Santa Claus is Jesus Father

5 Christmas customs and what's behind them

Was Jesus Really Born on Christmas Eve?

"But it came about at the time that the Emperor Augustus made a command that all the world should be valued. And this estimate was the first and happened at the time when Cyrenius was governor in Syria," describes the evangelist Luke . At the same time, the evangelist Matthew says that the cruel King Herod had all the children of Bethlehem murdered after hearing of the birth of the new king of the Jews.

The two historical events cannot be reconciled with the biblical Christmas story: The census described served to calculate the possible tax revenue and took place in the year 6 or 7 after the birth of Christ. And the hated Herod died as early as 4 BC, so there are around ten years between the two events.

The date of birth December 25th cannot be found in the Bible either, it was only deliberately set to this day in the fourth century under Emperor Constantine I, since pagan cultures such as the Romans, Celts and Germanic pagans celebrated the winter solstice on this day. With the calendar reform in the 16th century, the winter solstice moved to December 21st.

In addition to the year and date of birth, the place of birth of Jesus is also controversial: it is possible that the evangelists deliberately moved the place of birth to Bethlehem because, according to the Old Testament, King David was born there, whose descendant the Messiah was supposed to be.

The story of his birth was supposed to characterize Jesus as the Son of God and, through the connection with historical figures such as Quirinius or Herod, place him in a context with the prevailing expectations of salvation. The Bible is not a history book, but a collection of scriptures, which in Judaism and Christianity is considered holy scripture with normative claims for the whole practice of religion.

Did the Star of Bethlehem really exist?

For half an eternity, scientists have been looking for an explanation of what the bright star could be that led the three wise men from the Orient to Jesus, as described in the Gospel of Matthew.

It is known from historical sources that Halley's coment approached Earth around 2000 years ago. It is also known that at the time of Jesus' birth the two planets Saturn and Jupiter came very close three times within a year - an extremely rare spectacle. But despite the proximity there were two points of light, not just a bright star, as the Evangelist Matthew describes it.

According to other theories, the cosmic event could have been a supernova, i.e. the explosion of a large star that outshone all other stars.

No, Coca-Cola didn't invent Santa Claus!

Does Santa Claus exist?

No, it wasn't an American soda maker who invented Santa Claus. The basis for the Santa Claus figure is St. Nicholas, who was Bishop of Myra in what is now southern Turkey in the 4th century and around whom there are numerous legends. His bishop figure was secularized in the 19th century and her liturgical vestment including miter was depicted as a coat and pointed cap.

But since the Protestants rejected the veneration of saints - and thus also the veneration of St. Nicholas - the Christ Child came into the center of attention with the Reformation. In future, the Christ Child would bring the presents - at least in southern and western Europe. In Northern and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, Nikolaus and Knecht Ruprecht kept the task. In the course of time, the angelic Christ Child became independent and the relationship to Jesus became more and more diffuse.

Santa Claus was given his characteristic appearance by the German-American draftsman Thomas Nast, who in 1863 depicted a gentle, plump Santa Claus in a red coat with a long beard and a reindeer sleigh in Harper's Weekly magazine. Nast was guided by the Palatine "Belzenickel", a fur-wearing Christmas figure from the 19th century that he knew from childhood. When he was later to color the drawing, he chose the colors red and white.

The Swedish graphic artist Haddon Sundblom also adopted this representation in 1931 for a Coca-Cola advertising campaign that lasted until 1966. The US lemonade manufacturer has played a key role in shaping the image of Santa Claus.

The search for suitable gifts often determines the Christmas season

When are there presents now?

The time when the presents are given varies from country to country. Originally, the children were given gifts on the day of St. Nicholas, December 6th. After the Reformation, the giving of presents was moved to Christmas Eve in Protestant regions, as the Protestants rejected the veneration of saints and did not celebrate their name days.

In the past, gifts were given in Germany at midnight on the night of December 24th to 25th, after Christmas mass. Because the little ones weren't necessarily allowed to stay up until midnight, the giving of presents was brought forward to the early evening.

In the USA and Great Britain it is still customary for Santa Claus or Father Christmas to bring the presents through the fireplace at midnight and for the children to be allowed to open them on the morning of Christmas Day.

In Spain and parts of Italy, gifts are only opened on January 6th, Epiphany. According to the Bible, after all, the wise men from the East brought gifts with them to the newly born Jesus. But unlike in Spain, in Italy it is not Santa Claus or the Christ Child who brings the presents, but the witch Befana.

