Celebrating the Birth of Jesus: call it Christmas, Yule or Noel!
by Elizabeth Menon

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Celebrating the Birth of Jesus: call it Christmas, Yule or Noel!

It is that time of the year when people all around the world are in the mood for celebration, but how many of us really know what it is all about?! It is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus that happened around 2000 years ago. Though Christmas is celebrated on the 25th day of December, this date according to the Julian Calendar falls on the 6th day in January of the Gregorian Calendar! There is a difference of 13 days between the old Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar, and 6 January is celebrated as the day of 'Epiphany', which is believed to be the day when Jesus was presented to the world as the 'Son of God'! But there is a difference of opinion as to what this represents: some believe that it represents the visit of the 'Magi' (Three wise men or three kings), bearing gifts of, gold, frankincense and myrrh, while some others believe that it represents the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist – 'Epiphany' is celebrated in the UK on 6 January. It is believed that the date of 25 December was calculated by adding nine months from 25 March, when the Holy Conception believed to have happened!

It is holiday for most countries except for a few. The word Christmas is derived from the Middle English 'Cristenmasse', meaning “Christian mass”. Christmas is known by various names in different parts of the world, 'Midwinter, Yule, Nativity or 'Noel', but most people go by the name, 'Christmas'. The celebration has become a combination of various customs over the years, which includes, Carol service, exchanging Christmas cards and gifts, display of Christmas decorations, Christmas trees and lights, Angel or Star displayed on the Christmas trees, Nativity plays, wreaths on the front door, mistletoe and holly, roast turkey, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and various delicacies! Children still believe that Santa Claus or Christmas Father brings the gifts down the chimney! It has become so commercialised that retailers and various companies find it most beneficial, as Christmas season brings on big business for them!

Christmas tree was introduced to Britain in the 19th century by Queen Charlotte, wife of King GeorgeIII and it is part of the celebration almost everywhere now, to have a Christmas tree in the home. In spite of the commercialisation of Christmas, there is a family spirit of celebration, all the family members spending the Christmas season together, enjoying the special meal on Christmas day, and most of all enjoying each others' presence! The festivities continue and on 6 January, on the 13th day of Christmas, the Christmas tree and the decorations come down and it's generally believed that it is bad luck not to remove the tree and the decorations by that day! Till a few years ago, the 'Christmas Star' and the Carol service signalled the arrival of Christmas in Kerala, but now, Christmas trees and decorations are quite common and people enjoy the celebrations, irrespective of their religion!

Among all the celebrations and the feasting over many days in this festive season, I hope we find time to think of those unfortunate people who are not able to celebrate Christmas for various reasons, failing health, absence of their family members close by, poverty, or having to live in the 'Old people's Homes'! One could take a pledge to stop buying gifts and greeting cards and send the money thus saved, to the charity organisations, like some of us are doing already!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!

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© E Menon



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