On December 25, Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that a Jewish Rabbi named Yeshua, known to most today as Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel, roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God. The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as χριστός, romanized as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”
As Christianity spread from the Holy Land into the Roman Empire and to the Celtic peoples of the north, traditional pagan winter festivals such as Yule were taken over as Christian festivals and Christmas became a winter celebration.
Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian religious festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed time of rest and merry-making at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!
Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
For many Canadians and for millions of people around the world, Christmas is a secular holiday. It is not a religious holy day, rather it is a cultural event based on things such as family, gift giving and charity. For many Christmas is focused on children and the central figure is Santa.
Yet for many millions of of other people in Canada and around the world, Christmas Eve is a deeply significant night of the year in spiritual terms. Christmas emerged as the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Whether in churches or other places of worship, or at home, or in other locations, Christians gather together celebrate the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.
Check out some of these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days.”
Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas celebration that takes place from December 16 to December 24, concluding with Misa de Gallo at the Midnight Mass. Simbang Gabi is a Novena, or a nine-day festival, similar to the Mexican Las Posadas and other Navidad celebrations in the Spanish speaking world.
Dating back hundreds of years to the beginning of Spanish rule over the Philippines, Simbang Gabi emerged as a distinctly Filipino celebration of Christmas. One of the features that developed in response to the agricultural practices of Filipino farmers is that the services are carried out in the very early morning, sometimes as early as 3:00 AM.
Many Canadians trace their roots to the Philippines, including many students here at Lord Tweedsmuir. Ask some of your fellow students about Simbang Gabi! You can also find out more here:
The Winter Solstice will occur on December 21 at 1:47 PM
Why are there so many Holidays and Holy Days at this time of year? Why do so many of them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, seem to emphasize light, especially light in contrast to the darkness? Likely this is because of the Winter Solstice.
The longest night of the year. The shortest day. The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 (in some years December 22) as the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. The North Pole will experience continuous darkness, the Polar region near total darkness, and the northern hemisphere its shortest day and longest night. Winter begins. Most populations will experience the darkest and coldest time of year.
It is a time where people crave light and warmth, and so it seems natural that the feasts and festivals of December emphasize those things. Moreover, at the darkest moment, hope is renewed, as after the solstice the days will get longer. This is hope for more light, more warmth. Spring will come eventually. New birth. New life.
And so many different observances, feasts, and festivals emereged at this time of the year, many on the day of the Solstice, and others near to it on the calendar.
Yule: Celtic Europe, Scandinavia and Germanic peoples.
Alban Arthan: Wales
Modranhit: Anglo-Saxon Europe
Korochun: Slavic Eastern Europe
Shalako, Soyal :Native American peoples
Dongzhi: China & East Asia
Lohri & Maghi: India, especially the Punjab
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Brumalia & Saturnalia: Ancient Rome
Of course, we have spent the last few weeks observing the many holidays and holy days of this time of year. It is not a coincidence that celebrations such as Christmas and New Year have grown to be huge events in the western world, and by extension other cultures, as the west has extended its influence around the globe. In places where modern conveniences such as lighting and heating offset the effect of the cold and dark of December, we might overlook how important it was for our ancestors to hope for the seeming death of one year to turn into the life of a new year, and to celebrate such rebirth.
Hanukkah is almost here. Jews in Canada and around the world celebrate Hanukkah starting at sundown on Sunday, December 18.
The Festival of Lights is a celebration of God’s deliverance and provision. The event began in remembrance of Maccabean revolt in the 2nd Century BCE, when the Hebrews recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual centre of Judaism. Each candle of the Menorah is lit, one per day for the 8 day Festival.
Like all Jewish Holy Days, which follow the lunar Hebrew Calendar and therefore vary against the Gregorian calendar, Hanukkah can occur anytime from late November to late December. This year Hanukkah will conclude on the evening of December 26.
For more information on Hanukkah, check out some of the following:
Kwanzaa takes place every year from December 26 to January 1
From the Official Kwanzaa Website:
“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”
This 9 day festival is central to Navidad (Christmas) celebrations in Mexico. This is a neighbourhood festival that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph, who could not find posadas, (Spanish for “lodging”) before the birth of Jesus. A procession, including people dressed as Angels, Saints and the Holy Family, marches through the neighbourhood, knocking on doors looking for a place to stay. Like Mary and Joseph, they are refused, until finally the parade ends at one home where they are welcomed in. Feasting ensues, including a pinata for the children.
Rohatsu, Laba and Bodhi Day are all different names for the celebration of the Enlightenment of the the Buddha.
In much of the world is is known as Bodhi Day. In China it is known as the festival of Laba, while in Japan it is known as Rohatsu.
The religion known as Buddhism dates back to the 6th or 5th Century BCE, when the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama became the “Buddha,” literally, “the Enlightened One.” The followers of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism observe Rohatsu, Laba, or Bodhi Day, in celebration of the day that the Buddha sat below the Bodhi Tree and meditated on the meaning of life.
This day is celebrated mainly by the Buddhists of northern and eastern Asia, and in countries to which those people have immigrated (such as Canada). To many this holiday is known as Bodhi Day and it occurs on the 8th day of the 12th month of the lunar year. With the Japanese adoption of the western calendar (Gregorian) Rohatsu is fixed on December 8th.