Christianity is one of the major religions in the world. It has its foundation on Jesus Christ and His teachings recorded in the Bible. The Christian calendar is comprised of happenings which serve as reminders of Jesus and His activities while still on earth. Among the Christian festivals, some are considered more important than others because of their significance in the development of this religion (Kelemen pg3).
They include Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Other religious festivals that are present in the Christian religion are Ascension Day, lent and epiphany among others. Some of these festivals have fixed dates for example the Christmas day, but others have no fixed dates for example Easter.
This is one of the major Christian festivals. The word Christmas is formed from two words. ‘Christ’ which means the messiah or the anointed one and ‘mass’ which borrowed from the Roman Catholics.
It simply means death and has to do with the death of Jesus Christ. It is believed by some people that Christmas has its roots in pagan festivals and was adapted to Christianity in an attempt to win more converts into the religion (Bratcher pg1).
Symbols: Clement (pg 178) notes that candles are lit as a reminder of who Jesus Christ is. Jesus is often referred to as the light of the world and therefore the lit candles are symbolic of him as the light of the world.
The Christmas star is another symbol used during this festival. It is usually put on the tip of Christmas tree and its significance is the biblical star that proclaimed that Jesus Christ had been born. It can also show great hopes in life as a result of the birth of Jesus Clement (pg 265). .Christmas tree is also another widely used symbol. It has its origin in Germany and is used as a symbol of good luck. The Christmas tree is usually decorated with many bright colored decorations.
According to Bratcher (pg 1), Christmas is supposed to be a festival to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The exact date as to when Christmas is supposed to be celebrated has been a controversial issue over the years with some saying that it should be done in the month of September while others think that December is the month.
Others still have held the opinion that it is a pagan occasion that should not be part of the Christian calendar. With all these conflicting issues, the exact meaning of the festival has been lost.
There have been different views about this festival and the actual meaning seems to be slowly fading away (Kelemen pg 5). Many businesses see this as a time for selling a lot of their products, while others people see it as a time to relax and engage in activities like drinking of beer. The true meaning however can only be got from the bible.
Christmas is supposed to be a time for personal reflection about the birth of Jesus Christ and how this impacts ones life. Such reflections are supposed to cause one to live in a godly way knowing that the reason that Jesus was born was that He may die for the sins of the human race. This is according to the Christians Holy book, the Bible.
History: Easter also commonly known as the resurrection Sunday is an important festival to the Christians. This is because it is the day that Jesus rose from death and hence a reason to celebrate. This festival is believed to have stated around the fourth century. Easter was usually a time to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is not just a one day event but a season full of different activities.
Symbols and meaning: Different colors are used symbolically during Easter. For example during the lent period, purple is used to symbolize affliction. It is used to show the agony that Jesus Christ underwent before and during crucifixion. Violet can also be used as an alternative because it is also symbolic of agony and affliction.
The color black is used during Good Friday and symbolizes death. It is also symbolic of sorrowing after the death of a person by the friends and relatives.
It therefore symbolizes the death of Jesus and the mourning by His disciples and relatives. Red is used by some Christian denominations for example the Roman Catholic during Palm Sunday to symbolize the imminent death of Jesus Christ. White and gold are used during the resurrection Sunday to symbolize anticipation of rising again from the death.
It is during this day that Jesus is believed to have resurrected fro the dead. The color also signifies a new beginning for Jesus’ followers because His death and resurrection marked victory over sin and therefore people could live pure lives free from sin. Gold is used significantly to show light. Jesus Christ came as the light of the world.
Apart from the colors, there are also some foods which are eaten around this time and have their significance too. According to Olver (pg 1), these foods could be those which are directly connected with Jesus Christ, those which have their origin in the pagan community and the contemporary items.
These foods are normally used during the resurrection Sunday as it is a time of jubilation for the followers of Christ because it is believed to be the day He resurrected. Eggs are a type of foods that is used to show the new life after the death and resurrection of Jesus (Olver pg1).
People would give one another eggs which were decorated. In some parts of the world, eggs together with other foods are taken to church to be blessed and are used as breakfast during the Easter Sunday. In other countries like Germany, eggs that are used to prepare Easter foods are normally emptied without breaking the shells. These are then decorated with different things for example ribbons.
They are then used to decorate some young trees. Eggs have widely been used as a symbol during Easter season in many cultures. This has been so mainly because eggs are seen as the very beginning of life and have therefore been seen as a symbol of life. There are those who believe that eggs not only have the capacity to bring forth new life but also to predict future events.
History: This festival is also known as whit Sunday. Compared to Christmas and Easter, Pentecost is the least popular among the Christians. Little or no attention at all is paid to this day yet it is also equally important as the two festivals. Bratcher (pg 1) notes that the day of Pentecost usually comes seven Sundays after Easter and has its origin in the biblical Old Testament.
During those times, it was mainly an agricultural occasion but with the era of the New Testament, its meaning slowly changed. The contemporary meaning of this festival from the biblical perspective can be trace to the book of Acts chapter two when there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus Christ after He ascended to Heaven.
Symbols and meaning: The color red is used symbolically this day to represent the fire of the Holy Spirit that fell on the disciples as they waited on the upper room during the biblical account of Pentecost (Bratcher pg 1).
Just like Christmas and Easter, different parts of the world celebrate this day differently. In Italy for example, they recall the biblical event of Pentecost by throwing rose flowers petals from the roof top. This is specifically significant of the descending of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire on the disciples during the Pentecost.
In other parts, for example in France, people blow trumpet. This is done during the mass and is significant of strong sound of wind that was there during the biblical Pentecost.
Although Pentecost is one of the least observed festivals in many Christian churches, it is an important occasion in the history of the church. The church is believed to have started from the events that occurred during Pentecost. This is because it is during the Pentecost that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit who gave them power to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are many Christian festivals, with some being more popular than others even among the non Christians. These festivals mainly revolve around Jesus Christ and His life on earth.
It is therefore important that the focus of these festivals should remain to be Jesus Christ because many of them are losing their meaning and especially due to borrowing of a lot of traditions from the secular world and also anciently from the pagans.
Although most of these festivals are celebrated by many churches around the word, some of them have been controversial in terms of their origin and the dates they are normally celebrated. For example Christmas is not usually celebrated by all Christians because some argue that Jesus Christ never commanded people to commemorate his birth but He did tell them to remember his death and resurrection.
Others still argue that Jesus was not possibly born on twenty fifth of December but around September. With all these controversies surrounding the festivals, some have argued that it is good for people to focus on the significance of the day instead of arguing about the possible dates.
Bratcher, Dennis. The Christmas Season, Pentecost, 2011. USA: CRI / Voice, Institute.
Web. 15 April, 2011.
Clement, Miles. Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance. New York: Dover Publications, 1976, pp. 178, 263-271.
Kelemen, Lawrence. The Real Story of Christmas. Web. 15 April, 2011
Olver, Lynne. Easter foods: history & symbolism, 2006. Web. 15 April, 2011.