It is Christmas Eve today and churches across the world are all decked up for the most important event of the year for believers of the Christian faith. It marks the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, and the second of the Holy Trinity of Christianity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). Over the centuries, Christmas has become one of the biggest secular festivals to be celebrated all over the world. Not only do followers of Christianity take part in the celebrations, but non-Christians do the same. Celebrations start from Christmas Eve (December 24) and continue till Boxing Day (December 26). Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
According to the legend, Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem to Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. In 336 AD, Constantine the Great, a Christian Roman Emperor, declared that December 25 will be celebrated as Christmas to mark Christ’s birth. According to the Holy Bible, the virgin Mother Mary was engaged to Joseph when she miraculously conceived through the Holy Spirit. She was foretold about this by an angel of God, who further said she will name the child Jesus and he will be known as the Messiah or saviour. The shepherds were the first to see the newborn, following them, three kings from faraway lands, guided by the star of David, visited the baby and offered him precious gifts.
Midnight Mass sees Christians across the world gather with family and friends, as they sing carols and read the story of Jesus Christ’s birth from the Bible, even as Christmas Eve gives way to Christmas Day. The tradition dates back to the 4th century.
People get dressed in their best festive wears and sing Christmas carols and hymns in praise of the lord.
Children wait eagerly for Santa Claus who gives presents and goodies to them. Santa Claus is an important part of the festivity.
Pine trees are decorated with colourful bells, candles, candies, stars and gift stockings. Most of the Christmas decorations consist of four colours — red, green, golden and white, and they have some significance as well. While green denotes eternal life, red signifies the blood Christ shed, golden denotes royalty (he was known as the Son of David, the King of Israel) and white denotes peace.
After the Midnight Mass, people head home for some wine and cake to celebrate the birth of Christ. The Christmas feast is a delicious spread that the entire family enjoys together. The traditional Christmas meal comprises delicacies such as roasted turkey, gingerbread, roasted chicken, mince-pie, Christmas cake, pudding, eggnog, mashed potatoes and mulled wine.