Christmas Day, Commemorating the Birth of Jesus Christ and when Santa (Saint Nicholas) visits
25 December (Gregorian calendar) marks the day Western Christianity (as well as some Eastern Churches, and the West in general) celebrates Christmas to commemorate the nativity or birth of Jesus Christ – the Son of God. For Westerners more generally, Christmas is a festive time for giving and enjoying the company of family, friends and loved ones.
Other Christians celebrate Christmas on 7 January (which is 25 December in the Julian calendar – see further details below).
The word “Christmas” comes from “Christ’s mass” – the key mass and feast in the Christian calendar. It is both a religious and cultural celebration that has been a tradition of Christendom since the Middle Ages. Nowadays, and irrespective of their devoutness, Westerners during the Christmas season typically erect a Christmas tree, decorations and coloured lights in their domains, joyously sing carols and exchange gifts.
- The custom of gift-giving at Christmas commemorates the gifts the infant Jesus received from the magi (the three wise men from the east) and symbolises God's gift of his son to humanity.
Western Christian culture developed the legendary figure of Santa Claus (aka Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply 'Santa') who brings gifts to the homes of children during Christmas eve, provided they were well-behaved during the year (ie not naughty but nice). This tradition evolved from the practices of a former Saint Nicholas – a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra (a town/district now in southern Turkey).
In the mid-1600s, during one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history, England was briefly a republic where its then dictator, Oliver Cromwell, banned the singing of carols and other things Christmas, deeming it an undesirable and dissident political act. When the English monarchy was restored via “The Restoration” (and into a constitutional form, which is Australia's system of government to this day), the bans were lifted and Christmas could be openly celebrated again.
By the time Australia was settled (over a century later in 1788), Britain’s pride in, and practice of, the Christmas tradition had been restored and ingrained in the Commonwealth's cultural DNA such that it was seamlessly conveyed to the new colony, continuing to this day. That said, political-correctness challenges and spot-fires keep arising in the West against key elements of the Christmas tradition, including here in Australia. As such, Westerners must stay vigilant to preserve one of the most soul-enriching, spiritual, civilised and humanising traditions in the world.
Celebrate this Christmas by:
- in the Christmas tradition, being alert to those less fortunate or potentially alone or grieving around you and inquire if they would like to be part of your Christmas celebrations
- giving thanks for the relatives you celebrated Christmas with in the past who are no longer with you and maybe sharing those memories with others who remember them
- decking your house with Christmas lights (or buying yourself some lights as a Christmas gift to prepare for next Christmas)
- attending a traditional Christmas celebration to learn more about the festival
- sharing with your children or grandchildren your fondest memories of Christmas, or taking up an instrument or voice in a bit of “carolling” yourself
- cueing up one of many famous Christmas movies, albums or songs in your playlist
- wishing everyone around you a “Merry Christmas”, remaining alert to the numerous attacks on Christmas tradition around the world including the changing of “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” to appease minorities, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, Christians and those that just love the tradition and spirit of Christmas.
Further details on Christmas and Christianity
About one third of the world's population - nearly 2.4 billion Christians - observe and celebrate Christmas. Some denominations or countries follow the Julian Calendar – eg most Eastern Orthodox Christians and/or Christians in, for example, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Serbia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan – celebrate Christmas on 7 January (Gregorian calendar, which is 25 December in the Julian calendar).
- From 1923, the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria – whilst part of the Eastern Orthodox Church – adopted the Gregorian Calendar and so also celebrate Christmas on 25 December (Gregorian).
There are approximately over 2 billion Western Christians (over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and towards a billion Protestants), around one-quarter of a billion Eastern Orthodox Christians (most of which are in Eastern Europe, Greece and the Caucasus) and towards 100 million Oriental Orthodox Christians (most of which are in parts of the Middle East, Armenia and north-east Africa).
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