What is Christmas

What Is Christmas?

From Creation to Bethlehem

by Ken Ham on November 27, 2013; last featured December 8, 2016

What is Christmas? This article shows the surprising connection between Christmas and the creation of the world.

Note: This article is featured in this booklet, which shows the surprising connection between Christmas and the creation of the world.

In December, many Christians celebrate a holiday called Christmas.1 What is Christmas? During this season, there is particular emphasis on an event that occurred around 2,000 years ago in the town of Bethlehem in Judea (today called Israel).

Christmas commemorates the birth of a baby—an event recorded in the Bible in such New Testament passages as Luke 2:1–20 and prophesied about in Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 7:14. The name given to this baby was Jesus.

During Christmas time, many churches display nativity scenes. These exhibits show the newborn Jesus in a stable surrounded by various animals, shepherds, and Mary and Joseph. Such nativity scenes traditionally have also been displayed in public places (shopping centers, public schools, parks, etc.) in much of our Western world.

Also at Christmas, people sing special songs known as “carols.” The words of many of these carols outline the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Because of the influence of Christianity and the birth of baby Jesus, history is divided into two basic divisions—AD (Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the Lord,” Jesus) and BC (“before Christ”). As evidenced by the fact that Western calendars and historians count the number of years from this time, this was a very significant event even apart from religious aspects.

Christmas Is Changing

Live Nativity

The Creation Museum features a Live Nativity at the annual Christmas Town.

In much of the Western world today, nativity scenes are no longer displayed in public places. Such displays are now banned from many public parks and schools.

Whereas Christmas carols used to be sung in public (i.e., government) schools, many times such songs have been replaced by ones that do not mention anything about Jesus and His birth.

Furthermore, more and more people are now calibrating their calendars with BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era), rather than “before Christ” and “in the year of our Lord (Jesus).” The year-counts are the same, but the name of Christ has been removed.

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White House

–>In public schools in America, teachers and students are being urged or required by administrators and lawyers fearful of lawsuits to use phrases like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas.”

Many advertising pieces during the Christmas season now delete the “Christ” part of the word “Christmas.”

Why was the birth of the baby Jesus considered so significant in the first place? And why is Christmas being viewed differently today? What has happened to cause an event which has so influenced the modern world to be slowly erased from people’s thinking?

The History

Bible

To understand the significance of the birth of this baby, we need to understand the history that led up to this event. The only compilation of books in the world that gives a detailed history that enables us to fully comprehend the significance is the Bible.

Over three thousand times the Bible claims to be the revealed Word of the God who created the universe and all life, and who has made Himself known to man. If this book really is God’s Word, then it should explain the meaning of the universe and life—and it does. Not only that, but observational science continues to confirm the Bible’s history as true. (See our booklets on the accuracy and authority of the Bible: available as a free PDF or on our online store.)

Genesis (which basically means “origins”), the first book of the Bible, gives an account of the origin of life and the universe. It tells of the origin of matter, light, earth, plants, sun, moon, stars, animals, humans, marriage, clothing, death, languages, nations, and so on.

In Genesis 1:27 and 2:7, we read of the creation of the first man called “Adam.” Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 15:45, the one born in Bethlehem is called “the last Adam.” To understand the reason for the “last Adam,” you have to understand what happened to the “first Adam.”

The First Adam

The Bible records that on the sixth day of Creation, God made the first man and woman:

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Adam and Eve

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So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

We read more of the details concerning the creation of the first man in Genesis 2:7:

And the Lord God formed man [Adam] of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

We are later told in Genesis 2:21–23 that God created the first woman from the first Adam’s side. From elsewhere in the Bible, we learn that all humans who have ever lived descended from these two people (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26; and so on). Therefore, all humans today are related because we have the same first ancestors.

God’s Instruction

When God created Adam, He didn’t make him to be a puppet; Adam had the ability to choose and make decisions. God gave Adam an instruction to obey in Genesis 2.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15–17)

Adam’s Fall

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Hands and fruit.

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Adam and Eve and the generations.

Not long after this command to Adam, Satan, through a serpent, deceived Eve into eating the fruit. And Eve gave some to Adam, and he ate as well. Adam chose to disobey God by eating the fruit of the one tree God had told him not to eat from (Genesis 3:6).

