How did Christmas start?
Since about 400 AD, Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus. 'Christ' means 'Messiah' or 'Anointed One' - the title given to Jesus - and 'Mass' was a religious festival.
In the West today, the real meaning of Christmas is often forgotten. It has become a non-religious holiday! More children believe in Father Christmas than in Jesus. Christmas Day is a time for eating and drinking too much and watching television. But the real Christmas story is found in the Christian Bible. It is told in two different books: Matthew and Luke chapters 1 and 2. You may think that the story of the birth of Jesus, and the way that the West celebrates Christmas today, do not seem to have many connections.
These chapters tell how Jesus was born as a baby to Mary. This was no ordinary birth! She was not married, she was a virgin, (yes, really!) and an angel had told her she would bear a special baby. Her husband-to-be, Joseph, did not believe her at first. Who would? Then an angel told him in a dream that it was true! Probably no one else believed it. So when they had to travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem (near Jerusalem), to register their names with the ruling Roman government, they probably escaped many hard words from other people.
Arrival in Bethlehem brought worry and upset: there was no room for them to stay at the hotel. There was only space in the stable - the animal house for travellers' donkeys and horses.
Jesus was born that night, and as they had no bed for him, they used an animal feeding box filled with the dry grass the animals ate.
In spite of many difficulties they had to face, birth of Jesus was a source of great happiness to his parents, and it remains to be the reason for great jubilation for religious people all over the world.
A Christmas tree
The tradition of having an evergreen tree become a symbol of Christmas goes back past recorded written history.
The Druids in ancient England and Gual and the Romans in Europe both used evergreen branches to decorate their homes and public buildings to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Over the years, these traditions were adopted by Christians, who incorporated them as part of their Christmas holiday celebration.
Trees used specifically to celebrate Christmas are mentioned in the early 1600's in Germany and surrounding countries. The families would set up these trees in a prominent location of their home and decorate them with colored paper, small toys, food, and sometimes candles. As these people moved or immigrated to other countries, they brought this tradition with them.
Through the years many different things were used to decorate Christmas trees. As the world moved into the 1900's, many trees were decorated with strings of popcorn, homemade cards and pictures, cotton to look like snow, candy in all shapes and sizes, and occasionally, fancy store made glass balls and hand blown glass figurines. Candles were sometimes used, but often caused devastating fires, and many different types of candle holders were devised to try to prevent tree fires. Electric tree lights were first used just 3 years after Thomas Edison has his first mass public demonstration of electric lights back in 1879. The early Christmas tree lights were handmade and quite expensive.
Today, Christmas tree ornaments can be found in nearly every size, color, and shape imaginable, and they are used to decorate the millions of Christmas trees used throughout the world.