During this busy season, maybe when waiting in a line while buying gifts, maybe during a moment of self reflection after tasting all the dishes for the evening, have you wondered why do we celebrate Christmas? Is it really the Christ being born that is the center of attention in Europe’s and world’s most widely celebrated December holidays?
Christianity’s influence for culture
It is no news that any religion does influence people’s behaviors and the culture around them. Be it Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, the influence exists, even if its intensity today really varies.
From practices of personal hygiene to philosophy and ethics, the Bible has directly and indirectly influenced politics and law, war and peace, sexual morals, marriage and family life, letters and learning, the arts, economics, social justice, medical care, even toilet etiquette and more.
While Christianity is counted as the most practiced religion among Europe, the connection between people and religious practices seems weakening. Atheism and agnosticism have increased among the general population in Europe, with falling church attendance and membership in many countries.
Christmas in U.S. and Europe
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. It is a religious festival that celebrates Jesus’ birth – but even some non-christian countries follow the Santa Claus tradition. In the endgame, each country that celebrates this date has specific habits that they follow.
Although Europe is fairly small, there are different ways to celebrate Christmas around the continent. From leaving shoes in front of the chimney for Père Noël in France to setting up a presepe in Italy, from starting celebrations on December 23rd in countries like Sweden or Denmark to setting up a Christmas tree only on December 24’s morning in Germany.
Talking about the U.S., a 2019 Gallup report data showed that 93% of the American population celebrate Christmas. Nonetheless, only 35% of U.S. adults consider Christmas to be a strongly religious festival, the others refer to somewhat religious, not too religious and 7% do not celebrate at all. More Americans are celebrating a secular Christmas than ever before.
Christmas celebration nowadays
Christmas was traditionally a Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, but now many people of other faiths celebrate Christmas in a non-religious context. In the early 20th century, it also became a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike. While statistically speaking Europe is very Christian, realistically looking the general public is way more open and rarely convey to the rules of living applied for a biblical christian. Christmas – a celebration whose origin is Christianity – can now be found celebrated not according to any religious practices.
The disappearing religious context of Christmas can be related to the commercialization of this festivity. Back in the 1840s, marketers began to see Christmas as a prime opportunity to sell goods. Depictions of Santa were associated with advertisements in big cities like New York City and Boston, and the first in-store Santa appeared at Macy’s in 1862. The commercial ties of the holiday only grew from there.