Do you know who Santa Claus was? And where does the tradition of giving gifts come from? See some interesting facts about Christmas below…
1. Christmas dinner – its origin is controversial – some say it represents the Last Supper, when Jesus and the Apostles celebrated the Passover. Others say that it comes from the old European habit of leaving the door of your house open on Christmas Day in order to receive travelers and pilgrims. These travelers and pilgrims should have dinner with the host family, celebrating and eating together.
2. Christmas presents – the origin of this tradition has both a pagan and a religious version. The religious one says the custom is based on the gesture of three Magi, who gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. The pagan one is based on Saturnalia, a celebration that happened in December in ancient Rome. It was a kind of carnival and the exchange of gifts was part of it. The act of placing presents under the Christmas tree began in the sixteenth century, during the reign of Elizabeth I in England. She used to receive so many gifts at her Christmas parties that they were placed under the Christmas tree.
3. The Christmas Tree – Egyptians used green palm tree branches in their December festivities believing they represented life, energy and fertility. Druids decorated oak trees in their celebrations. Ancient Nordic peoples also used to decorate trees in some of their festivities. The traditional Christmas tree is the pine. Unlike most trees, pines remain green during winter and are therefore considered symbol of life.
4. Nativity scene (or crèche) – In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi built the first crèche in Italy, reconstructing the scene where Jesus was born. Afterwards it became a tradition amongst Christians worldwide.
5. Santa Claus – this legend is based on tales concerning Saint Nicholas. He was a rich bishop who lived in Turkey in the 4th century and used to give gifts to poor children. Saint Nicholas soon became known in Greece and Italy. He became a saint in the Catholic Church after several people attributed miracles to him. In 1809, the story of St. Nicholas was popularized in the United States by Washington Irving, a writer. Irving depicted Santa Claus as a chubby elf who appeared on Christmas night riding a flying horse and giving gifts. In 1931 Santa, who used to wear green, got a red and white suit thanks to a Coca-Cola ad.
If you want to know how to say Merry Christmas in other languages, take a look at bab.la Phrasebook.
Enjoy your day and Merry Christmas!