epiphany commemorates their
visit. In art the visit is called the Adoration of the Magi.
What is the Feast of Epiphany?
The Feast of the Epiphany (epiphany means
"manifestation", "revelation") is the oldest of the Christmas feasts.
Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas (thus
the Twelve Days of Christmas), January 6th. In the dioceses of the United
States this feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2 and
January 8. As "the true light, which enlightens everyone " come into the
world, Jesus came not only that we might see his glory but also that we
might share in it. "From his fullness we have all received, grace for
grace" (John 1,16).
is the Poinsettia used at Christmas?
Over a century ago, Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to
Mexico, brought the radiant red, star-shaped poinsettia to America. The
Mexicans tell a legend about the poinsettia: a little girl, Maria, and her
brother, Pablo, were so poor they had no gift to give the Christ child at
their churches and when they set the
poinsettia up around
the child, they turned beautiful red and looked like a star
in the Christmas manger scene.
Why is Holly used at Christmas?
Thanks to its pagan associations,
the Christian church disliked the plant so much, it forbade its use in any form. Some English
churches continued this ban as late as the 20th century! According to Charles Panati's
book, Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things, holly became a Christian substitute
for mistletoe, which is why we "deck the halls" with it. The sharply pointed leaves in holly were supposed to symbolize the
thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries were to symbolize his blood.
Why is it a custom to kiss under the mistletoe?
The notion that Mistletoe held magical powers dates back to early Nordic and Celtic legends. Mistletoe became known for its ability to render
poisons harmless, protect one from witchcraft and possess great healing powers. Today at Christmas time a piece of mistletoe is usually hung over
doorways, and a young woman stands under it waiting to be kissed.
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe may be related to a
Scandinavian goddess. Frigga, the goddess of love in Norse mythology, is strongly associated with mistletoe, which has been
used as a decoration in homes for thousands of years.
was the real Santa Claus?
The real St. Nicholas was the son of a well-to-do Christian family who lived in
Asia Minor in the third century. He became the archbishop of the seaport
town of Myra (Modern Turkey). He had much wealth and sought to distribute it among
those in need, but heeded the biblical admonishment that anyone giving
gifts to the poor not reveal themselves as the giver (Mt 6:3-4).
the idea of Santa leaving gifts by coming down the chimney sprang from a
story connected with St. Nicholas. Three young women wished to marry, but
their father was poor and they had no dowry. Hearing of their plight, St.
Nicholas threw three bags of gold in their open window so the women could
marry. The bags of
gold are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
Gift-giving continued to the Middle ages and traditional offerings
were modest: fruits, cakes, nuts, dolls, toys, bibles and other useful
items were given. In Germany, the gifts were presented in a stocking, with
an orange at the bottom and an apple on top. A shiny new coin would be in
between. There also was the tradition that nuns would wrap treats in
stockings for children and place them at the doors of poor families.
Today, gift-giving continues but seldom takes the form of simple gifts.
Instead, gifts are likely to be the latest techno-marvels, expensive
jewelry or clothing. Often, we lose sight of the poor who are most
What is Las Posadas?
Mexico, and parts of the Southwest U.S., a familiar Bible story of Joseph
and Mary's long-ago search for shelter in anticipation of the birth of
Jesus comes to life in a centuries-old ritual Las Posadas. People
of all ages celebrate Las Posadas for nine consecutive nights from
December 16 through December 24. The neighborhood processions stop at
predetermined homes along the route, where participants request posada
(Spanish word for lodging) through song - only to be turned away at all
but the final site. Between each stop, the pilgrims (some costumed to
represent Joseph and Mary) sing carols and pray the rosary. When they are
finally given posada, they celebrate by breaking candy-filled pinatas
and eating delicacies, such as tamales and pan dulce
(sweet bread). Despite its cultural Mexican roots, Las Posadas has
transcended cultural lines among Latinos of diverse backgrounds and other
to the Filipino Christmas celebration is the nine-day novena to the Virgin
Mary known as Simbang Gabi (Mass at Dawn). In the Philippines, the
Masses began as early-morning liturgies to accommodate the working hours
of farmers and fishermen. Now in urban cities Simbang Gabi is held
in the evenings for the convenience of working people. Filipino families
enact Panuluyan, a form of the Mexican Posada,
in anticipation of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. The oldest Philippine
symbol is the belen (nativity set) which was introduced
from the tradition started by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. The belen
is found mostly in churches and affluent homes, while the parol (lantern)
is found everywhere Filipinos celebrate Christmas. The parol
represents the star of Bethlehem, which symbolically guides the
Messiah to the house and announces that here is a a family that has
accepted the Messiah. After every service it is mini-fiesta time, usually
with puto bumbong a violet glutinous rice steamed in
tubes served with sugar and grated coconut, and salabat
(ginger tea). The novena ends on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) with a
midnight mass called Misa De Aguinaldo, "the night of light
Many people think of
Hanukkah as "the Jewish Christmas," but two holidays have nothing to do with each other, except that they're celebrated at roughly the same time of year.
