It’s amazing to me how little people really know about Christmas. Yes, we should know that it is all about Jesus and his birth. That’s really the only truth that really matters. But there are many other things that are fun to know. Consider the following:
The word “Christmas” comes from the Old English, “Cristes maesse”, which means "Christ's mass." From the very beginning of the use of the word, it meant “worship”. The Christ-mass was a festival service of worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. While most of us accept that Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few miles south of Jerusalem, we really don’t know information about the exact date of his birth or even of the specific year. Calendars differed at the time when Jesus was born.
Or how about the infamous, “Xmas”? Some people get offended when they see others call 'Christmas' xmas. However, the X in Xmas, still stands for Christ. The X comes from the first Greek letter in the word, “Xristos” (which translated is Christ). Hence came the word Xmas. It was not intended to take Christ out of Christmas…just to be able to be a bit shorter to write in notes and letters. In fact, many people use the Greek “X” for many other things…Xn (Christian), Xnity (Christianity), etc.
We celebrate Christmas on December 25th…do you know why? Because there was no knowledge about the date of Jesus' birth, a day had to be selected. Early on, there was a bit of a divergence in dates. The Eastern Orthodox wing of the Church in the early centuries of Christianity chose January 6. That day was eventually named Epiphany, meaning "appearance," the day of Christ's manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome (i.e. Roman Catholic Church; Catholic meaning universal) chose December 25. It is known from a notice in an ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as early as AD 336. The actual season of Jesus' birth is thought to be in the spring, but when the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time.
Finally, what about gift giving? How did that become a part of Christmas? The truth of history is that gift giving is one of the oldest traditions associated with Christmas. Some people actually believe that it is older than the holiday itself. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on the Roman New Year–January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe accepted Christianity and began to celebrate Christmas, they also gave gifts. In some countries, such as Italy and Spain, children traditionally do not receive gifts on December 25 but on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. In several northern European nations gifts are given on December 6, which is the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Yet, you have to remember, gifts were given the moment the newborn Savior was born. The Magi bought gold, frankisense and myrrh. The Shepherds brought their hearts in prayer and praise. The angels gave praise to the King as well.
Remember, Christmas is all about memories, gifts, celebrations, and love. Yet, isn’t it true – if it wasn’t for Jesus, why even know the facts about Christmas? You see, once you know about Jesus, that’s really all the facts you need to know.