By Livinus Nnebedum
Who will like to suffer and die like Jesus Christ so that we celebrate his/her Christmas. This is a challenge to all inhabitants of the Earth to do good.
Most Christendom worldwide, including non-Christians, like to celebrate Christmas remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. But who will be very good as Jesus Christ so that he will ever be remembered for posterity? This is a food for thought as we think deep on Christmas celebration and reflect on the origin of Christmas Day 25 December.
Christmas is a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It was not known the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ but most Christians observe Christmas on December 25. First celebration of Christmas was on December 25 about AD 336. The date 25, December, marked the old pagan festival called Saturnalia held by Ancient Romans for their end of year celebrations to honour Saturn their harvest god. However, the Christian festival replaced the pagan festival. Thus the celebration of 25 December as Jesus birth date was probably influenced by the pagan festival held at that time. To date, Roman Catholics, Anglican and other churches observe it on 25 December.
Why then did the church celebrate Christmas on 25 December? For about 300 years after Jesus lived, Christmas was not celebrated at all. The Christians were often persecuted and had to worship secretly. They lived in a pagan world that did not honour Jesus. But not long after AD 300, a Roman Emperor came to the throne who became a Christian and made Christianity the Chief Religion of the Empire and that Emperor was Constantine. Until this time the pagan Romans had a great mid – winter festival on 25 December which was the greatest of all pagan feasts. But when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire a great Christian festival called Christmas took over the place of great pagan one. Therefore, about the year AD 336 and ever since it has been a time of great happiness to all Christians as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
When was Jesus Christ born? A monk called Dionysius tried to calculate the year in which Jesus was born. He called that year AD ONE. What does AD stand for? It means, “in the year of our Lord”. The abbreviation AD stands for “Anno Domini and it is a latin word. Thus AD 336 means “336 years after the birth of Jesus Christ”. The gospel of St. Luke Chapter one verse five helps us to find out when Jesus was born by telling us who the King of Judea was at that time. It was King Herod who was ruling during the birth of Jesus Christ. Also St. Luke’s Gospel told us who the Roman Emperor was at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1). It was Emperor Augustus.
In U.S; Canada and other English speaking countries including Nigeria, the phrase “Merry Christmas” is used for Christmas greeting. In Italy they use “Buon Natale” as Christmas greeting while in China they use “Sheng Dan Kaul le”. In Swedden they use “God Jul”. Christmas is the highest and busiest time of the year for billions of Christians throughout the world.
For many Christians, the Christmas Season reach a climax at midnight Mass usually held in various Christian churches with Christmas Season Songs and Carols.
Livinus Nnebedum, Former Director in Anambra State
Agricultural Development Program (ADP)/Ministry of Agriculture, author of many Agric Textbooks, Current Affairs, Historical & Tourism Handbooks, writes from Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze.