Christmas is a Christian Fête celebrating each year the birth of Jesus de Nazareth, called Nativité. This festival gives place to special religious offices and exchanges of gifts and wishes. In year 354, Christmas was fixed officially at the December 25th by the Pape Libère. Because the majority of the orthodoxe Églises always follow the Calendrier Julien which officially presents a fourteen days shift with the Gregorian Calendrier from now on of use, they celebrate Christmas the January 7th Gregorian calendar (i.e. on December 25th of the Julien calendar). The popularity of the festival made that “Christmas” became also a Prénom carried.
EtymologyClassically, it is considered that the word Christmas (appeared towards 1112) is resulting by evolution Phonétique from nael and by vocalic modification of the Latin natalis (“relating to the birth”). The O of Christmas comes from the dissimilation of both has natalis and the Tréma (1718) note the Diérèse.
Nativity of Jesus-Christ
See also: Nativity
In the beginning, the festival of Christmas is the solemnity of the Nativité of the Lord, the commémoritive festival of the birth of Jesus de Nazareth who, according to the New Testament, was born with Bethlehem without giving precise day. Marc and Jean does not speak about the birth of Christ but insists on spiritual filiation with Jean the Baptist who marks the beginning of their Gospel.
According to LucThe evangelist Luc specifies only that the birth takes place at the time of the census imposed by the emperor.
- “In this time appeared an edict of César Auguste, ordering a census of all the ground.
- This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
- Joseph also assembled Galileo, town of Nazareth, to go in Judaea, in the town of David, called Bethléhem, because it was house and of the family of David, in order to be made register with Marie, its promised in marriage, who was pregnant.
- While they were there, the time when Marie was to be confined arrived, and it gave birth to her son first-born. It emmaillota, and laid down it in a Crèche, because there was no place for them in hotel trade. ”
- This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
This census took place after the deposition of Archélaos, ethnarque of Judaea, Samarie and Idumée, into 6 ap JC.
Let us note that if the historical circumstances are given, no detail makes it possible to say that the birth takes place in winter.
According to MatthieuIn the Gospel according to Matthieu, if the reign of Hérode is mentioned, the stress is laid on the miraculous birth of Christ:
- “Here how arrived the birth of Jesus Christ. Marie, her mother, having been promised in marriage to Joseph, was pregnant, by the virtue of the Saint Spirit, before they had lived together.
- Joseph, her husband, who was a man of good and which did not want to defame it, proposed to break secretly with it.
- As it thought of it, here, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in dream, and known as: Joseph, wire of David, do not fear to take with you Marie, your wife, because the child whom it designed comes from the Saint Spirit; it will give birth to a son, and you will give him the name of Jesus; it is him which will save its people of its sins.
- Jesus having incipient in Bethléhem in Judaea, at the time of the king Hérode, here of the magi of the East arrived at Jerusalem, and said: Where is the king of the Jews who has just been born? because we saw his star in the East, and we came to adore it. ”
- Joseph, her husband, who was a man of good and which did not want to defame it, proposed to break secretly with it.
Let us note that Hérode Ier Large the dies, according to the sources in -4 or -1 and that one allots the to him Massacre of the innocent what makes of him the most probable “candidate for this reason”. The more so as it is specified that, at the time of the return of Egypt, Joseph and Marie did not settle in Judaea, where reigned Archélaos, but as a Galileo, in Nazareth.
This presentation, which compares Hérode to Pharaon, establishes a parallel between Jesus and Moïse.
One day arbitraryNo Christian text specifies which day in the year was born Jesus-Christ. In 354, the pope Libère fixed the festival commemorating the birth of Christ at the December 25th to promote the rise of the Christianisme and to replace pagan popular holidays and celebrated around the Solstice of Hiver; he also codified the first celebrations. In a short speech of the December 16th 2004, Mgr Jean-Paul Jaeger, bishop of Arras explains this choice:
The evangelist S of which one in four only proposes an account of the birth of Jesus were quite unable to locate the exact date of it. Excellent pedagog, the Church, in Occident, fixed in 353 the celebration of Christmas at the time of the pagan festival of the Solstice of winter. The sign is splendid. The rays of the sun are with lowest of their decline. Gradually the day will be essential on the night. The light will triumph. Christ being born is then rented and accommodated as the light which shines in darkness, as the day which rises on humanity engourdie and deadened. It is the new day which points at midnight.
Before this date, the Christians celebrated the birth of Christ the same day as the worship of the magi (Epiphany or “manifestation of the Lord”) and the Baptême in the the Jordan: the January 6th. The Armenian apostolic Église is the only Church to perpetuate today this use of the first centuries. As for the orthodoxe Churches, they celebrate Christmas the December 25th calendar which they follow (Calendrier Julien or Gregorian) and the Baptême of the Christ the January 6th.
