Some Little Known Facts About Christmas

Writen by: Community Writers

Many Christians around the world celebrate Christmas on December 25. The day marks not only the birth of Jesus, but also the holiday that has been the subject of myths, urban legends, and countless Hollywood productions.

In movies and TV shows, Christmas falls on December 25th, but Christmas is also celebrated on several other dates. For example, the Coptic Church—which has a community in the old city of Jerusalem whose ancient roots are from Egypt—celebrates the holiday on January 7th. The Armenian Church, another old city neighbor of ours, also celebrates Christmas on January 7th.

You might ask why this holiday is celebrated on different dates? The answer pertains to the calendar differences detailed in this informative video below.

Ok, great, but why December? What was so special about December that Christmas was to be celebrated then?

Today the weather forecast only appears in the last few minutes of the newscast, but in ancient times, weather had a decisive impact on the future of a country’s economy and people’s fate. Unexpected weather changes, delays, and surprises in terms of the change of seasons were interpreted as the anger of the gods and the change of seasons often became the most important days of the calendar. In fact, they often became holidays.

Christianity, today the most common religion in the Western world, began to expand when the Roman Emperor Constantine recognized it as an official religion of the Roman Empire.
Many important dates and holidays known to the citizens of the Roman Empire were incorporated into the new religion of Christianity. For example, the culmination of the festivities of a week-long celebration of Saturn, agriculture and the Roman harvest was celebrated at the end of December. December 25th was also the shortest day of the calendar, which signified the critical change of seasons. Therefore, many scholars believe that this is how December 25th was determined to be the day of Jesus’ birth.

Ok, great, you might think to yourself. The date of Christmas depends in part on what church you belong to, and also was a partial result of the convergence of already-celebrated Roman holidays. But, what else do we know about Christmas?

Here in Jerusalem, there’s a common, often re-occurring theme. This wonderful city that means so much to so many people also involves shared experiences, commonalities and many instances of agreement between the faiths of all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants.

For example, what is similar between Hannukah & Christmas?

For one, both holidays celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. During Hannukkah, there is a nine-branch menorah with eight of the candles representing the eight nights of Hannukah. The ninth candle is called the shamash, and it is used to light the other candles. Just as the shamash gives light to other candles on it, Christians believe that Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, who gives spiritual light to those who believe in him. In addition, there is a common root of both holidays in ancient and universal winter solstice celebrations. Again, this celebration of light and life amidst the barren darkness and cold of winter is certainly at the heart of both Hannukah and Christmas. This can be seen or reflected in the respective symbols of Hannukah—the kindling of light—and Christmas—the tree of life.

In today’s day and age, it is good to recognize the beauty and shared values of peace, love, kindness, and respect to others amongst all faiths.

So, in light of the holiday season, of Hanukkah’s conclusion and Christmas’ commencement, let us all recognize our shared values: that of loving one’s neighbor and fellow human as we should love ourselves and our closest loved ones. Because for as many ways as we can find differences that have the power to be viewed in light of the beauty of diversity there are also many ways to see the similarities that bond us as humans. Strength, love, brotherhood, community and perseverance in the face of hardship are all qualities that every religion and creed teaches, whether we celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan, Kwanza, all, or none of the above.

From all of us at the Tower of David Museum, we wish you the merriest of Christmas’!

Written by Joshua Rosen

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