The Hanukkah story involves a group of warriors led by Judas Maccabeus. In 164
BC they drove the Syrians out of Israel
and reclaimed and purified the temple, which had been desecrated by King Antiochus
IV. When the Maccabees retook the Temple, the Jews found only enough oil left to light the menorah
-- the eight branched candelabrum -- for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights, long enough for a new supply of oil to be prepared. The Temple was rededicated, and the Jews celebrated
the miracle with an eight-day festival. (1 Mc 4:36-59).
In religious terms, Hanukkah is a minor feast, but it is nonetheless an opportunity to celebrate Jewish heritage and history.
Like all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah
("dedication") begins at sundown on the 25 day of the Hebrew month of
In 2005, Hanukkah begins at
sunset on December 25.
the first candle of the nine-branch candelabrum (menorah) is lit by
a shamash, or service candle, at the center of the menorah. Prayers are said
each night during the lighting until all eight candles are lit.
Families sing songs, play games and open gifts, which may add to the impression that it's the Jewish version of
Christmas. Families eat latkes (potato pancakes) fried in oil to commemorate the "miracle,"
(jelly-filled doughnuts, also cooked in oil) to remind them of God's sweetness, and dairy foods such as cheese and cream.
They gather with family and friends in the warmth of the light shed by
the menorah, just as their ancestors did long ago. Happy Hanukkah!
Since 1966 many
people of African descent have spent the seven days from December 26 to
January 1 honoring ancient African principles and values by lighting a
candle each night. The candles, three red ones on the right, three green
ones on the left, and one black candle in the middle, represent the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:
3.Ujima (Collective work &
4.Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)
Each day, the appropriate candle is lit. The black candle first, representing the Black people in
unity. From the second day onwards, the candles are
lit from left (red for struggle) to right (green for the future). This symbolizes
how all people must struggle in order to attain a great future.
THE SEVEN FISH
Many families of
Italian heritage, especially those in southern Italy, will celebrate
Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a meatless meal
honoring the wait, La Vigilia de Natale, leading up to the
midnight birth of the baby Jesus. Family togetherness is important,
DeFabo says, if you want to follow the popular Italian saying "Natale
con I tuoi; Pasqua conchi vuoi," which means "Christmas with your
family; Easter with whomever you wish." At least seven different
fish are served, some say for each day of Mary and Joseph's journey to
Bethlehem, others say one for each sacrament or the seven days of
creation. Eel, shrimp, lobster, anchovies, sardines, crab, calamari,
pasta with clam sauce and large fish such as flounder all abound, but
most especially baccala, dried salted cod. Why? Many say it is to pay
homage to the beasts of the stable who witnessed the holy birth and
relinquished their manger to make way for God.
The British have a custom
of "First Footer" tradition. The idea is that the first person setting
foot into your house in the New Year determines the luck for the year
ahead. A handsome first footer meant the year ahead would be pleasant.
If he carried bread or coal there would be food and warmth in the
future. Who will be the first footer in your house this year?
is "Father Time" represented as an old man on New Year's Eve
Father Time is a personification of time. He is usually depicted as an
elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe, carrying an hourglass or other
timekeeping device (representing time's constant movement),
and sometimes a cycle (related to the Grim Reaper). In various
New Year's Eve customs, Father Time's image is used as the
personification of the previous year (or "the Old Year"), who "hands
over" the duties of time to the Baby New Year.
The Father Time representing the passing of
the old year has its roots in the feast of St. Sylvester. According to
legend, Pope Sylvester I, healed the Roman Emperor Constantine from
leprosy and then baptized the grateful Emperor. In Northern Europe,
"Sylvester Night" is celebrated on New Year's Eve. It is a time of
parties with eating, dancing and singing. At midnight, when the old year
is almost gone and the new year is about to start, glasses are filled
with champagne or wine, and toasts and hugs go with wishing each other
"Happy New Year". Some go out into the streets and listen to the bells
ringing throughout the land. Others participate in shooting off
Do you know
the origins of some Christmas customs?