IFI Holidays: Christmas & Epiphany

Have you ever wondered why and how American Christians celebrate certain holidays? IFI would love to explain!

Check out some perspective on Christmas and Epiphany:





Names & Origins





Christmas is a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The name means “the Mass on Christ’s day”; a “Mass” refers to a gathering of Christian believers. The festival was not established by the Christian Church until the 2nd century; many believe that the festival was initially intended to be an alternative to the cultural celebration of the winter solstice. Christmas is now a holiday celebrated all around the world in different nations with various customs. 

Christmas is celebrated on December 25, but there is still debate on the actual date that Jesus was born. The Bible’s account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This account provides the basis and focus for most Christian traditions associated with Christmas, which includes gatherings where Christians sing songs about Christ’s birth.

The account  of Jesus’ birth also inspired a holiday called Epiphany (“to show”), celebrated on January 6. In the Western tradition of this holiday, Christians emphasize the visiting wise men from the east (“the Magi”), who brought gifts to Jesus to honor him as king of the Jewish people. Epiphany also marks the end of the Christmas season, a 12-day period which is referenced by the famous Christmas song: “Twelve Days of Christmas.”   





Secular Traditions





Christmas is now also celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians. As a result, the holiday has become increasingly secularized, and different communities have developed traditions that do not focus on the story of Jesus’ birth. Instead, these traditions focus on themes related to family, seasonal decorations and games, and cultural legends. 

In fact, the central tradition associated with Christmas in contemporary culture is the exchange of gifts between family and friends. In American culture, this tradition is heavily associated with the legend of Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a magical figure that brings gifts to children around the world. This legend is based on a Christian figure known for his generosity; it is typically shared with American children at a young age and perpetuated until they reach adolescence.





God With Us





Despite the secular focus of how Christmas is currently celebrated, the holiday still holds special significance to Christians.

The birth of Jesus was not only the beginning of His life on earth, but also a gift from God. Throughout the Bible, God promises that He will send a savior, king, and spiritual leader that will connect humanity to Himself, since we are separated from Him by sin and evil. When Jesus w as born, that promise was realized. The Bible also tells us that Jesus would be recognized by the name “Immanuel”, meaning “God with us.” In other words, Jesus represents God’s presence with humanity, and He is the reason that humanity can be present with God. This gift of presence and connection is the most important display of God’s love for humanity. And just as the Magi brought gifts to honor Jesus, we can bring the gift of our hearts to Him, thanking God for the gift of His Son.

We hope that helps you understand more about Christmas and Epiphany. Check back with us to learn about how Americans celebrate other Christian holidays. 

You can also hear from American Christians yourself by joining us for our Christmas for Internationals event.