Christmas is the celebration of the birth or Nativity of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity on 25th date of December every year. The festival is celebrated with a lot of gaiety and fanfare all over the world.
The festivities for Christmas continue for ten days from December 24th to January 1, the New Year day. Prayers, plays, parties, carols, and fun-filled get-togethers are a part of Christmas festivities. Also, associated with the celebrations are cakes, Christmas trees, gifts and Santa Claus.
The word Christmas comes from the words Cristes maesse, or “Christ`s Mass.” Historians
claim that the first celebration of Christmas happened in Rome in 336 A.D.
Early Romans, however, could not profess their religion openly as Christianity had grown up in blood and tears in Rome. It was only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in the 4th century A.D that the religion came to be followed by vast masses of humanity. This community then felt the need to celebrate the birth of Christ as a festival.
But different groups had been celebrating Jesus’s birth on different dates like 6th January, 19th April, 20th May, 17th November, 25th December. By the 5th century A.D. 25th December got accepted as the most suitable date in the Western World and gradually the Eastern Churches fell in line with the west.
Besides, traditionally the middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Even before the arrival of Jesus, many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.
Today, Christmas is celebrated on a grand-scale all over the world. Christians and even the non-Christian community participate with great enthusiasm in the various festivities associated with it. Christmas celebrations vary in different parts of India. In some parts, small clay oil-burning lamps, mango leaves etc are used as Christmas decorations and mango and banana trees are decorated.
Markets, homes, and churches take on a festive air. There is a lot of activity all around. So much enthusiasm is witnessed everywhere that people get high on the spirit of the festival. Balls, elaborately decorated Christmas trees, delicious cakes and Santa Claus moving in the streets distributing goodies to the children are the main attractions of the festival.
People decorate their houses, erect Christmas trees with branches hung with gifts and decorations, make cribs with figures of baby Jesus Mother Mary, Joseph, the three kings who come to visit the baby and shepherd boys and their herds grazing around depicting the scenes of Jesus’s Birth in the Bible.
They decorate the Christmas tree, hang stars and illuminate them. The celebrations start on 24th evening with carol singing and the Santa Claus visiting houses. There is a midnight mass followed by the pealing of the Church bells to usher in the day of Christmas. On the Christmas day, people enjoy a sumptuous Christmas lunch. Christmas cakes and wine are served to visitors and exchanged as gifts among friends and relatives.
Carol singing, get-together and the exchanging of gifts enhance the Christmas spirit. Christmas parties launch off celebrations for the New year, thus retaining the festive mood for at least a week.
People visit friends and relatives on the day and participate in the masses held in churches. Children particularly enjoy the festival as they receive gifts from their favorite Santa and elders. They also love decorating scenes of Nativity in their houses.
Exchanging cards has also become a very important part of the festivities. Besides markets
are flooded with a lot of decorative items on the day. People of all ages look forward to Christmas holidays with a lot of zeal.
Christmas in Goa
Goa, a former colony of Portugal, is known for its unique culture, which is a perfect blend of Portuguese and Indian style. People here observe all the festivals of all religions equally. Christmas is one such festival, which is observed with a great zeal in Goa. The Christians and non-Christians in Goa observe this day with great honor towards Christ. The celebrations last for 3 days and tourists also participate.