Because Adam was the first or “head” of the human race and all humans ultimately have come from this first man, what Adam did affected all of humanity. When Adam disobeyed his Creator’s instruction (resulting in his “fall” from his state of perfection), that was the first sin. And just as God had warned, the punishment for Adam’s sin was death—not only for Adam, but for all his descendants (including you and me) as well:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Why are we punished for what Adam did? As the head of the human race, Adam represented each of us, and because we all come from Adam, we have his nature, inherited from him. He sinned (disobeyed God), so we sin (disobey God). If it had been any of us faced with the decision to eat or not eat from the forbidden tree instead of Adam, the result would have been the same.

Oh! The Nakedness

Fig leaf.

After Adam and Eve sinned, Genesis 3:7 states that “they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

In sewing fig coverings, it wasn’t just that they recognized that they had no outer clothing—they also saw that they were destitute of righteousness. Their innocence was lost. Adam and Eve were no longer perfect but were now polluted creatures in their hearts and their flesh. They were naked before the justice of God’s law, and the fig leaves were attempts to cover what they had done.

However, no man or woman can hide their sinfulness from the sight of a holy God by their own doings. God sees us in all our nakedness and knows our impure, sinful, rebellious hearts.

The Bible says our attempts at covering ourselves (our “righteousness”) are but “filthy rags” to the Creator (Isaiah 64:6). No ceremonies, rites, or attempts at keeping the law can change this. Our works cannot take away our sin because our hearts are impure (Jeremiah 17:9). We cannot make ourselves acceptable before a holy, pure God because of the gross imperfection of our very nature—just as Adam and Eve’s fig leaf coverings could not help them.

How can we ever be reconciled with a holy God? This is an important question since we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and as such, even though our bodies die because of sin, our soul (the “real us” that inhabits our bodies) lives forever. As sinners, we cannot live with a holy and righteous God, nor can we make it to heaven by our own works—we would be separated from God forever and live in our evil, sinful states for eternity. What a horrible existence that would be. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The Promise of the “Last Adam”

In Genesis 3:15, God made a statement to the deceiving serpent that actually sums up the message of the entire Bible and provided hope to Adam and Eve and their descendants (us!) that there was a way to be saved from the effects of sin. So, what is Christmas? Well this declaration summarizes what the Babe of Bethlehem is all about; in fact, it is the whole meaning of “Christmas”:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.

What does this mean?

Genesis 22:18 gives us further clues about the identity of the promised “seed” of the woman who will bruise the head of the serpent:

In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.(emphasis added)

And Paul clarifies things in Galatians 3:16:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. (emphasis added)

Paul builds upon the use of the singular “seed” in Genesis 22:18. Here we see the extent of the infallibility of Scripture, down to the use of singular and plural words.

The words “her seed” are actually a prophecy concerning the One who, conceived by God Himself, would be born of a woman (actually a “virgin”): the baby who was born in Bethlehem—the last Adam.

The “Head” and the “Heel” of Genesis 3:15

Serpent.

It is a great mystery to fallible, created human beings like us that the Creator God (Colossians 1:16) became flesh (John 1:14) so that as a perfect Man, He could become “sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21) by dying on a cross to suffer the penalty for sin (the meaning of “bruise his heel”). But, because He is the infinite Creator, He has ultimate power, and thus He rose from the dead, overcoming the Curse.

Bruising the serpent’s head” speaks the mortal wound Satan received through Christ’s victory over him at Calvary. He is a defeated foe. His operation now is like the pockets of Japanese soldiers of World War II fighting after the surrender in August 1945—they could still instill casualties and do much harm, but they could not win the war.

Jesus came to take away sin and conquer the power of the grave—death.

Clothed by God

God illustrated what needed to be done to Adam and Eve by a particular act. In Genesis 3:21 we read:

Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

God killed at least one animal—the first blood sacrifice—to provide the garments as a covering for their sin. It was a picture of what was to come in Jesus, who is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

It is only the covering provided by God that can cover man’s “filthy rags.” The righteousness that enables a sinner to stand “just” in the sight of God is from God. No human being can put on the righteousness of Christ, for this can only be done by God (1 Corinthians 1:30). We can’t rely on our good works (our “coverings of fig leaves”) or on sacraments (e.g., communion, baptism) to stand just before God. It is only what God does for us that enables us to be clean before our Creator.

How Can We Be Clothed?

Now, if it is only God who is able to clothe us in righteousness, how can we obtain that clothing?