A vague date
See also: Ass Domini
One goes back the birth to Jesus in the year 1 av. J. - C. (since the year 1 is that of its first birthday and that there does not exist Année 0) since the Early middle ages. Of recent studies however let think that Jesus de Nazareth would have been born with the neighborhoods from the year -4. But the Christian celebration of Christmas is there to point out an event, the birth of Christ, and not to celebrate a date in particular; from the Christian point of view, the exactitude and the correspondence of December 25th -1 or -4 with historical reality are thus additional elements.
The beginning of the Christian eraBefore the reform of the Vatican II, one celebrated on January 1st the festival of the Circoncision of the Lord. Indeed, the parents of Jesus, applying the Jewish law, did it circoncire eight days after its birth. Today, if the catholics celebrate the festival of Holy Marie Mère of God, the orthodoxe ones always commemorate the circumcision. It is this event, more important than its birth itself, which marks the entry of the child-god in the community of the men and the true beginning of the Christian era.
Calendars Julien and GregorianWhen Jules César created the Calendrier Julien, the Solstice of Hiver was fixed at the December 25th. But the light error of the Julien calendar gradually made advance solstices and equinoxes: at the time of the Ier council of Nicée of 325, the Solstice fell the December 21st, but the Festival of the Nativité was maintained with the December 25th, nine months after the Incarnation, the March 25th. In 354, the December 25th became thus the date of birth of Jesus Christ, on January 1st, eight days after the Nativité, the date of the Circoncision and the February 2nd, forty days after Christmas, that of the Purification of the Virgin Mary (Chandeleur). In 1582, the Gregorian Calendrier gave the solstice, which had continued to advance until the December 11th, to the December 21st, to respect the decisions of the Concile of Nicée and the reality of the seasons.
In 1582, where Easter falls a March 11th, the pope Gregoire XIII decides to correct the Calendrier Julien and by the Gregorian Calendrier replaces it, more precis: it removes the leap years in excess, gives Easter to the vernal equinox, withdraws the days between the 4 and the October 15th 1582 but does not want to correct Christmas, which falls a December 25th then, in accordance with the Concile, but contrary with the Roman pagan festival.
Before the Christian eraWell before the appearance of the Christianity, the time of the Winter solstice was already a period hinge of the year, which gathered many pagan beliefs relating to the fertility, maternity, procreation and with astronomy. It thus gave place to many demonstrations. But separately the Christian festival, none the festivals described hereafter bore the name of “Christmas” and never the Church does not have there refers; at most these ancient traditions have a point of similarity with the Christian festival.
PrehistoryThe prehistoric people adored the light and they had built temples which helped to include/understand the arrival of the seasons for the first European farmers, the men of the Neolithic . In the temple megalithic of Newgrange in Ireland, the sunlight returns only during the day of the Winter solstice. The Celtes made large fires with the Solstice S to fight against darkness. They were very afraid of these dark periods during which the day lasted less longer, but at the same time, they knew that the sun was going to heat the ground and the plants. Certain people evoked also fabulous characters bringing of the gifts at the time of the festival.
Protohistoire and AntiquitéAt the Celtic S, one evoked the god Gargan, a good giant carrying a hood filled with gifts and decorates already a tree, symbol of life at the time of the Solstice of winter. It inspired the “Gargantua” of Rabelais
At the Viking S, a man equipped with a large cape supposed to represent Odin the Scandinavian god of the war and sovereign of the Scandinavian divinities, visited the houses in order to ask whether all were well and to offer Friandise S to the wise children. In Norway, at the 10th century, the king Håkon Ier of Norway would have decided that the festival of the Midtvintersblot (festival of the middle of the winter, where the Lutin Julenisse distributed gifts) would be celebrated at the same time as Christian Christmas.
According to the legend, Mithra was born in a cave from a virgin one December 25th. This day, the worship of Mithra, very developed in Rome in IIIe and IVe centuries, celebrated the Natalis Invicti , the birth of the sun, the unconquered sun which, each year, after having failed to yield to the night at the time of the winter solstice, takes again its forces and makes regain the day over the night.
The Jewish festival of Hanoucca, which commemorates the reinauguration of the Temple of Jerusalem profaned by the Greek antiques, was fixed at the 25 of the ninth lunar month , named " Kislev ", (Hebrew Calendar) in the vicinity of the Winter solstice. The first Book of the Macchabées insists on the importance of this date and this celebration.
SaturnalesIn the ancient Rome, the citizens celebrated the Saturnales: initially 17 with the December 21st, then later from the 17 with the December 24th, the men and the women carried Guirlande S around the neck and offered all kinds of gifts. people sacrificed also Symbolique lies a mannequin representing an young man, thus thinking of transmitting the vitality of the character to the New Year's Day.
