In the whirl of Christmas decorations, carols and wrapping paper, it can be difficult for some people to remember the real history and meaning of Christmas but, to Christians, it is one of the most important celebrations of the year.
Christmas is said to be the birthday of Jesus and is usually observed on December 25. Billions of people across the globe take part in the cultural and religious celebration and it is preceded by Advent, which is why there is the annual rush to scoop up calendars from the likes of Argos, Very.co.uk, Baker Ross, Tesco and even The Body Shop.
Advent is also called the Nativity Fast, which starts the Christmas season. In the West, this historically last for twelve days and ends on what is known as Twelfth Night.
The traditional Christmas story, or the Nativity, as it’s known, hails from the New Testament of the Bible and is the theme of countless festive books for children and adults, which are brought out every year to help remember the real meaning of the festive season – This year shop festive books at WHSmiths >>
The story behind Christmas is that the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as predicted in prophecies, and started his life in a stable, as there was famously ‘no room at the inn’ for mother Mary and her husband Joseph. Each Christmas, children around the world dress up in Nativity costumes to remember this story and re-enact Mary and Joseph’s journey and the important role played by the shepherds and the Three Wise Men.
In some countries, Christmas Eve is central to the celebrations, whilst many others have annual celebrations on the public holiday of December 25. Christians and non-Christians alike will often organise family gatherings over the festive season, with a large meal on Christmas day and gift giving being a major focus of the celebrations.