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The Joy of Christmas Celebrations

Christmas is an annual festival which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The festival is observed on the 25th of December every year and is celebrated by billions of people all over the world. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world’s nations and is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians as well as culturally by many non-Christians. It forms an integral part of the holiday season. In several countries, celebrating Christmas Eve has the main focus rather than Christmas Day celebrations.

A Celebration with Age Old Origins

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man they called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. People rejoiced during the winter solstice when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. Although Jesus’s date of birth is unknown, by the early-to-mid fourth century the Pope Julius I  declared Christmas to be on December 25. Though the Bible does not mention the date of his birth, there is some evidence suggesting that his birth may have occurred in the spring. After all, why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?

Saturnalia

It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, people went to church, after which the celebrations were loud and merry in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras.

Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

Christmas Celebrations in Goa

From the 25th of December to 1st January every year, everything and everyone in Goa seem to move much faster than usual. Sometimes the celebrations even commence at the beginning of the month. Family and friends arrive from all corners of the world to celebrate Christmas at home.

These celebrations begin with singing Christmas carols and offering prayers and giving gifts. Everyone is dressed in their finest outfits and every house and every street is adorned with shimmering decorations. Each house has a pretty Christmas tree festooned with little Christmas figurines and shiny tinsel buntings. Everyone has a crib in the house depicting the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger and the three kings who come to greet him. In fact, there are even Christmas tree competitions and crib making competitions in a lot of neighbourhoods. South Goa even has some gigantic Christmas cribs all over the place. These are definitely worth checking out.

celebrations
The crib at Panjim church
Image credit – http://lokaso.in/festivals-goa/dsc_7239_e-660×330/

It’s not just Goans that want to get home for Christmas celebrations. Tourists from all over the world also gather to celebrate Christmas and New Years Eve in Goa. Hotels are usually full up and there are celebrations of some sort that happen every day. Restaurants are also decked up in Christmas splendour and are all set to host the masses with specially designed menus.

So now you know where to be this Christmas for all the crazy celebrations! Goa is calling. Where are you?

(Information credit – Wikipedia and History of Christmas)

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