If you were asked on the spot to name one holiday celebrated around the world, chances are you’d say “Christmas.” And if you were asked afterwards when it is, you’d probably answer the question correctly by saying “Dec. 25.”
But did you know that long ago, the birth of Jesus Christ wasn’t celebrated at all? For the first 300 years of Christianity, birthdays were not considered important. People believed that the day when a saint died should be considered more important because it was when he or she would go to heaven. “Saint” is a word that refers to a person who is holy, godly, kind, and good especially when it comes to helping others.
Many centuries ago, the most significant celebration for Christians were the Epiphany on Jan. 6 and Easter. The Epiphany was the day when the three kings visited Jesus after his birth. They gave him presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Easter is a holiday honoring the resurrection of Jesus, or when he rose from the dead.
The first official mention of Christmas being Dec. 25 was in 336 A.D. during the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine, who had become a Christian. In 320 A.D., Pope Julius I declared Dec. 25 as the birthday of Jesus.
Some argue whether the date is correct. According to an article from History.com, the Bible doesn’t mention when Jesus was born, and the story about the birth of Jesus “contains conflicting clues.” There were shepherds and sheep during the birth and this suggests that he was probably born in spring. A December birth is unlikely given the cold temperature and shepherds didn’t let their sheep stay outside.
Others suggest that Dec. 25 might’ve been chosen as the date for Christmas because around this date, people had been celebrating things like the winter solstice and midwinter festivals of the ancient pagan Romans. Winter solstice is the day of the year with the shortest day and longest night. To the pagans, or people who had no religion and worshipped objects in nature, winter solstice meant the coming of spring, the end of winter, and the sun’s victory over the darkness of winter. During the celebrations, Romans ate food, drank, and gave gifts to the poor.
Many stories tell how Christmas came to be celebrated on Dec. 25. Christmas remains one of the most celebrated holidays around the world, with at least 160 countries known to officially declare it as a holiday. One country, the Philippines, even starts to celebrate Christmas from September!
People have their own unique ways of celebrating Christmas. To some, it’s the day when Jesus Christ was born so they attend Mass or church. To others, it’s a holiday when people can take a day off from work or school and spend quality time with their families and loved ones. That often means a big feast at the family home or relative’s house on Christmas Eve and Day.
Janine Pineda For The Teen Times (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. When do we celebrate Christmas?
2. How many countries delcare Christmas as a holiday?
3. When do Christians celebrate the Epiphany?
1. Does your country celebrate Christmas?
2. What happens in the winter solstice?
3. According to the article, how do people celebrate Christmas?