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Bible Encyclopedias
Christmas

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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We present the following additional particulars concerning this important festival:

"Pope Julius I confirmed the birthday of our Lord to be kept on December 25; and Chrysostom, in the 4th century, speaks of the feast as of great antiquity; Clement of Alexandria, in the beginning of the 3d century, speaks of it, but refers it to April 19 or 20, or May 20; and sermons of Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, preached on this day, are still extant. Epiphanins reckons it on January 6, but Augustine on December 25. From the West the observance of the day passed to the Eastern Church in the 4th century; as Chrysostom says, the feast was unknown at Antioch tell years before the time he was preaching, that is, probably, as kept on December 25, the day hitherto observed having been January 6. The Latins, and Africa, and the Greek Church, generally, however, held the Nativity on December 25, as appears from Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil, and Gregory Nazianzel. The Orientals in Egypt, Cyprus, Antioch, and Palestine appear to have observed, for a time only, January 6, as the feast of. the Nativity and-Epiphany, or Theophania, name equally applicable to both, as Gregory Nazianzen observes.

However, about the beginning of the 5th century the Nativity was commemorated, in the East, on December 25, and the Epiphany on the later day. In the 6th century, beyond doubt, East and West agreed in their observance. The Basquecallit the New Day, because all things are become new old things are passed away. Christmas Eve is called, in Celtic, the Night of Mary; in Germany, the Holy Night; in Portugal, the Pasch of the Nativity; and in old English, Yule Merriment. In the Isle of Man the peasants bring tapers to church, and sing carols; and in Germany they beat with mallets on the house door, to symbolize the anxiety of the spirits in prison to learn the glad tidings of the Nativity. There were three masses on this day: one at midnight on the eve [except in the Gallican, Mozarabic, and Armenian rites], commemorating the actual birth of our Lord; the second at dawn or cock-crow, its revelation to man in the shepherds; and the third at noon, the eternal sonship of the Holy Child Jesus. Two masses were said in France in the time of Gregory of Tours; but three masses were not introduced into Spain until the 14th century, nor at Milan until the 15th century. In the Medieval Church there was a representation of the shepherds, as at Lichfield, with a star gleaming in the chapel vault; and so lately as 1821 the Flemish preserved the same custom, and the peasants entering with sheep offered eggs and milk, while midnight mass was said at the high-altar. From the time of Augustine, midnight mass was said on the eve; and the Councils of Orleans and Toledo required all persons to attend this service at their cathedral church. The Christmas-box was a receptacle made of earthenware, in the 17th century, in which apprentices placed the rewards of their industry given them at that season."

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Christmas'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/christmas.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
 
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