U.S. (12/25/13) — Both a worldwide commercial marvel and a sacred religious holiday, Christmas is celebrated all around the world by observing it with traditions and practices.
Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the birth of Jesus, the spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Some customs include gift exchanging, decorating, attending churches, sharing meals with loved ones and waiting for Santa Clause to arrive.
Before the birth of Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the dark winters. During the winter solstice, people rejoiced when the worst of the winter was behind them and to look forward to longer days of extended sunlight.
The Norse of Scandinavia celebrated Yule from Dec. 21 through January. Fathers and sons gathered huge logs, which they set on fire and feasted until the logs burnt out. The Norse believed that every spark represented a new pig or calf that would be born in the coming year.
In Germany, the pagan god Oden was honored during the mid-winter holiday. It was believed that Germans were terrified of him because he made night time flights through the sky to observe people and would decide who would prosper or perish.
In Rome, they celebrated Saturnalia, which is a holiday to honor and celebrate Saturn, god of agriculture, during the beginning of the week leading up to the winter solstice that continued into a full month. Saturnalia was a pleasure-seeking time, where food and drinks were readily available and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For this month, masters would become slaves and peasants would be in command of the city.
Also during this time, Romans observed Juvenalia with a feast for children. Mirtha, god of unconquerable sun birthday was celebrated on Dec. 25. It was believed Mirtha, an infant god, was born of a rock and for some Romans, Mirtha’s birthday is the most sacred day of the year.
In early years of Christianity, Easter was the main celebrated holiday, not the birth of Jesus. It wasn’t until the fourth century church officials instituted the birth of Jesus as a holiday.
It wasn’t until the 19tg century Americans started to embrace Christmas and reinvented the holiday to a family-centered day of peace and reminiscence.
Christmas Day, Dec. 25 officially became a federal holiday in the United States June 26, 1870.
In 1931, the tradition of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was started by a group of construction workers that placed a tree in the middle of their construction site.
Every year, 30 to 35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States and it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world.
SurfKY News Reporter
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