Celebrating Christmas | By Jubel D’Cruz, Mumbai

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Celebrating Christmas

IT is easier to celebrate Christmas if you know Jesus Christ. The first word C of Christmas spells Christ. Christmas is the most joyful time of year knowing that Jesus Christ was born on that day.

Christmas reminds us of so many things like the crib, Santa Claus and the singing of carols. On Christmas Eve, all churches are brightly illuminated.

The scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger is beautifully recreated, both in churches and in homes. Groups of devoted singers go around singing carols in order to make the season of Christmas come alive.

Among the various celebrations associated with Christmas, the sending of Christmas cards to friends and relatives has become a ritual.

Another feature of the festival is the installing of Christmas trees. Little fir trees or replicas of them are decorated and gifts placed on them. Little children believe that the gifts placed on the trees have been placed by Santa Claus.

The tradition of Santa Claus originated in Belgium where San Nicholas became the patron saint of children. Over the years, the word ‘San Nicholas’ has been replaced to Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, today, is known by various names in different parts of the world like Joulupukki. Sinster Klass, Grandfather Frost, Papa Noel. Julemanden and San Niklaw.

The Christmas Tree originated from the early medieval religious plays performed in churches and town squares of Europe during the season of Advent (i.e. a month before Christmas).

On stage during the play, a tree was put up and from it hung sweet red apples symbolizing the Garden of Eden (Paradise).

Soon people from all over the world began the custom of decorating a tree laden with gifts.The origin of the Advent Wreath is found in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic people who during the cold December nights gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as a sign of hope in the coming spring.

Placing lighted candles on the window sill during Christmas originated in Ireland when the Christian religion was suppressed and priests were forced to go into hiding.

It was then that the Irish families put a burning candle on their window sill and left their doors unlatched hoping that a priest would come to their house and celebrate the Christmas Mass with them.

The Holly with its green leaves, its prickly thorns and red berries suggested that the child born in the manger would wear a crown of thorns and shed drops of blood.

The Poinsettia with its bright, star-like flowers is a reminder of the Star of Bethlehem. Saint Nicholas, the 4th century saint believed that helping others makes us richer in life. The first Christmas card was designed by a 16-year old boy in the year, 1842. The first crib was prepared by Saint Francis of Assisi in the year, 1223.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Mumbai, India