The season is here, but did you ever wonder why...
...people write merry X-mas?
X is the Greek letter that is the ancient symbol for Christos or Christ.
...the celebration is on December 25...when was Christ really born?
The twenty-fifth was officially declared as a holy day until the 4th century AD. scholars believe that the "star" was an alignment of 3 planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars) that occurred in March of 4BC. but this collides with Easter which was firmly established prior to 400AD, so the 25th was kept as the beginning of the church liturgical (calendar) year.
...people sing about birds in the 12 days of christmas carol?
there's tremendous controversy about the song as to whether it was from England or France, or if the song was simply a child's rhyme or a secret code for outlawed Catholics to safely sing when they were being persecuted in England during the late 1500s. birds are especially meaningful as they were game and highly prized in any feast. "four calling birds" is actually a corruption of "colly birds" which refers to any black bird or perhaps cawing birds like crows. the five rings are thought to be ring neck pheasants, which were naturalized in Europe from China.
...don't Christians light more candles?
technically they light candles all year long, but at Christmas they only light 4 on an Advent Wreath. The candles symbolize each week of the period of Advent (the 4 weeks prior to Christmas Day). The practice of lighting candles on the Christmas tree was discouraged due to the number of house fires that occurred around Christmas.
...do people put up Christmas trees?
first a German then later an English tradition, immigrants brought over the tradition to the U.S. and it stuck. the decorated tree was credited to Martin Luther, but chances are he borrowed the centuries-old tradition from Latvia. ancient pagan rituals celebrated trees and large boulders as living (though non-mobile) creatures.