The Bible makes it very clear in Romans 10:9:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

When we acknowledge that we are sinners before God, repent of our sin, and confess the Lord Jesus, acknowledging that He died and rose from the dead, we receive the free gift of salvation from our Creator and will spend eternity with Him.

The Two Adams

Jesus Christ.

The first Adam gave life to all his descendants. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, communicates life and light to all men (John 1:4). He gives eternal life to those who receive Him—who believe in His name—giving them the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

The first Adam experienced the judgment of God. He eventually died and his body turned to dust. Because of his sin, death came upon all men, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The last Adam, Jesus Christ, also experienced the judgment of God—not for His own sins (He lived a perfect life), but for the sins of mankind. He died on the Cross to atone for sin (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 2:9). But He did not stay dead, nor did His body “see corruption” (Acts 2:27; 13:35–37). On the third day, He rose again, thereby overcoming the devil and the power of death for all people who believe in Him (Hebrews 2:14), and bringing resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:22–23).

This is the message of the Babe born in Bethlehem. It starts with the creation of a perfect world, and then, because of our sin in Adam, leads to our need of a Savior—which is why Jesus stepped into history to become flesh 2,000 years ago.

What Is Happening to Christmas?

Throughout the world, generations of young people are being educated in schools, colleges, and by the media with evolutionary ideas about our origins.

Sadly, they are being brainwashed into believing that the history in Genesis concerning the first Adam and the entrance of sin is not true. Logically then, they begin rejecting the truth of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

If the history in Genesis concerning our origins is not true and therefore the birth of Jesus is insignificant, then why should nativity scenes be allowed in schools and public places? Why should students sing carols about a meaningless event?

Creation Wise.

The erosion of Christianity in society is directly linked to the attack on the history of Genesis and the increasing indoctrination in a false history that has permeated the culture: that man is a result of millions of years of evolutionary processes.

Whatever the month of the year, the event that Christians celebrate in a very special way at Christmas is a message of hope for all people.

The message of the two Adams is what life is all about. But if we want people to understand this message, we need to ensure that we show them clearly that the history in Genesis is true, for otherwise, they will not understand or listen to what is said about the Babe of Bethlehem.

Here’s the Good News

Answers in Genesis seeks to give glory and honor to God as Creator, and to affirm the truth of the biblical record of the real origin and history of the world and mankind.

Part of this real history is the bad news that the rebellion of the first man, Adam, against God’s command brought death, suffering and separation from God into this world. We see the results all around us. All of Adam’s descendants are sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5) and have themselves entered into this rebellion (sin). They therefore cannot live with a holy God, but are condemned to separation from God. The Bible says that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that all are therefore subject to “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

But the good news is that God has done something about it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Jesus Christ the Creator, though totally sinless, suffered, on behalf of mankind, the penalty of mankind’s sin, which is death and separation from God. He did this to satisfy the righteous demands of the holiness and justice of God, His Father. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice; He died on a cross, but on the third day, He rose again, conquering death, so that all who truly believe in Him, repent of their sin, and trust in Him (rather than their own merit), are able to come back to God and live for eternity with their Creator.

Therefore: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

The Babe of Bethlehem . . . what a wonderful Savior . . . and what a wonderful salvation in Christ our Creator!

Please see our contact us page, or contact a Bible-believing church in your area, where the pastor accepts the accuracy and authority of the Bible from its very first verse in Genesis (including the Genesis accounts of a recent creation and a global Noah’s Flood).

25 Days of Christmas: Day 24 ~ Christmas Around the World, Part IV

Christmas in South America

The celebration of Christmas in South America is similar to that in Central America because of the warm climate and the religious aspect of the holiday. As with most countries of Hispanic origin, children receive gifts on Epiphany rather than Christmas; the nacimiento (creche) and midnight Mass are essential, but posadas are not as popular as in other areas.

Chile

Christmas in Chile is observed in accordance with most of the region, including the midnight Mass of the Rooster, but the gift giver here is known as BViejo Pascuero, or Old Man Christmas. Oddly enough, he has reindeer, but of course, with a significant lack of chimneys, he’s forced to enter houses through windows instead. A notable part of the Christmas meal is pan de pasqua, a bread that contains candied fruit.

Peru

Markets become very busy in the days before Christmas, offering both gifts items and decorations for the Nativity scenes, or nacimiento, that many families have. This is a time of song and music, although the Christmas Eve service is, as always, much quieter in nature. Children often receive gifts both on Christmas Day (as Santa becomes a more popular figure) and on January 6, which is the Feast of the Three Kings.

