Christmas is time for family, decorated trees, delicious baked goods, presents, and , round, jolly, bearded man called Santa. Christmas is an ancient holiday that’s had a roller coaster ride in popularity. We’ve gathered some informative Christmas facts to provide you with a little insight into how Christmas became the holiday it is today.
- In most places around the world, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. Christmas Eve is the preceding day, December 24.
- In Germany and many other countries, the main Christmas celebrations commence on the evening of the 24th.
- The day following Christmas Day, December 26, is called Boxing Day in countries like the United Kingdom and many countries of the Commonwealth, and called St. Stephen’s Day or the Feast of Saint Stephen in Catholic countries.
- The Armenian Apostolic Church observes Christmas on January 6. Eastern Orthodox Churches that still use the Julian Calendar celebrate Christmas on the Julian version of 25 December, which is January 7 on the more widely used Gregorian calendar, because the two calendars are now 13 days apart.
- Christmas is also called Christ’s Mass, Nativity, Incarnation, Yule Tide, Noel or Winter Pascha.
- Although normally it is observed by Christians around the world, it is also observed as a cultural holiday by many non-Christians as, an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus.
- The date of the celebration is traditional, and is not considered to be Jesus’ actual date of birth.
- Christmas festivities often combine the observation of the Nativity with various cultural customs, many of which have been influenced by earlier winter festivals.
- Not all Christian denominations, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, certain Seventh Day Adventist churches, and Members of the Living Church of God, celebrate Christmas
- A winter festival was traditionally the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included less agricultural work needing to be done during the winter, as well as people expecting longer days and shorter nights after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.
- In part, the Christmas celebration was created by the early Church in order to entice pagan Romans to convert to Christianity without losing their own winter celebrations.
- Certain prominent gods and goddesses of other religions in the region had their birthdays celebrated on December 25, including Ishtar, Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, and war, Sol Invictus and Mithras.
- Mosaic of Jesus Christ depicted as Sol (the Sun god) in Mausoleum M in the pre-fourth-century necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is named Christo Sole (Christ the Sun) and is dated to the late 3rd century by the Italian archaeologists.
- The Romans held a festival on December 25 called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the undefeated sun.”
- When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 BC, December 25 was approximately the date of the winter solstice.
- The Sol Invictus festival has a “strong claim on the responsibility” for the date of Christmas, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Several early Christian writers connected the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Jesus.
- Origen, a father of the Christian church, argued against the celebration of birthdays, including the birth of Christ. It is unknown exactly when or why December 25 became associated with Christ’s birth.
- The New Testament does not give a specific date. Sextus Julius Africanus popularized the idea that Christ was born on December 25 in his Chronographiai, a reference book for Christians written in AD 221.
- December 25 is, nine months after the traditional date of the Incarnation (March 25), now celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation.
- March 25 was considered to be the date of the vernal equinox and early Christians believed this was also the date Christ was crucified.
- The earliest reference to the celebration of the nativity on December 25 is found in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354.
- In the East, early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus.
- The Twelve Days of Christmas are the twelve days from the day after Christmas Day, December 26, which is St. Stephen’s Day, to the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 that encompass the major feasts surrounding the birth of Christ.
- In some traditions the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day (25 December) and the 12th day is therefore 5 January.
- In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in the west focused on the visit of the magi.
- The forty days before Christmas became the “forty days of St. Martin” (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent.
- The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day.
- During the Middle Ages Christmas Day remained a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving and, was practiced more often between people with legal relationships (i.e. tenant and landlord) than between close friends and relatives.
- By the High Middle Ages, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten.
- Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus.
- In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day, and there was special Christmas ale.
From the Reformation into the 1800s
- During the Reformation, some Protestants condemned Christmas celebration as “trappings of popery” and the “rags of the Beast.”
- The Roman Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form.
- Following the Parliamentarian victory over King Charles I during the English Civil War, England’s Puritan rulers banned Christmas, in 1647.
- The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration.
- In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely.
- Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.
- Charles Dickens’s book A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion as opposed to communal celebration and hedonistic excess.
- The poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clarke Moore (Twas the night before Christmas…) popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance.
- Christmas was declared a United States Federal holiday in 1870, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
- The importance of the economic impact of the secular Christmas holiday was reinforced in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed moving the Thanksgiving holiday date to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy during the Great Depression.
- The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship.
- The English language phrase “Christmas tree” is first recorded in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language.
- The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century.
- Since the 19th century, the poinsettia has been associated with Christmas.
- Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.
- In Australia, North and South America, and to a lesser extent Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures.
- In the Western world, rolls of brightly-colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts.
- The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels.
- Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5.
The history of Christmas is long and arduous (excerpts from Wikepedia). It’s modern day, evolution stems from both Christian and pre-Christian events. One message still prevails, it is a time for peace and goodwill. Whether you celebrate the holiday from a religious standpoint or view it merely as an excuse to give and receive gifts, remember to try and embody the spirit of the season. Do, something kind for someone else and keep a peaceful attitude in all that you do. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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