The Festival of sigillary the, “ancestor” of the New Year's Eve, concluded the festivities at the end from December. During this time of rocker about the new year, people offered menus gifts of terra cotta, the slave S became the Masters and conversely.
Ground InvictusStarting from the reign of Aurélien (270 - 275), the Romans celebrate officially the Sol Invictus (unconquered Sun) at the time of the Winter solstice which began the New Year's Day, announced by the extension of the days. This worship takes again aspects of the mythology of Apollon and worship of Mithra come from Perse, was spread with and was concluded by the Sacrifice from a bull, the Sol Invictus corresponding to the birth of the young solar god , which was supposed to emerge from a rock or a cave in the shape of a new-born child.
Contemporary symbols and traditions of useIn the Western companies, there exists several Symbole S and traditions of Christmas.
The AdventIt is the liturgical period which includes four Sundays which precede Christmas. Traditionally, the Christian light a candle first Sunday, then one moreover each next Sunday, symbols of the light which will reappear the evening of Christmas.
From this period was born the tradition from the calendar of the Avent: that consists, in a large board out of paperboard precut, to open small windows, one per day since December 1st until Christmas (24 days). Each window contains a sentence of the Évangile (Christian version), or a small confectionery (pagan version).
The midnight massThe Midnight mass, the December 24th at the evening, celebrates the Nativité of Jesus. Traditionally it started with Minuit; today it more and more often takes place at the beginning of evening.
The CribIt is a setting in scene of the birth of Jesus such as it is presented in the New Testament: on a table, or with very the ground, one builds a miniature cattle shed in which one has the characters (in Terra cotta often) representing the parents of Jesus and the Berger S joined together around the newborn. The first crib would have been carried out by François d' Assise in 1223 with Greccio, in Italy; it was then about an alive crib, i.e. with real characters. Since the 18th century, the tradition of the Crèche remained in everyone catholic, and particularly in Provence where new characters were added, the santons, which represent the traditional trades or of the scenes of the daily life of the area. The Magi Gaspard, Nickel silver and Balthazar, three scholars of the time of Jesus, are represented on the way towards this same cattle shed, but one celebrates their arrival only with the Épiphanie.
Pagan traditions and symbols
Christmas EveThe evening of the December 24th which, for the catholics, is cut by the Midnight mass, is in the very large majority of the cases passed in family.
The meal of Christmas, with the Christmas turkey and the Log of Christmas, festive meal of the Christmas Day (the December 25th). The Bûche of Christmas is a dessert in the shape of small log; often it is a rolled cake covered with cream to the chocolate, sometimes it acts of a ice. This log points out the old tradition to put in fire a large log at the beginning of taken care; this log had been selected for its size and its quality because it was to burn during all taken care.
The Father Christmas
This allegorical character is represented by an old bearded man charged to bring gifts. He is surrounded by a whole Folklore: Sledge wheel drawn by reindeers, letter of request for gifts with its intention, etc the image familiar of the Father Christmas, with his long white beard and its houppelande red, its flying sledge drawn by reindeers and its bag filled with toys, is an American invention appeared for the first time in 1868, drawn by Thomas Nast for Harper' S Magazine . Right from the start the character is equipped either in green or in red with the liking with imagination with the illustrators, but it is Coca-Cola which made universal the entirely red and white current dress. If it is inspired by the Christian Saint Nicolas, in particular by his clothes, one can also compare it to Julenisse, a Scandinavian Lutin which had the same function with the festival of the semi-winter, jul , in Norwegian, (or “ Jol ” or “ Midtvintersblot ” corresponds to the winter solstice) and helped with work of the firm .
The present are exchanged the Christmas Day with the people brought together under the same roof, and in the days which follow with the family and the friendly S close relations. These gifts are well packed in papers with the coloured reasons. They are open the morning of Christmas, or sometimes at the end of Christmas Eve. For the children, these gifts are primarily toys, and Christmas is the period when the merchants of toys carry out the essence of their sales.
Christmas decorationsPresent, as well inside the dwellings as in the streets, they give a festive air. They are often luminous to be able to be lit as of the fallen night.
The Christmas tree, always present inside the dwellings, is charged to decorate and gather the Christmas presents in the families. The first Christmas tree would have appeared in Alsace in 1521. In fact the tradition of a decorated tree is much older since the Celtes decorated already a Arbre, Symbole of life at the time of the winter solstice. The Scandinaves made in the same way for the festival of Jul, which took place about at the same date as Christmas. The installation of this tree will be regarded besides as a pagan practice until the middle of the 20th century by the Catholic church. On the contrary the Protestants will adopt it as of the Réforme of 1560 like symbol of the tree of the Paradis. Interdict in the USSR within the framework of the antireligieuse policy of State, the Christmas tree is again authorized by Stalin starting from 1934, but on the condition of being drawn up from now on to celebrate the New year.
