Festivals of Light: Christmas
By Volunteers of the Children’s International Learning Centre.
Enjoy the pictures of crèches made from a variety of materials including plants from the collection of the Children’s International Learning Centre.
Christmas or ‘Christ’s Mass’ is celebrated by Christians all over the world as the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is both a religious and a cultural celebration.
The Christmas story begins over 2000 years ago when King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel). At this time, God sent the angel Gabriel to a young woman who lived in the northern town of Nazareth. The girl’s name was Mary and she was engaged to marry Joseph. The message from the angel was that she was to have a son, whom she was to name Jesus
The story goes on to say that Mary and Joseph had to leave their town of Nazareth and travel to the town where their families originally came from and enter their names in a register in order to pay taxes. Therefore, Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey as that was where Joseph’s family came from. Since Mary’s baby was soon to be born the journey was slow.
When they reached Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph had trouble finding a place to stay as many people were also registering their names. Thus, the only place to stay that they could find was with the animals. So, in the place where the animals slept, Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus was wrapped in a long cloth called ‘swaddling clothes’ and his bed was the manger that the animals ate their hay from
Shepherds who were looking after their flock by night in the hills and fields outside Bethlehem saw an angel appear before them. The angel told them not to be afraid but to go to Bethlehem where they would find, lying in a manger, a baby who was the Son of God. The shepherds went to Bethlehem and were the first to kneel before Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God.
The three Kings (also know as the three Wise Men) from distant lands had been studying the skies and heavens for many years. In ancient writings they read that a new star would appear when a great King was born. Each of them came from different directions by following a bright star and met at the edge of a desert. The three Kings decided to travel together to the town of Bethlehem where they gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus.
The story of Jesus’ birth is celebrated in a wide variety of ways because people interpret it “locally”. Often, pre-Christian elements have been incorporated, and the animals and plants available in one’s own area are used to start new traditions based on the original story.
Today, many families celebrate Christmas according to their own traditions. Families may celebrate the religious significance of Christmas by going to church and setting up a nativity scene known as a crèche in the house while others celebrate in a secular fashion and some families do both.
In Victorian times, families would spend time going to church and caroling at neighbourhood houses. They would also light Christmas trees with candles and decorate them with handmade ornamental garlands made from popcorn. Now, most people use electric lights and ornaments to decorate the tree. Gift-giving is also a big part of modern Christmas.
No matter how people celebrate Christmas, it is a time for sharing, giving and loving, having special foods and hoping for peace around the world.
The Children’s International Learning Centre (CILC) is a non-profit organization that was established with the vision of contributing to a world of care and respect for all people and our environment. We endeavour to do this by promoting respect for diversity and awareness of our world community through guided discovery and interactive, artistic programmes, which will soon be delivered online.
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