Colombia

Much of the Christmas season in Colombia begins in earnest nine days before Christmas Day, when the Novena, a prayer ritual, begins. The pesebre, or Nativity scene, is also important, with Jesus generally making his appearance on Christmas Eve. Colombia is one of the rare Hispanic countries in which children receive gifts brought by the Christ Child on Christmas Eve, not Epiphany.

Venezuela

An interesting tradition in Venezuela is “The Standing Up of the Christ Child,” or La Paradura del Nino. Accoring to the rules, the figurine of the Child must be stood up on New Year’s Day to indicate his maturity. Any Child found laying down in its manger at that time is likely to be “kidnapped” and kept in a special place of honor until the ransom is paid. Ransom is a paradura party. But before the party can begin, “godparents” must be chosen; later they lead a procession to where the Child is kept. After the godparents return the figurine to the manger setting and stand it up, children offer gifts and there is much food and dancing.

Christmas in Africa

In most African countries, Christians make up a relatively small part of the population, so Christmas is generally a lower-key affair than it is in many western countries. The emphasis is typically on charitable acts and simple presents, rather than the purchase of expensive gifts. Church services and often, caroling, are considered important. In Algiers, for example, there are a number of Catholic churches that celebrate midnight Mass, and streets are colorfully decorated for the holiday.

Ethiopia

The Christian church in Ethiopia is the Coptic church. Believers there still abide by an older calendar, which places Christmas on January 7, when people break their traditional pre-Christmas fast from milk and meat products with a meal of rice and meat.

Ghana

Christmas evergreen or palm trees are seen, and there is a Father Christmas who comes out of the jungle. Children have school pageants and there is more gift giving. Early Christmas morning, a group enacts the story of the shepherds and angels heralding Christ’s birth, traveling the streets and singing songs. This band is often rewarded with gifts.

Liberia

Oil palm trees are often decorated with bells for Christmas, with a church service attended in the morning and Christmas dinner shared in the afternoon.  It’s similar in Nigeria, where Christmas is a time to visit family.

South Africa

Christmas falls in the midst of summer vacation, so the activities are adapted to the warmer weather. Shops are decorated, streets are lit, and Father Christmas puts gifts in the children’s stockings. After a church service on Christmas Day, however, the Christmas feast is eaten outside. Depending on their cultural heritage, South Africans may also celebrate Christmas with feasts, carnivals, and parades.

(Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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25 Days of Christmas: Day 23 ~ Christmas Around the World, Part III

Christmas in Central America and the West Indies

Honduras

Hondurans have their own version of posadas. For nine days before Christmas, the faithful act out Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging. Once house in the village is chosen to be the place of shelter, where people go to sing and pray. Tamales are served, dances and firework displays are held, and people visit each other’s creches.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the Nativity scene is given its own room, not just a spot in a corner or on a table. In accordance with the climate, the decorations consist of brilliantly colored flowers and wreaths of cypress leaves and red coffee berries. Children put out their shoes for the Christ Child to fill, as their parents did, but Santa is beginning to show up more and more.

Nicaragua

By late November, festivities have started in Nicaragua. Children gather in the streets with bouquets to honor the Virgin Mary with song. This portion of the holiday ends on December 8, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On December 16, the Novena to the Holy Child begins; another kind of posada, it concludes on Christmas Eve at midnight Mass. Children receive gifts from the Three Kings on January 6.

Panama

Schoolchildren in Panama emerge in pre-Christmas activities much like the ones enjoyed by American children. Decorations and cards are made, gifts are exchanged, and there are plays. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated, with the meal including chicken with rice and tamales. Once again, children receive gifts on Epiphany, King’s Day.

Puerto Rico

Understandably, there is a large American influence on the Puerto Rican Christmas, which features a mixture of Spanish and American traditions. Puerto Ricans have Santa Claus and a tree, but received gifts on both Christmas and Epiphany. A fun pre-Christmas tradition is Asalto, in which a band of people appear on someone’s lawn to shout, sing carols, and plead for goodies. The owner usually opens up his or her home to them; after a small party, the group moves on to another house. Generally Christmas in Puerto Rico lasts from early December to Las Octavitas, which is eight days after Epiphany.