Markets of ChristmasThe Marché of Christmas is usually composed of small gravers out of wooden and built for the occasion, which propose small articles of decoration, toys and gifts often artisanal. In France, the Tradition of the markets of Christmas, alive in the East (Alsace), spread itself in the remainder of the country during the Années 1990.
WishesVarious ways of wishing a Merry Christmas :
- Alsatian: Fréliche winorde
- Basque: Breton Eguberri One
- : Catalan Nedeleg laouen
- : Good Corsica Nadal
- : Good Native
- Creole: Jwaïeu Nouel (Guadeloupe), jénwèl (Martinique), zwayé Christmas (Island of the Meeting)
- Niçois: Bouòni Calèna
- Norman: Bouon Tied
- Poitevin-saintongeais: Boune Nàu
- Of Provence: Good Nouvé , Nadau or Calèndo (in homage to the Roman Calends of January, which indicated the New Year's Day)
- English: Merry Christmas
- German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
- Chinese: 圣诞快乐 (shèng dàn kuài it)
- Cornique: Spanish Nedelek lowen
- : Feliz Navidad
- Esperanto: Ĝojan Kristnaskon
- Finnish: Hyvää Joulua
- Hawaien : Miss Kalikimaka
- Hungarian: Italian Boldog karàcsonyt
- : Buon Native
- Japanese: メリークリスマース merī kurisumāsu (imported of English merry christmas ) (the ー can be completely or partially removed)
- Lebanon: Milad majid wa aam said !(Blessed Christmas and Merry year)
- Luxembourg: Schéi Chrëstdeeg
- Māori : Meri Kirihimete
- Monegasque: Festusu Native
- Portuguese: Native Feliz
- Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
- Norwegian: Gledelig Jul
- Danish: Glædelig Jul
- Swedish: God Jul
- Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest
- Rumanian: Crăciun Fericit
- Gaelic: Nollaig Shona Dhuit
- Bulgarian: Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
- Slovak: Slovenien Veselé Vianoce
- : Srecen Bozie
- Tahitien : Ia ora' Czech Na No you noere
- : Veselé vánoce (but on the greetings cards, one uses a French complimentary close on of use in France at the 18th century “To undoubtedly congratulate”)
- Polish: Russian Wesolych Świąt
- : Рождеством (rojd yèsst vom)
Sociological and economic aspects
With the Universalization of the exchanges Culture ls and the Laicization of the company, the festivities related to Christmas take gradually a character Profane and family and are more and more disconnected from religious interpretation .
Christmas thus becomes, for some, a pagan festival where, generally, members of the same family find themselves and gifts between them are exchanged according to a rather universal ritual: decoration of its dwelling and the Christmas tree (fir tree in the cold or moderate countries); installation the evening of the December 24th for the Midnight supper of Christmas of the shoes of all the family members to the foot of the tree; opening of the gifts a few hours afterwards, often the morning of the December 25th; meal made up of a Christmas turkey and ending in a Log of Christmas; etc This ritual is also found on a scale de a local population with the decoration of the streets and windows of store of the cities and villages at the beginning of December, the arrival of the Father Christmas on the markets or in the nursery schools, or in January by the Galette of the kings, which celebrates the arrival of the Magi near the child Jesus.
These traditions very largely allowed and are shared by the majority of the Christians practitioners who particularize their religious holiday by the addition of a crib and, for the catholics, the celebration of the Nativité during the Midnight mass; some however see there a diversion of the festival of Christmas. Déchristianisé, this day becomes, for certain families, the festival where the parents celebrate their children: they express their love by gifts without reason (contrary to the birthdays, individual festivals, etc).
Other large Religion S knows festivals where the parents thank their Enfant S for existing (for example Pourim in the Jewish tradition ). But the catholic authorities for a long time express their disapproval in front of mercantile turning which this festival takes. Exceptionally this disapproval could take at the very least spectacular aspects, like the December 23rd 1951 Felix Kir being mayor of Dijon,--> where an effigy representing the Father Christmas was burned on the square of the cathedral of Dijon by parishioners. One saw the forces of then left carrying out demonstrations of defense of the old catch, however symbol of the consumer society and genius of the event-driven Marketing. This fact various largely inspired the drafting of an article of Claude Lévi-Strauss in March 1952: the Father Christmas torture victim .
The massive purchase of Christmas present for Christmas causes a peak in the Consommation, in particular on the sectors of the toy, the leisure and the restoration.
In answer to this frenzy of purchases, a world day without purchase, generally programmed the November 25th, is organized by the Adbusters for purposes to denounce the economic aspect of this festival, and by extension the Consommation of mass in general.
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