CHRISTMAS – as we know it today – is a religious festival remembering the birth of Jesus. On the 25th of December, however, already the Romans, Phoenicians and Persians celebrated the birth of different deities, so Christmas is a universal matter. The Greeks also committed the birth of the god Adonis on this day. Worldwide, Christmas / Christmas eve is celebrated from 24th to 25th of December by more than two billion Christians. In many Christian communities a familiy celebration takes place, which is associated with many traditions. The children get some gifts, a Christmas tree is decorated, the family comes together and a good meal is served.
If I remember my childhood, on Christmas Eve, December 24th by (Silesian) tradition we often had only hot sausages with potato salad. This was to the advantage of us children, because we did not have to wait too long for the gift ceremony and our mother had more time for other things to do. Of course, on the following Christmas day we had a turkey or goose with red cabbage and dumplings, which in turn reminded my father of his childhood.
The evangelists do not provide a concrete date for Christmas. The first time December 25th was celebrated as the birth of Jesus was obviously anno 336 in Rome. Till today, the Orthodox Church contradicts this day as official birthday and celebrates „Three Holy Kings“ on January 6th instead. Over the past few centuries, there were more than 100 different dates when Christian sects committed the birth of Jesus. According to the Christian belief, the birth of Jesus means the revelation and incarnation of God. The Evangelist Lukas reports that some shepherds learned first about the birth of an angel at Bethlehem. The most important place of pilgrimage till today is the Church of the Nativity of Jesus (near Jerusalem).
Winter solstice – a central event for many people and nations. Usually – in Europe – it is uncomfortable and cold in December and many people strive for light and warmth. At the end of the month the days are getting shorter and shorter and sun-light becomes more and more important. The joy of it was already expressed by the Celts, Romans and Teutons celebrating the festival of the so called winter solstice.
Is Christmas Eve already Christmas? Christmas Eve is actually the night before Christmas. It is not synonymous with Christmas, but is often called the same way. For children who are looking forward to the Christmas tradition, Christmas Eve is much more important than Christmas, because the gifts of parents and family members are handed over. The fact that we in Germany are celebrating the 24th of December is still a relatively new custom. The background is the liturgical rule that prior to all major festivals in Christianity a vigil, a kind of nighttime devotion, is held. In Judaism, too, the custom is known to rest and pray on the eve before a ritual holiday to become prepared. Until the 18th century, the traditional Christmas service was held on Christmas Day the 25th between 3:00 and 5:00 in the morning. It could take two or three hours and was the absolute highlight of all Christmas celebrations. Only then, before sunrise, the gift presentation took place.
That’s how I once experienced it in Ruka / Finland north of the Arctic Circle. Participating at the church service at midnight, snow and icy temperatures guarantee to quickly wake you up again. The wooden churches, however, are well heated. Upon return home usually a delicious sweet rice pudding as a snack is served and you treat yourself with a hot molteberry/ cloudberry juice – with or without alcoholic „shot“ (similar to the Swedish Glögg). https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moltebeere
Just very comfortable and relaxing, especially as we also had a full moon sleigh ride. For the children, the waiting time for Santa and his reindeers usually becomes too long and most of them fall asleep anyway and yet the exchange of presents only happens next morning. In North America this is custom too and the children’s stockings hung by the fireplace are filled with gifts during the night.
Where is Christmas not celebrated? Over the time, Christmas has received a variety of imprints from family traditions and religious rites. But in many other religions Christmas has no meaning at all; neither in Buddhism nor in Hinduism or Judaism. In the Jewish religion the “Festival of Lights/ Chanukka” is celebrated instead, which also takes place in December, but theologically has nothing to do with Christmas. The “Santa Lucia Festival” of the nordic /Sscandinavian peoples is also dedicated to the lights (this year on December 13th ) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luciafest
Which Christmas customs are known? There are some things that are traditionally associated with Christmas for many people. This – for example – includes the visit of a Christmas market. I rather like the small and not so crowded places. Particularly enchanting to me are the historic Christmas market of Bad Wimpfen (near Neckarsulm / Heilbronn, only open on the weekends) and the Victorian Market of Saarburg. The latter one refers to good old England at the turn of the 19th century (only 2nd and 3rd weekend in December). Particularly cosy is also the open-air Christmas market in Oberndorf near Salzburg, the place of origin of the most popular christmas song “Silent Night, holy night” (every year on December 24th at 16.00 hours at the little chapel) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stille-Nacht
Also the shrill bells and grim wooden masks of the „Perchten“ are a highlight in many Bavarian and Austrian villages.The absolute number 1 to me is of course the “Home of Santa” in Rovaniemi/ Finland.
Although I do not buy a Christmas tree in the classical sense, I usually create a space-saving wall arrangement. Nevertheless I prefer to inhale the smell of hamlo/ pine trees during a forest walk. Inside the house I like to use oriental scents, such as frankincense (from the Oman) and sandalwood or various aromatic smoker notes.
The topic Christmas carols was already a critical point in my childhood days. My parents did not really insist on it. In other words: my younger brother had to present a short poem and I played 1-2 Chrtistmas classics on my flute – period. Today I take some time to practice on my harp in fall and winter. On the 3rd or 4th of Advent I give a,”domestic serenade“, preferrably with some alpine sounds and own compositions.
Unfortunately, reading Christmas stories had no tradition in our family. For that I love it, if on some „castle markets“ the landlord takes over this task in the historical chimney room for 30-45 minutes (for example at Amerang Castle south of Munich near lake Chiemsee).
With the lighting, I hold rather back. Only “our Rudy”, a large reindeer made of wicker, is lighted in the evening discreetly on the terrace. I love reindeers in the great outdoors, but also those, who transform themselves all-Christmas into “Rodney, the red-nosed reindeer”.
Last but not least, I / we would like to wish you all A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS SEASON, and furthermore lot’s of joy reading and browsing our TAM blog pages!
Oh yes, not to forget clothing. Allowed is what pleases and fits to the ambience or the occasion – no matter if inside or outside your own four walls. I usually choose a kind of comfortable chic. For example, dark blue stretch pants and a longer light blouse with a bow will always be suitable. Put on some blue ankle boots or just cuddly socks – ready. New Year’s Eve may be a bit more extravagant. For example shirt and / or pants of stretch velvet combined with my recent creation: https://www.topagemodel.de/2019/09/21/people-make-clothes-just-my-style/
In order to avoid additional stress, I consider a few days in advance what might be appropriate and have it ready on hand to be on the safe side. Because time-consuming unexpected obligations, unfortunately, appear often …….