Traditions of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ
One of the greatest holidays of the Christian world is the day when the Son of God, the baby Jesus, was born. What is the difference between Orthodox and Catholic traditions? Where did the custom to decorate a Christmas tree? How does Christmas celebration take place in different countries? All this will be discussed in this article.
The Story of Christmas
The history of the celebration of Christmas begins with the birth of a little Jesus in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The successor of Julius Caesar, the Emperor Augustus, ordered a general census of the population in his state, which then included Palestine. The Jews at that time had a custom of keeping records on houses and clans, each of which belonged to a certain city. Therefore the Virgin Mary, along with her husband, the elder Joseph, were forced to leave the Nazareth city of Galilee. They had to go to Bethlehem, the city of the David family, to which they both belonged, in order to put their names on the list of subjects of Caesar.
In connection with the census order, all the hotels in the city were filled. Pregnant Mary, together with Joseph, managed to find a lodging for the night in a limestone cave, where shepherds used to drive cattle. At this place in a cold winter night, a little Jesus was born. In the absence of a cradle, the Blessed Virgin wrapped her son and put her in a nursery - a cattle feeder.
The first to know about the birth of God's Son were the shepherds, who guarded the herd nearby. The Angel appeared to them, who solemnly announced the appearance of the Savior of the World. The agitated shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found a cave in which Joseph and Mary and the infant slept.
At the same time, from the east, the wise men (wise men), who had been waiting for his birth, were hurrying to meet the Savior. The bright star, which suddenly lit in the sky, showed them the way. Worshiping the newborn Son of God, the Magi presented him with symbolic gifts. The long-awaited birth of the Savior rejoiced the whole world.
Catholic and Orthodox Christmas: the traditions of celebration
History has not preserved the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ. In ancient times, the first Christians considered the date of the Christmas celebration on January 6 (19). They believed that the Son of God, the redeemer of human sins, was to be born on the same day as the first sinner on earth - Adam.
Later, in the IV century, by decree of the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christmas was ordered to celebrate on December 25. This confirmed the assumption that the Son of God was conceived on the day of the Jewish Passover, which occurred on March 25. In addition, on this day the Romans once celebrated the pagan festival of the Sun, which now personified Jesus.
The difference in views of the Orthodox and Catholic churches on the date of the celebration of Christmas arose as a result of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar at the end of the 16th century. Many Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches continued to count the birthday of Jesus Christ on December 25 according to the old, Julian calendar, respectively, now they celebrated it on January 7 according to a new style. Catholic and Protestant churches have chosen a different path, declaring Christmas Day on December 25 for the new calendar. Thus, the divergence in the traditions of Catholics and Orthodox has been established, which still exists.
Orthodox Christmas customs: Christmas post
Christmas, or Filippovsky, the Orthodox fast begins to observe on November 28, forty days before the commencement of the celebration of Christmas. The second name of the post is associated with the day of the memory of the Apostle Philip. It falls just on the "chimney" - the eve of fasting, when it is customary to eat up all the stocks of dairy and meat products, so that after not be tempted.
With regard to restrictions, this post is not so severe as, for example, the Great. Its meaning is that the soul can be purified by prayer and repentance, and the body by moderation in food. It becomes especially severe on the eve of Christmas.
Orthodoxy customs: Christmas Eve
It is customary to call Christmas Eve the day preceding the Orthodox Christmas. Traditions of celebration suggest that on this day the fasting people eat osovom - cooked with honey wheat or barley seeds.
In the morning on this day the Orthodox prepared for the upcoming holiday: they cleaned the houses, washed the floors, then they themselves were soared in a hot bath. And in the evening the children began to walk around the village, wearing a Bethlehem star made of paper on the ray. Becoming under the windows or going to the threshold, they sang ritual songs - "carols" - wanting the owners of the house well-being and good. For this children were rewarded with sweets, baked goods, small money.
Mistresses prepared special ritual food that evening. Kutia, wheat porridge with honey or linseed oil, symbolized the commemoration of the dead. A plate with her was put on hay under the icon as a sign of the birth of Jesus Christ in the manger. Uzvar (vvar) - compote on water from dried berries and fruits - it was customary to cook in honor of the birth of a child. The festive menu was satisfying and varied. A lot of baking, pies, pancakes was prepared. As the fasting was over, meaty dishes took their place on the table: ham, hams, sausages. On a hot baked goose or even a pig.
Trapeznichat sat down after the appearance of the "Bethlehem" star. The table was first covered with straw, and then - with a tablecloth. The first to put a candle and a plate of kutya. From under the tablecloth they took out a straw, wondering: if long - the bread will be good this year, if short - there will be a crop failure.
It was traditionally impossible to work on Christmas Eve.
Traditions of Orthodox Christmas: Christmas Eve
The celebration of Christmas in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus absorbed many traditions of the pre-Christian pagan beliefs of the Slavs. A vivid illustration of this is Christmas-day festivities. According to custom, they began on the first day of Christmas and lasted until Epiphany (January 19).
