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How did Christmas start?

Christmas is one of the major Christian holiday festivals, established according to a church doctrine in honour of Jesus Christ's birth. In some countries, it is celebrated on the 25th of December (so-called Gregorian calendar), in others it is celebrated 7th January (Julian calendar). This article makes a round of the origins of Christmas and ways of celebrating it.

Origins

Pagan cult
The origins of the holiday were likely in the pagan cult of "dying and reviving” gods. This cult was widespread among agricultural peoples, who thereby celebrated annual "birth" of the god-savior, who awakened nature to a new life. Earlier celebration periods
This holiday was also timed to the winter solstice (December 21-25). Early Christianity didn’t have Christmas holiday. Even in the 2nd century, Christians celebrated only the January holiday - Epiphany. Replacing Mitra
Since the middle of the fourth century, the Christian church, which wanted to oust the cult of Mitra (god of the Indo-Iranian origin, connected with friendliness, agreement, and sunlight), turned the "birth of the invincible sun god" celebration being conducted on December 25 into a Christmas celebration. Pioneers of Christmas celebration
The members of Rome's Christian communities were the first to celebrate Christmas. The earliest mention of this festival belongs to the year 354. Christmas was legalized as an official church holiday in 431 at Ephesus Council.

Xmas trees

The tradition to cut a conifer and decorate it for Christmas with tree candles, garlands, sweets and glass toys emerged in the early 16th century. The first Christmas tree was set up in Riga in 1510. Researchers also found the oldest Christmas toy in the world belonging to that period. It was in 1895 that American engineer Ralph Morris made the first Christmas tree garland composed of tiny light bulbs.

Christmas around the world

London
Traditionally, since 1946, a twenty-meter-high Christmas tree is set up in Trafalgar Square on the eve of the holiday. This tree is always sent to Great Britain from the Norway royal family in recognition of the country’s liberation from German occupation by British troops during the Second World War. \
Italy
In Rome, a Christmas tree is set up on St. Peter's Square. According to the established custom, each year, one of the European states makes a present of a tree to Vatican. This tradition was introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1982. New York
In New York, a Christmas tree is mounted in front of the Rockefeller Center since 1931. Its garlands are made of 30,000 light bulbs. At the top of the tree there usually is a huge star sparkling with Swarovski crystals.

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