 

(Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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25 Days of Christmas: Day 21 ~ Christmas Around the World, Part I

Christmas is observed in all kinds of places around the world – from the privacy of a single home to public worship in a cathedral, in the smallest villages and the largest cities, in the jungles and in the deserts. In many places however, it looks much different than a North American Christmas. Do they have Santa Claus in China, for example? What’s for Christmas dinner in Sweden?  What happens when Christmas arrives during summer vacation? Here’s a sampling of global traditions, to answer some of these questions and more.

Christmas in Europe

As a general rule, the Christmas season in Europe begins in early December and lasts through January 6.  The celebration is marked by beautiful expansive Nativity scenes, delicious feasts, and the observance of Epiphany. Though each culture has its unique customs and rituals, there are elements that unify the holiday for all within a given country.

France

For the French, the winder holiday (known as Noël, from en expression meaning “day of birth”) begins on December 6, St. Nicholas’ Day.  St. Nicholas’ Day is celebrated most heartily in the provinces, particularly in Lorraine, as it is believed that the Virgin Mary gave Lorraine to Nicholas as a gift; he is its patron saint. He is also, of course, the patron saint of children; little ones throughout France leave out their shoes in the hope that St. Nicholas will leave gifts of nuts and candy during his night visit.

French homes are known for their Crèches, or Nativity displays, which are meant to look as realistic and beautiful as possible. Some contain santons (little saints) representing people in the Nativity. Santons came to France in the 1800s from Italy, by way of Italian merchants. The figures are made of clay, and in most cases, are clothed with fabric.

Flowers are another staple decoration in the French home during the holiday season. Lush arrangements of roses, gladioli, carnations, and snapdragons are often found on the table or next to the fireplace, as are poinsettias, hyacinths, azaleas, and Christmas begonia plants. Some houses assign a special place on the table a bouquet the hellebore, or Christmas Rose.

France - Pere Noel The arrival of Christmas Eve sees the infant Jesus taking his place in the family creche after a small ceremony. Little children are put to bed, hoping the gifts they ask for will be left by Père Noël. Previously, Petit Jesus, or Little Jesus, was the one who came to children on Christmas Eve. Later, the visitor was the spirit of Christmas, Père Noël. In present-day France, most children believe Jesus sends Père Noël in his place.

After the children are in bed, the older members of the family head off to midnight Mass. Along the way there are often processions re-enacting the Nativity, some of which end in living creches (where people play out the manger scene). The midnight mass itself is very important in France, and almost everyone attends.

At the conclusion of Mass, all head home to begin the reveillon (awakening), which is the grand Christmas Eve feast. The feast may have as many as fifteen courses, ranging from soups, fruits, salads, meats, fish, and chicken to cheese, breads, nuts, pastry, and candy. The reveillon often lasts the entire night, with no time for the adults to sleep before the children wander down to open their gifts. The adults wait to exchange their gifts on New Year’s Day, though some villages near the Spanish border mix Spanish and French traditions and open gifts on January 6.

Belgium

Belgium ChristmasGift giving in Belgium traditionally takes place on December 6, In French-speaking areas, it’s Père Noël who brings the gifts, while in Walloon-speaking areas, it’s more likely to be St. Nicholas himself, who makes a quick visit two days before-hand to take a look around and gauge children’s behavior. On December 6, good children can expect special treats, while bad ones look for sticks in the shoes that they’ve left out to be filled.

An area of the country known as Flanders is famous for its Nativity plays, which are performed with great care and attention to tradition. Three men who are chosen for their good behavior during the year dress as Magi and walk through the town. They sing songs at each house and are rewarded with snacks. Belgium is also known for its processions on Christmas Eve, which wind through town until they reach the church for midnight Mass.

Italy

Italy - La BefanaItaly is the birthplace of the manger scene, or presepio, which is filled with clay figures called pastori. It rightfully holds a place of distinction int he Italian Christmas, dating back almost eight centuries to the time of St. Francis of Assisi.

The ceppo is an Italian version of the Christmas tree. Made of wood, the ceppo gives the appearance of a ladder, with shelves linking two sides. The bottom shelf contains a presepio; other shelves contain gifts and decorations.

Italian children receive gifts twice during the season. The Christ Child is said to bring small gifts on Christmas Eve, but the more anticipated gift giving is from La Befana, who comes down the chimney on Epiphany Eve to leave goodies in shoes. Legend has it that La Befana was the woman who declined the Wise Men’s offer to accompany them on their journey to see the Christ Child. Regretting her decision later, she set out to bring the Christ Child gifts, but as she never found Him, she leaves gits for other children instead. (The tradition has variants in many other countries as well.) Santa Claus is also a familiar figure in Italy, where he’s known as Babbo Natale.