On Christmas morning, before dawn, the ritual of "sowing" the huts was conducted. The man was supposed to go into the house first (in the villages it was a shepherd with a pork of oats) and from the threshold to scatter the grain in all directions, wishing well-being to the masters.
Everywhere in the home, young people began to go around-in the fur coats turned inside out, with painted faces. They played various performances, skits, sang merry songs, receiving for this a symbolic award. It was believed that these days after sunset begins to rampant evil spirits, trying to make people all sorts of dirty tricks. Therefore, Orthodox mummers go to their homes, showing that the place is already occupied and there is no way.
Also on holy days, young girls usually guessed at a "sucheno-ryazheno"; in each locality there were many related beliefs and signs.
The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree
Celebrating the New Year and Christmas in our days is almost unthinkable without a tree, decorated with toys and lights. According to scientists, the first Christmas trees appeared in German houses in the far eighth century. Originally, there was a law prohibiting putting more than one tree in the house. Thanks to him, we have the first written certificate of a Christmas tree.
In those days, there was a tradition to decorate the spruce with shiny details, figures of colored paper, coins and even waffles. By the XVII century in Germany and Scandinavia, the decoration of the tree turned into a permanent rite, symbolizing the celebration of Christmas.
In Russia, this custom arose thanks to Peter the Great, who ordered his subjects to decorate houses on holy days with spruce and pine branches. And in the 1830s, the first whole Christmas trees appeared in the houses of St. Petersburg Germans. Gradually, this tradition was also picked up by the indigenous inhabitants of the country with a Russian-wide scope. Fir-trees began to be installed everywhere, including in squares and streets of cities. In the minds of people, they became firmly associated with the Christmas holiday.
Christmas and New Year in Russia
In 1916, the celebration of Christmas in Russia was officially banned. There was a war with Germany, and the Holy Synod considered the Christmas tree to be a "hostile venture".
With the formation of the Soviet Union, people were again allowed to plant and decorate Christmas trees. However, the religious significance of Christmas has shifted to the background, and its rituals and attributes gradually absorbed the New Year, which turned into a secular family holiday. A five-pointed Soviet star replaced the Bethlehem seven-pointed star at the top of the spruce. The day off on Christmas Day was canceled.
After the collapse of the USSR, no special changes occurred. The most significant winter holiday in the post-Soviet space is still the New Year. Christmas began to be widely celebrated relatively recently, mainly Orthodox believers living in these countries. Nevertheless, on Christmas Eve in churches, solemn divine services are held, which are directly broadcasted on television, the holiday was also returned the status of the day off.
Christmas Holiday in the USA
In the United States, the tradition of celebrating Christmas began to take root quite late - from the XVIII century. The Puritans, Protestants and Baptists, who constituted the largest and most influential part of the settlers in the New World, for a long time resisted his celebration, even imposing fines and punishments at the legislative level.
The first American Christmas tree was installed in front of the White House only in 1891. And four years later, December 25 was recognized as a national holiday and declared a day off.
The customs of celebrating the Catholic Christmas: decorating houses
In the United States, it is customary for Christmas to festively decorate not only Christmas trees, but also at home. Along the windows and under the roofs hang illuminations, sparkling with all the colors of the rainbow. Garlands also adorn trees and bushes in the garden.
Before the entrance doors, the home owners usually expose the luminous figures of animals or snowmen. And on the door itself hangs a Christmas wreath of spruce branches and cones, interwoven with ribbons, complemented by beads, bells and flowers. Such wreaths also decorate the interior of the house. Evergreen needles - the personification of the triumph over death - symbolizes happiness and well-being.
The customs of the celebration of Catholic Christmas: a family evening
It is accepted that for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, a large family in full force gathered in the parents' house. Before the beginning of a festive dinner, the head of the family usually recites a prayer. Then everyone eats a piece of consecrated bread and drinks a sip of red wine.
Then you can start eating. Traditional dishes, which are prepared in honor of Christmas celebrations, are in every country and region. So, in the USA, a must of beans and cabbage soup, home-made sausages, fish, potato pie is always served on the table. The English and the Scots are certainly stuffing a turkey for this day, they are preparing a pie with meat. In Germany, goose is traditionally cooked and mulled wine is cooked.
The customs of the celebration of the Catholic Christmas: gifts and hymns
After a generous and hearty festive dinner, everyone usually starts to give each other presents. And the kids are preparing "Christmas socks", which are hung by the fireplace: the next morning Santa Claus will certainly leave there for them a surprise. Often children leave under the Christmas tree delicacies for Santa Claus and his deer, so that those at Christmas are also not hungry.
The celebration of Christmas in small American towns has also preserved another pleasant tradition. On Christmas morning people go to visit each other and sing old songs devoted to this holiday. Children dressed up as angels sing Christmas carols, glorify God and the birth of the baby Jesus Christ.