Christmas (also called X-mas), on the 25th of December, is the religious celebration day of Jesus Christ’s birth. It is a beloved holiday that is usually the biggest in the year for many countries. Every year on Christmas Eve (24th), children put out cookies and milk, and with a resolution that they will not sleep they await Christmas’ undying star, Santa Claus.
But as soon as they fall asleep, Santa arrives in a sleigh pulled by reindeers, comes down the chimney and unloads many presents (only to “nice” kids) under an already-decorated tree. When the 25th comes around, children run to open their presents and celebrate. On this day, most stores close to go into a festive mood. In the evening, the whole family gathers for a feast and celebrates this joyous day.
As with most holidays, Christmas has many interesting stories tied to it.
Firstly, is the 25th of December really Jesus’ birthday? This question has plagued scholars since the 18th century, as the Bible has no record of this. In fact, historic records (old texts, the Bible etc.), scientific data (astronomy etc.) and logic all show that there is a lack of evidence for Christmas actually being the day Jesus was born. Instead, it is suggested that Jesus was born in spring, more specifically the 25th of March. Interestingly, this is celebrated as Annunciation in Christianity, the day when Jesus was allegedly conceived by the Virgin Mary. So which story is correct? This may be linked to the next story.
Secondly, the 25th of December is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Because of this, many Pagan holidays coincide around this time. For example, ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia between the 17th and 23rd, to honour the god of agriculture, Saturn (a fun fact is that there is a tradition where they brought a tree inside the house for this day, which is the roots of the modern Christmas tree). Also, later in Rome’s history, the official sun god, Sol Invictus, was honoured on the 25th of December. Many historians hypothesise that when Christianity first developed, it absorbed many of its preceding religions’ holidays, thus giving birth to Christmas.
Lastly, a story about Santa Claus. Santa Claus is based on the Dutch Saint Nicholas, but is also influenced by many other traditional holiday figures, such as Odin from Norse mythologies (who gave gifts to children who put out treats for his eight-legged horse on Christmas day). What is peculiar is the reason Santa wears red. Many people believe that the “red and white outfit” was a product of Coca-Cola’s advertising in the early 20th century, making Santa wear the company colours. However, this theory has some errors. Most importantly, there are many illustrations from before 1925 (when Santa first featured in Coke advertisements) where Santa is portrayed in his plump, bearded form clad in red clothes with a large belt, exactly like the modern Santa. But as there were many other portrayals of Santa back then (e.g. green clothes, skinny etc.), it can be safely said that Coca-Cola’s aggressive advertising and explosive popularity played a vital role in cementing the image of the Santa that we know and love now.
Santa is also known as children’s last innocence. This is because it is something that can only be found in the hearts of children who pray every Christmas to this mythical man to receive a present. Unfortunately, as they grow and learn science and facts (about their parents being the provider) their innocent beliefs turn to ashes. Because of this, some parents like to dress up as Santa to deepen the children’s faith in him, while some never allow the faith to be born in the first place. What is amusing is that in some European countries such as Poland, the idea of Santa Claus is taken quite seriously. Every adult (especially adults and teachers) take strict care not to crush this dream until the age of 4 or 5, almost religiously.
As a final note, some people note that there are some strange connections between Santa and communism: red, large beard, providing only to “nice children”, working the elves in a factory… may whoever reads this decide that fact for themselves.