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Christmas | A look into the Christian Holiday

By Rebecca Foreman | September 5, 2023

Christmas is a widely celebrated holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, who is a central figure in Christianity. The holiday falls on December 25th every year and is observed by billions of people around the world, both religiously and culturally. While its origins are rooted in Christian tradition, Christmas has also become a secular and cultural holiday celebrated by people of various faiths and backgrounds.

For Christians, Christmas is a significant religious holiday that marks the incarnation of Jesus Christ which is the belief that God became human in the form of Jesus to save humanity from sin. Traditionally, Christmas is celebrated with church services, prayers, and special worship and many Christians attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to celebrate the occasion.

Christmas has become a time of festive celebration, marked by various traditions and customs across different regions and cultures. These can include:

Decorations: People decorate their homes with Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, wreaths, and other festive decorations.Gift Giving: Exchanging gifts is a common tradition, symbolising the gifts given to Jesus by the three wise men and many people exchange gifts with family and friends.

Feasting: Special meals are prepared, often featuring roast meats, desserts, and traditional foods. Christmas dinner is a time for families and friends to come together. In Australia because Christmas is in summer, seafood such as prawns are also popular to share with family.

Santa Claus: The figure of Santa Claus, derived from Saint Nicholas, is a beloved character who is said to bring gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

Carolling: Singing Christmas carols is a popular tradition, often involving groups of people going door-to-door to spread holiday cheer. In Australia, there will often be a carols event held in local parks or in capital cities where communities gather to celebrate Christmas.

Decorating Stockings: Children hang stockings in the house, hoping that Santa Claus will fill them with gifts.

Advent Calendars: Many people use Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas, with each day revealing a small gift or treat.

Holiday Movies and Music: Watching Christmas movies and listening to festive music are common ways to get into the holiday spirit.

Christmas is considered a time of joy, togetherness, and goodwill. While its religious significance remains at its core for many, it has evolved into a global holiday that brings people together to celebrate the spirit of giving, love, and community.

We spoke to three people connected to Navitas Skilled Futures who will be celebrating Christmas and asked them to provide some insight into this significant Christian holiday widely celebrated worldwide.

What is your role at Navitas Skilled Futures?

Grace Nabhan (GN) – My role at Navitas is Academic Team Leader and I work at the Cabramatta college in South West Sydney.

Basim Shamaon (BS) – Stakeholder Engagement Manager, for Navitas Skilled Futures Fairfield and Cabramatta colleges.

Emma Prineas (EP) – Marketing Director based in Sydney.

Can you provide a brief overview of Christmas – its meaning, what it observes and how it is practised in your country of origin?

GN – Christmas is celebrated on 25 December every year. As a Christian, Christmas to me is the celebration of the birth of Christ. The birth of Christ brought peace, hope and light to the people of the time, and Christmas brings a sense of peace, hope and light every year. At Christmas, my family and I usually will attend a church service and then we will gather in one of our family member’s houses for lunch, exchanging presents and just spending the day together. We may even have a water fight!

BS – Christmas is a big deal, for me and my family being Catholic/Christian as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. At Christmas our families come together and we bring this tradition with us to Australia from Iraq. We attend morning mass which is very important as it marks Christmas Day. If we don’t do it, then it feels like it’s not Christmas.

After which, we all get together for a meal with the family. Often it is an extended lunch and dinner, where we all join together and stay for a long meal. We may visit our uncle’s house, and we all bring food to share. We will also host many visitors throughout the day also, and then the following day we will go to visit them at their houses. This means Christmas is really spread over two days.

EP – In Greece we decorate the Christmas boat, then we sing carols on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and around epiphany. Then at midnight on NYE we cut a vasilopita (St Basil’s cake). Whoever finds the coin has good luck! We also hang pomegranates around the place (haha), and we eat traditional sweet Greek dishes like kourabiethes, melamakarona and diples. We also eat lamb and lemon potatoes on Christmas Day!

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Emma Prineas (front second from left) celebrating Christmas with family

What does Christmas mean for you personally?

GN – Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. For me, it means that I can look in hope and anticipation for the new year ahead, with the new things God has in store, and to be thankful to him for the year that has passed. Christmas is also about being kind and generous (although we should be kind and generous all year). Giving to people who are less fortunate to put a smile on their face. I always find ways to donate money or time at Christmas to make a difference in people’s lives.

BS – It’s not only food, drinks and celebrating with the family for me, it is also about helping other people, like the homeless. Every year, I gather with three of my friends and we feed the homeless at night. We make meals and then distribute it in Haymarket in the city of Sydney – this is personal to me. Then I like to give to my Community Church at Christmas, at Fairfield. My family all chip in money and we buy food to take to the local church where it is then stored throughout the year. This food is used to then cook free meals twice a week for those that need it and shared from the church at Fairfield Catholic Church.

Basim Shamaon celebrating Christmas

EP – For me Christmas means family, everyone getting together for a big feast. We get together again on New Years to cut the vasilopita. It’s always been a time when we are all together, a massive family day.

What traditions do you observe/practice?

GN – In my family we usually have a big feast with lots of food and family gathered together to share and we do a Kris Kringle type game where we buy presents for only one person in the family and give them the gift, or we put all the presents in the middle and people choose which one they want. Sometimes we have a water fight when the weather is hot.

BS – Other than attending Mass, the Christmas tree is always present and we have gifts under the tree. My family gives a gift for one family member (like a Kris Kringle) where we draw a name out of the hat, and then we buy a gift for them.

EP – We do all the eating ones! 

How will you and your family members be recognising Christmas in the coming year?

GN – We will probably be doing what is mentioned above.

Photo: Grace Nabhan celebrating Christmas

BS – I’ll be feeding the homeless, the family will gather at someone’s house, which we are still deciding.

EP – We’ll have a big lunch at my uncle’s place with roast lamb.

If a colleague wants to wish you well during this time, how should they phrase the greeting?

GN – They can say “Merry Christmas”.

BS – “Merry Christmas, Basim”. For me at Christmas and as a Catholic, I like this term because it is the birth of Christ.

EP – “Kala Hristouyena” – it means Merry Christmas!

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