Spain

ThreeWiseMen1The Christmas season in Spain begins on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This includes Los Seises, the Dance of Six, an ancient custom whereby six boys perform a dance that symbolizes Christ’s birth and life. This is celebrated annually at Seville’s cathedral.

The manger scene, or nacimiento, has a place of reverence in the Spanish Christmas. This manger scene contains all the traditional elements, along with a few distinctly Spanish ones, including a Spanish bull and a stream of water. Sometimes bullfighters are part of the onlookers. These scenes are set up in public squares and in homes, taking precedence over Christmas trees, which are not common.

The Spanish refer to Christmas Eve as Noche Buena (Good Night). On Christmas Eve, family members gather in the room containing the nacimiento to sing hymns and pray. Late in the evening, the Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster) is attended. Many Hispanic countries refer to midnight Mass as the Mass of the Rooster; it has been said that the only time a rooster ever crowed at midnight was the moment when Christ was born. After Mass, a big meal is consumed.

Adults exchange gifts on Christmas Day. Anotehr treat is the Urn of Fate, a bowl filled with the names of everyone present. Two names are picked out at the same time; those whose names are chosen together are supposed to enjoy a lasting friendship or romance.

There is much dancing and other festivities through Epiphany, the day that children receive presents in their shoes from he Three Wise Men. (There is no Santa Claus figure.)

(Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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25 Days of Christmas: Day 17 ~ A Century of American Christmases, Part I (1900-1920)

Although its roots extend back for centuries, the Christmas that North Americans know and love is fundamentally a twentieth-century phenomenon. Take Santa, for example: It wasn’t until a nationwide ad campaign for Coca-Cola in the 1920s that he came with a consistent look. In fact, Christmas wasn’t an official holiday throughout the United States until 1890 – and even at that time, New Year’s Day was a strong competitor for the honor of prime gift-giving holiday. The following surveys and excerpts from published accounts of Christmases past offer a glimpse of the holiday’s evolution.

Christmas in the 1900s

1900sIn the first decade of the 1900s, technology was making its influence know, as the automobile rolled onto the roads in earnest and the Wright brothers made their fist flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Many Americans shopped by catalog from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and the toy teddy bear made its first appearance, thanks to a cartoon that showed Theodore Roosevelt sparing the life of a bear.

1900s Christmas Budget

Wonder what you might have bought for friends and family at the beginning of the twentieth century? Here are some popular items from the 1900s, with their prices, taken from contemporary newspapers and magazine ads:

  • Men’s smoking jacket – $5.00
  • Women’s corset – $1.59
  • Sheet music cabinet – $6.25
  • Phonograph – $150.00
  • China candlestick – $0.50
  • Boys worsted sweater – $2.00
  • Toy sewing machine – $1.00
  • Toy automobile with rubber tires – $2.50

 Christmas in the 1910s

1910sThe industrial age and mass production were the hallmarks of this decade, with the one millionth Model T Ford in production and name such as Chevrolet and Dodge making an appearance. Popular toys included Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and the Erector Set. From 1914 to 1918, however, our attention was firmly focused on Europe, where World War I was being fought by soldiers from Canada and other countries around the world, and from 1917-1918, soldiers from the United States as well.

1910s Christmas Budget

  • Women’s leather handbag – $3.50
  • Folding umbrella – $4.00
  • Opera glasses – $5.00
  • French plume – $1.95
  • Singer sewing-machine – $24.50
  • “Self-starting” Everett automobile – $1,250.00
  • Girls wool dress – $2.95

Christmas in the 1920s

1920sThe 1920s bring to mind the age of flapper fashion and jazz music, but the years also brought new fashions in art and architecture, from art deco to modernism. Frank Lloyd Wright was active this decade, and in 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. Hot toys included die-cast metal toys, the Raggedy Ann doll, and toward the end of the decade, the yo-yo.

1920s Christmas Budget

  • Winter overcoat – $18.50
  • Fountain pen – $2.50
  • Silk hat – $7.50
  • Victrola brand phonograph – $99.80
  • RCA Radiola with loudspeaker – $150.00
  • Persian rug – $38.75
  • One-pound box of chocolates – $6.50
  • Toy tool chest – $1.55
  • Girls’ ice skates – $5.00

(Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

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