Frederick William Dame
Christmas Nativity Scene
Source: nagygl at http://morguefile.com/archive/?display=192318&
The customs and traditions of Christmas have developed from heathen beginnings to the present day. Christmas as we know it to be the Birthday of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior has been celebrated by Christians only since the fourth century. Before that time Easter was the more important of the two religious celebrations. Christmas, if observed took a second place to Easter, the time to remember and celebrate the death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection into eternal life.
The etymology of the word Christmas is made up of the Old English Christes messe, meaning Christ's feast day, mass. This occurred about in the first half of the twelfth century. In Middle High German (c. 1150) there is the phrase Ze den wihen nahten, which means that in the holy night, which signifies when Christ was born. Wihen nahten is the source of the German word for Christmas: Weihnachten.
There are many explanations concerning why December 25 was chosen as the day to observe the celebration of Christ's birth. Traditionally speaking, March 25 was celebrated as the beginning of spring, the day of creation, and the day of conceiving. Therefore, it was logical that nine months later Christ would be born. Another explanation is that December 25 was the cult celebration of the Feast of the Sun-god – the winter solstice – in Rome. This day was extremely important for other cultures that were part of the Roman Empire. In 217 Hyppolitus of Rome (170-235), considered by Church historians to be the first anti-pope, attempted to replace the cult-oriented Sun-god celebration with the celebration of the Birth of Christ. The symbolic behind the attempt was that Christ is the Light of the World, and after the winter solstice the days in the northern hemisphere become longer, forcing the defeat of darkness. Furthermore, in the Old Testament Jesus is referred to as the Sun of Justice. (Malachi 3:20.)