The birth of a saviour or the rebirth of the sun?
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25th as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries and is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season organized around it.
The traditional Christmas narrative recounted in the New Testament, known as the Nativity of Jesus, says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies. When Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then spread the word.
There are different hypotheses regarding the date of Jesus’ birth, and, in the early 4th century, the church fixed the date as December 25th. This corresponds to the traditional date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar. For Christians, believing that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than knowing Jesus’ exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas. However, there are some that view this holiday as an attempt by the early Christian Church to replace the previous pagan belief of the rebirth of the Sun as a symbol of divine force.
The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving; completing an Advent calendar; Christmas music and caroling; viewing a Nativity play; an exchange of Christmas cards; church services; a special meal; and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. Over the past few centuries, Christmas has had a steadily growing economic effect in many regions of the world.
In ancient times, people would burn logs of sacred trees in their homes to welcome the rebirth of the Sun into the new year. In America, this is still remembered in this period by preparing various versions of a Christmas dessert called the “Yule log”. Yule is a pagan word for the period of the year in which the winter solstice occurred.
an inn: una locanda
a stable: una stalla
a shepherd: un pastore
a solstice: un solstizio
(to) atone: espiare; fare ammenda
a custom: un’usanza
gift-giving: scambiarsi i regali
an Advent calendar: un calendario dell’Avvento (un calendario con cioccolatini per ogni girono dell’Avvento.)
caroling: l’attività di un gruppo di persone che vanno in giro per il quartiere a cantare canzoni di Natale porta a porta.
a garland: una ghirlanda
a wreath: una corona di foglie o rami d’albero; una ghirlanda rotonda
mistletoe: del vischio
lore: tradizioni, folklore
(to) highten: aumentare, massimizzare
a retailer: rivenditore
a log: un tronco
Bet you didn’t know about… Christmas