And something else has fundamentally changed: Originally, only children were given presents, and it is only recently that adults have been given gifts.

Why are we putting up a Christmas tree for Christmas?

No, a Christmas tree is not mentioned in the Bible either. There is no historically verifiable beginning for this custom, but in many cultures fresh trees or plants were brought into the home because they embodied health and fertility. At the winter solstice, for example, the "Heiden" Wintermaien took them into their home. Early Christians were all too happy to adopt this cult.

The first Christmas trees were not erected until the 15th century. News about the Christmas tree has been increasing since the first half of the 18th century. The custom had spread across Europe through the nobility.

No Christmas without a glowing Christmas tree. But that was not always so

The Reformation made the Christmas tree a Christmas symbol for Protestants, while Catholics continued to only gather around the crib. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century, after the wars of freedom against Napoleon, that the glowing tree stood in the living rooms across all denominations.

However, at first only the upper classes could afford a Christmas tree, because fir trees were originally rather rare in Central Europe. The common citizens and especially the townspeople had to be content with branches. This only changed when, from the second half of the 19th century, more and more fir and spruce forests were planted to cover urban needs.

European emigrants also brought the custom to the New World. It is documented that the German-born Harvard professor Karl Follen was the first to set up a Christmas tree in his home in Massachusetts in 1832, thus introducing the custom in New England. In 1891 a "Christmas tree" stood in front of the White House in Washington for the first time.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    The Three Kings - on tour again

    Kaspar, Melchior, Balthasar - according to the Christmas story, the "star interpreters from the east" were among the first visitors to the baby Jesus. The scholars had followed a heavenly phenomenon. Whether there really was a "poinsettia" at the time of Christ's birth is a matter of dispute. But one thing is certain: Back then, the stars were seen much better than they are today.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    At home in Cologne Cathedral

    The bones of the three wise men from the Orient have been lying here since the 12th century - in Cologne Cathedral. In an old shrine that is considered to be one of the most valuable and largest of its kind. But what if the three wise men didn't feel like lying in the shrine anymore? What if they wanted to go back to follow the star? Then they would probably have problems ...

  • In search of the poinsettia

    A sea of ​​lights and no stars

    Because the three wise men would see this: a brightly lit Cologne cathedral. And hardly any stars in the sky. Because if there is too much artificial light they can no longer be seen. According to the "Dark Sky Association", city dwellers can only see 200 to 500 stars with the naked eye today - it used to be around 2500. How should one follow the poinsettia like that?

  • In search of the poinsettia

    Light-polluted Europe

    "First out of the big city and then in the direction of Bethlehem," might be good advice. But there is no star guarantee on the further travel route either. Researchers speak of "light pollution" in Europe. This level of artificial lighting is harmful: it affects ecosystems and disrupts the chronobiological rhythm of humans and animals.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    Milky Way? Never seen!

    And so the starry sky for the Three Wise Men would look very different today than it was 2000 years ago. For example, where is the Milky Way? Half of all Europeans cannot see the galaxy even when the sky is clear - too much artificial light blocks the view. And a third of all Germans also state in surveys that they have never seen the galaxy.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    Places of astronomy

    Perhaps the three wise men from the Orient should ask where today's astronomers set up their research stations? The world's largest radio telescope is located in one of the highest and most lonely landscapes on earth: the Atacama Desert. From here you should actually be able to recognize the poinsettia - if it exists.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    The stable must be here somewhere ...

    Let's say the three kings sight the poinsettia and make it to Israel. And then? This region is also brightly illuminated by artificial light. The picture also clearly shows the Nile in neighboring Egypt: The river delta only makes up five percent of Egypt's land area - but as the lights suggest, 95 percent of all people live here.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    Christmas lights everywhere

    So here it is: The Church of the Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. This is where the poinsettia is said to have led the three wise men more than 2000 years ago. At that time there was probably even less artificial light in this square. The Christmas custom of illuminating streets and houses brightly makes gazing at the starry sky much more difficult.

  • In search of the poinsettia

    Did the poinsettia really exist?

    So here, in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, it is: the poinsettia. Science still puzzles today whether it really existed. Some researchers believe that the celestial phenomenon could have been a comet. Others believe it was a supernova or the meeting of two planets. It's a shame that we can't just ask the astronomers from back then.

    Author: Clara Walther