These days, we often wish "Merry Christmas" to people around us, rarely thinking about the fact that for many people Christmas isn't much more than a cultural phenomena. That's why we thought we would set up a couple of articles about the different kinds of religious holidays that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are celebrating these days.
The MyHeritage Team spans the whole world, from the US, the UK and Israel to Turkey, India, South America, France or Italy and consists of people from all the big religions as well as people that are secular altogether. So find my brief 101 on Christmas below, the article from our Turkish colleague Oguzhan on the "festival of sacrifice" here and Schelly's article about Chanukkah here.
Happy Holidays to all of you, whatever festival you are actually celebrating
I don't need to tell you about the cultural part of Christmas. Even outside Christian countries, some of the Christmas trees, Santa and Rudolf, presents and cookies, bells and candles have probably found their way to you.
So instead of being about the
victory over Antiochus or Abraham's sacrifice of his son, it is about the birth of Jesus Christ, whose life story and teachings are a central element of Christianity. He is also believed to be the reincarnation of the "son" in the Christian idea of the Trinity: where God is father, son and the "Holy Spirit" in one. And the year of Jesus' birth has also become the beginning of the Gregorian calender (who by the way was only "invented" in the 16th century).
Though Christmas is probably the most important commercial event of the year it actually is only the second most important event for Christians, with Easter being the actual climax of the liturgical year. You can read more about the beginning of this religious year for christians in this post about Advent and Germany family traditions in the time before Christmas. Another more religious tradition is the crib or "nativity set", like in the middle of the photo-collage (which is from Wikipedia by the way). It is figures representing the birth scene of Jesus, with Josef and Mary, the animals, farmers and angels who might have been around at the birth.
Families would have some nice food on "Christmas Eve", the 24th of December and open the presents either on the same evening or on the 25th in the morning, which is the actual Christmas holiday. The more religious families would go to church either on the 24th or 25th. The 26th is so called "boxing day". It is a shopping day with Christmas sales in the US and it is about helping the poor and donating to the deserving in the UK. Both Christmas days are mostly spent with the family or at least with some close relatives. And by the way: Those days are also some of the busiest in the year for genealogy and family research.