Friday, December 22, 2006

Tradition of Giving Gifts during Christmas

We all know Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ around 2,000 years ago. This is a very important celebration for Christians, because this is when Christ came into the world to save the human race. Therefore, we praise and worship during this time, and have festivals, and so on. But where does the tradition of giving gifts to one another come from? There are other very important Christian celebrations, such as Easter, Pentecost, Good Friday, etc. but during these people do not customarily give gifts. Easter is a possible exception, but until recently, people only gave chocolates during this time. This is a topic for another day (probably around Easter). Back to Christmas. You may notice that St. Nicholas is always intrisic to Christmas, and this is the main clue. St. Nicholas is famous for helping out 3 women in Turkey who could not get married because they didn't have enough money. So St. Nicholas, threw bags of gold into their houses so that they would have enough to be married. This helped them greatly. St. Nicholas was a very famous saint for many other reasons as well. He was instrumental during the ecumenical council of Nicea for proclaiming Christ's divinity. St. Nicholas was a very holy man from the moment of his birth. Legend has it that St. Nicholas would not nurse from his mother on Wednesdays and Fridays, traditional Christian fast days. It is also said that after his death, many people received miracles from his grave. A large following developed around St. Nicholas and devotions to him grew substantially. During the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas had one of the greatest number of devotees of any saint at the time. In order to celebrate their devotion, people gave gifts to each other on December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. This became a tradition. Eventually, Christians felt there was too much emphasis on St. Nicholas day and not enough of Chritmas Day, so the date of giving gifts was changed to Christmas.

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