'Christmas is forever, not just for one day. It's for loving, for sharing and for giving...Not to be put away like balls, lights and tinsel...The good you do for others is the good you do for yourself.
History of Christmas - Jesus birth - 'The reason for the season', if you will. Two different ancient accounts - the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke - record the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as occurring in Bethlehem of Judea. Truthfully his birth wasn't that different from any other baby boy's at that time.
Of course, there are a few unusual elements. There is the report of a remarkable star in the sky and stories of angles singing. But most of the details of Jesus' birth are quite ordinary. Though somewhat scandalous - an unmarried couple having a baby out of wedlock - it's a story that normally wouldn't garner much attention.
Except, of course, that this little baby grew up to be a revolutionary Jewish teacher, a threat to the religious establishment, and a crucified leader of a band of misfits who claimed to see him risen form the dead three days later.
And that story certainly did garner attention, eventually transforming the mighty Roman Empire and launching the Christian movement that today counts over two billion followers.
At first, Christmas were focused on remembering just Jesus'life, death, and resurrection. Few thought to commemorate his birth as an important marker. But by the early middle ages, Christian leaders had decided to celebrate this holiday on December 25th.
They couldn't be certain about the actual date that Jesus was born because there were no records. Jesus was born among the poorer classes, and no one stopped to mark the day or even the month a poor child came into the world. So the early church leaders chose a day to set aside for celebrating Jesus' birth.
Even though this might be hard to imagine, given the importance many cultures now put on birth based on accurate calculations of other dates in Jesus' life. About the same time, in 274, Roman Emperor Aurelian instituted a pagan festival celebrating the "Birth of the Unconquered Sun", which coincided with the winter solstice on December 25. It's unclear is Aurelain was attempting to create a pagan alternative to a date already of some significance to Roman Christians, or vice versa.
However either way, in the years that followed, as Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire, celebrating Jesus' birth on December 25 as Christmas - "Christ's mass" - was adopted.
Christmas in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their presents, and to spend quality time together.
Most families have Christmas Tree in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping. Christmas Tress were first popularised in the United Kingdom by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.
Most villages, towns and cites are decorated with Christmas lights all over the Christmas Season. Often a famous person switches them on. The most famous Christmas lights in the United Kingdom are in Oxford Street in London. Every year they get bigger and better with thousands of people go to watch the big 'Switch on' around the beginning of November.
Like most countries, Nativity Plays and Carol services are also very popular at Christmas time. The church is only lit up by candles. Its a very special service and always makes me feel very Christmassy! Lots of other British churches also have Carols by Candlelight and Christingle services.
Many children believe that Father Christmas comes and leaves presents for them under the tree and in their stockings on Christmas Eve, ready for them to open on Christmas day. Many children leave out mince pies and a small glass of brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them.
However there are some customs that only take place in the United Kingdom, such as;
Wassailing - This is an old Anglo-Saxon custom that doesn't take place much today.
Boxing Day - This is a very old custom that started in the United Kingdom and now is taken as a holiday in many countries around the world.
In the United Kingdom, the main Christmas meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It's normally roast turkey, roast potatoes and 'all the trimmings' which means vegetables like carrots, peas, sweetcorn, brussel sprouts, stuffing and sausages wrapped in bacon. It's often served with cranberry sauce and gravy. For dessert it's often Christmas pudding, however mince pies and lots of chocolates are eaten too.
Christmas in India
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India.
One of the largest Indian Christian communities is in Mumbai. A lot if the Christians in Mumbai are Roman Catholics. Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
Instead of having traditional Christmas Tress, a banana or mango tree is decorated. Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.
In southern India, Christians often put a small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbours that Jesus is the light of the world.
Christmas in Mumbai often display a manger in a front window. Also families go to great lengths to hang giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars, between the houses so that the stars float about you as you walk down the road. Every household also makes sure that they have a stock of home made sweets ready to give to visitors.
In South-West India, in the state of Kerala were, 22% of the state's 33 million of the population are Christmas and Christmas to them is very important festival. Traditional Catholics fast don't eat from 1st to 24th of December - until the midnight service. Every house will be decorated with a Christmas star. During the start of the Christmas season, almost all the stationary shops will be filled with new and variety Christmas stars. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.
In North-West India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas stories.
Christmas in Jamaica
Christmas is a very special time in Jamaica and like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the Christmas season. Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas day at home with friends and family members.
The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican Christmas meal includes fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled banana, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.
Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcakes is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.
Christmas in Taiwan
Christmas is celebrated more widely in Taiwan than in mainland China. however not many people in Taiwan are Christians (about 5%), many stores will sell Christmas related items at Christmas time. It's also not a notional holiday in Taiwan.
Even so, most children know about Santa Claus and might even know a Christmas song or two! Parents of children at popular English schools expect a full Christmas festival, complete with gift exchanges, singing, and of course, a visit to the school from Santa. Many schools will perform a kind of Christmas a pageant or play with sugar plum fairies, reindeer, snowflakes, elves and other Christmas characters singing on stage for parents.
By Beth Lloyd