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Christian Festivals

One of the major religions of the world, Christianity is followed by large number of people in India. Christians celebrate a number of festivals related to Jesus Christ and his life. Christmas is the most important festival of Christians, celebrated by Christians as well as people of other religions alike.

Christmas

India is a vast country having a population of over one billion that include Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains etc. Despite the religious differences the people of India celebrate all the festivals with equal enthusiasm. Like world over in India too, Christmas is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. An annual festival Christmas falls every year on 25th December and it also marks happy end of the year. For Christians, Christmas is an important festival, just like Deepawali of Hindus and Eid - ul - Fitr of Muslims. It is true that Hindus and Muslims comprise majority of the population in India, but Christmas is celebrated with much fanfare all over the country. In India traditions of Christmas include the display of Nativity scenes, Christmas or X – mas trees, the exchange of gifts and cards and the arrival of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.An annual festival, Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birthday of Jesus Christ. Every year on December 25 Christmas is celebrated, but the birthdate for Jesus is traditional and not considered the actual date of birth. In fact, even today the world is exactly unknown when or why 25th December was associated with birth of Jesus Christ. Earliest reference to the celebration the celebration of Christmas was found in the Calendar of Filocalus, compiled in Rome in 354 AD. In 378 AD, following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens in battle, Christmas was promoted in the east to mark the revival of Catholicism. In 800 AD Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day, from here the prominence of Day increased gradually. By the High Middle Ages, the Christmas holiday become very prominent and magnitude of celebrations also intensified. In 1377, King Richard II of England hosted a major Christmas feast and thousands of people were invited to enjoy non-vegetarian dishes. In 1647, following the Parliamentary victory over King Charles I, England’s Purtian rulers banned Christmas. Due to Restoration of 1660 the ban over Christmas was lifted, but several Nonconformist clergy disapproved of Christmas celebrations. At the same time, in Colonial America, the Puritans of New Zealand disapproved Christmas and the festival fell out of favour in the United States. In the year 1820 the interest in Christmas was revived in America by Washington Irving through his short stories appearing in his ‘The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon’ and “Old Christmas”. Clement Clarke Moore’s poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ in 1822 popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts and seasonal Christmas shopping. In 1850, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a character in her book “The First Christmas in New England", who complained that the true meaning of Christmas was being lost in a shopping spree. Finally in 1870 Christmas was declared a United States Federal Holiday and later the economic significance of Christmas made it more popular. From then till now, Christmas is celebrated all over the world by Christians and known for its religious as well as economic significance. In India the celebration of Christians varies in different regions of the country. Celebration of the festival differs from North to South and East to Western parts of the country. In the plain areas of the country the Christians decorate mango or banana trees, some also decorate their houses with mango leaves. Christians in some parts of India use small clay oil-burning lamps for decorations and place the lamps on the edges of flat roofs and on the top of walls.
Churches across the country are also decorated with poinsettias and lit with colourful candles. While in the urban regions the potted X – mas trees are decorated with plastic or paper stars, toys and colourful streamers. Decorated X – mas trees are placed in front of the houses, shops and restaurants. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning people dressed like Santa Claus can also be seen in city streets and shops, entertaining or offering gifts to children. Christmas in also celebrated with various themes, most popular among them is the promotion of goodwill and peace

Easter
Easter also called Pascha is one of the most important festivals of Christians. A holy festival Easter is celebrated by the Christians who have faith that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after his crucification. Commonly termed as a moveable feast, Easter festival follows the cycle of the moon and falls each year at some point between the late March and late April.Literally Easter festival refers to the season of the church year called the Easter Season or Eastertide. According to old traditions the Easter Season lasted for the 40 days from Easter Day till Ascension Day. But, nowadays Easter lasts for the 50 days until Pentecost. The first week of the Easter Season is called the Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter festival also mark the end of Lent (a season of prayer and penance), or the arrival of the spring season after the chilling months of winter.Like several other Christian festivals, Easter festival has also ancient pagan roots and a blend of Pagan, Hebrer and Christian traditions. Easter festival itself incorporates pagan symbol of fertility through the Easter eggs and Easter bunny. Historic record says that initially there was a great disagreement about the Easter day. Finally after centuries of disagreement, all churches accepted the computation of the Alexandrian Church and first Sunday after the first 14th day of the moon was declared the Easter day.Nowadays the festival is celebrated by Christians and as well as non-Christians with great enthusiasm. People celebrate the festival by exchange of greeting cards, sweets and confectionery such as chocolate, Easter eggs, Peeps, marshmallow bunnies and jelly beans.