Once again Christmas festival is coming up. Birthday of the savior who split the era into BC and AD. Christmas is a religious and cultural festival observing the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world long anticipated by the people of Israel, as described in the scriptures. If asked when Christmas was first celebrated, the first recorded event is in AD336, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine. When we hear the word Christmas, what comes to our mind are Christmas trees, cribs, star lights, gift wraps, Santa Claus, cakes, and holy mass. How many times have we made Christmas cribs? Carols are sung, gifts are exchanged, the Christmas tree is decorated and each Christmas is over, we look forward to the next Christmas. The truth is that there is no boredom only enthusiasm. The fact is that there is no other celebration that gives us this much excitement and enthusiasm.
Everything about Christmas
There is so much to know and say about Christmas. Christmas was the fulfillment of prophecies. The people of Israel had long been waiting for a savior. The prophets had already recorded it in the scriptures, and those who knew the scriptures were waiting for that savior. However, when Jesus came and was born on this earth, none of the leaders of mainstream religion knew about it and the shepherds were the first to hear the news from God’s angels.
We celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but biblical scholars believe that Jesus’ birth date was probably in March or April. Because according to the Gospel of St. Luke, on the night Jesus was born, shepherds were in the fields tending their sheep. “And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8) Since the month of December is very cold, shepherds cannot be seen outside in the fields. That is why the shepherds take the goats outside to graze in the non-cold months of March and April. And how come December 25 is celebrated as Christmas? One of the reasons for this is that in the Western world, December 25 is the feast of the Sun God. But when Europe entered the Christian faith, the festival of the Sun God that had been celebrated until then was changed to the birth date of Jesus. The reason for this is the realization that Jesus is the real sun (Sun of Justice).
Another reason lies in the Jewish context. In 160 BC, Judas Maccabeus, the king of Judah at that time, destroyed the image of Zeus God that had been in the Church of Jerusalem until then, and restored the worship of Jehovah (Yahweh), the one true God, in its place. The festival of the dedication of this church was known as the Hanukkah festival. On that day all the Jews gave thanks to God with lamps, joy, and shouts. For the Jews, the Hanukkah festival was a joyful and holy commemoration of the end of all slavery. The early Christians were aware of this feast day and had no hesitation in celebrating that feast day as the feast of the birth of Jesus, the one true God who ended all darkness and slavery.
Thus, so many stories Christmas has to tell. Countries that recognized Christianity as their official religion later began to celebrate Christmas by infusing memories and stories of Jesus’ birth into the feast of the invincible Sun God. The celebration of Christmas has been formed by combining many stories, customs, and traditions into a beautiful festival that transcends time, culture, and religion. To be more specific, Christ went down to each culture, local customs, and legends. Thus, Christmas became a global festival. Wherever in the world, past histories, stories, and events have been passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth. Therefore, facts and imagination are intertwined in the historical description of that period. It is not easy to separate it into two.
How do we celebrate Christmas? Usually, we hang stars in houses, buy new clothes, Exchange gifts, decorate Christmas trees, go to church, share food with family and friends, and then wait for Santa Claus to come are the typical Christmas customs in our country. Apart from that, on the occasion of Christmas, charity work is also done, preparing a house for the poor and homeless under the leadership of the church or organizations, visiting orphanages and giving them clothes and food, and organizing art programs for them. We hang stars in our homes and institutions to herald the arrival of Christmas on the first day of December itself. Within a few days, the work of the Christmas tree and the crib will begin, buying gifts for loved ones, making or ordering cakes, and so on. So many things are associated with Christmas. During the Christmas season, we can see many objects that represent the birth of Jesus. Behind all these objects there is history, there are stories and there are ideas and also concepts. Knowing, reading, and meditating on them this Christmas season is enlightening, fun, and even a blessing.
Christmas crib (manger)
When we think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to our mind is the crib. Why is that? We are all born in hospitals or at home. But it is widely believed that Jesus, the son of God, was born in a stable. We do not know of anyone else being born in a stable like that. In memory of that, we make cribs at home every Christmas. Not only in houses but also in churches and institutions grass sheds are made. But do you know who made this crib for the first time? St. Francis of Assisi was the first to make a Christmas crib.
Around the second century, all Christians began to celebrate Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, but no one made a Christmas crib. But Francis of Assisi thought to make a manger one Christmas time, exactly in 1223. Francis of Assisi was a saint who lived in Assisi, Italy. He was a pious man who gave up all the comforts and luxuries of his life and became extremely poor. One day he thought like this, everyone is celebrating Christmas very lavishly. But the modesty and simplicity of the Son of God, who was born in a stable by making himself empty and humble, is lost in the Christmas celebrations. Francis tells his friend Giovanni that this year I want to celebrate Christmas differently, we want to build a stable.
So, for Christmas that year, in the churchyard of Greccio, under the leadership of Giovanni, not a manger, but a stable was built. Figures of Mother and Joseph were placed in the stable. And the wise men, the goats, the cows, the shepherds all were placed there. Even though all of them were placed there, only Infant Jesus’ figure was not placed there. On Christmas day, after mass, when everyone was lighting candles and praying in front of the manger, Infant Jesus appeared in heavenly light in the middle of Mother Mary and Joseph in the manger. Everyone who was there that day was lucky enough to witness this miracle. So, everyone started imitating this method started by Francis of Assisi the following year. Over time, this became popular. This is how the practice of making cribs for Christmas and celebrating Christmas came to all the churches, Christians, and people. continue reading