Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, but the Western Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December and the Eastern Church celebrates it on 6 January.
Task: Watch the video and read the information sheet description of the nativity story.
Task: Read the information sheet. Answer the following questions…
- Why is Christmas celebrated at the end of December?
- What was Saturnalia?
- When is it believed that Jesus was more likely born?
- What is Yule and how was it celebrated?
Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. In Western Christianity, Advent includes the four Sundays before Christmas Day. In Eastern Christianity, Advent begins in mid-November. The word comes from the Latin ‘adventus’, which means ‘arrival’. During this period, Christians prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth or ‘arrival’ at Christmas. The last day of Advent is Christmas Eve.
Task: Draw a christingle and label as below…
So what is a Christingle Service?
It’s is a celebratory service which thousands of churches and schools hold each year.
The idea of the Christingle began in Marienborn, Germany in 1747 where, at a children’s service, Bishop Johannes de Watteville looked for a simple way to explain the happiness that had come to people through Jesus.
He decided to give the children a symbol to do this. This was a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon. At the end of the service, whilst the children held their candles, the bishop said the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts that theirs like thine become.’
Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, which “represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ”. Within the Advent wreath are candles that generally represent the four weeks of the Advent season as well as “the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ” although each of the candles can be attributed its own significance as well; in one version of such interpretation, the candles specifically symbolise the Christian concepts of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three) and love (week four). Many Advent wreaths also have a white candle in the centre to symbolize the arrival of Christmastide, sometimes known as the “Christ candle.” It is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Task: Draw a picture of an advent wreath and label each of the candles with what they symbolise.
Celebration of Christmas
Christmas is seen as a time for generosity and for thinking about the needs of others. Churches run events to provide food and temporary shelter to people in need.
In the UK, Christmas is celebrated in both a religious and a secular way. There are church services with carols on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day is a national holiday on which many Christians attend church services to thank God for his gift of Jesus. Many people, including non-religious people and people of other faiths, have parties with food and gifts. Christmas is sometimes criticised for being too commercialised.
Task: Explain two ways that Christmas is celebrated by Christians.