Belated Merry Christmas!
I hope everyone is having a great holiday month! And as I said that I would write a post with a bit about the history of Christmas… here it is!
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world; however, it actually does not have a very nice history. I know I know, Christmas is a winter synonym for gifts, a feast, decorating trees and waking up way too early.
The thing is, the history of Christmas says something very different.
Christmas is thought of as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, however, no one seems to know when Jesus was born. According to the bible, Christmas should technically be celebrated in the middle of summer, or at least in January. Therefore, why is Christmas celebrated in December?
Because of Solstice, Yule and Saturnalia… also, there was an abundance of fresh meat. Many people will say that Christmas was placed where it is on the calendar because certain Christian churches wanted to convert everyone celebrating the other holidays placed in the same week. Other people will say that people simply wanted to be Christmas to be at a convenient time when it was a change of the seasons and they had the ability to have abnormally large feasts. Because Christian churches have a history of trying to convert people; I will say the latter is most likely.
However, everyone is entitled to their opinions… as long as those opinions do not hurt others.
Which is, unfortunately, not always the case when it comes to the history of Christmas.
Funny Fact: There are still a few places in the world (mostly Europe) that celebrate Christmas on January 5th.
Of course, there are many arguments to be made about many different things regarding Christmas; and unfortunately, most of them involve bloody traditions. One aspect of those bloody traditions are most likely related to Saternalia’s role in the history of Christmas. Of the pre-Christmas holidays in december, Saternalia and Yule seemed to influence Christmas the most.
Christmas is one of those holiday that people could write a whole book about one argument regarding it and still have many, many things left to say.
Historically, Christmas has been a day of bigotry and reticule. Surprisingly, many of the bloody moments in the history of Christmas occurred in the 17 and 1800s. For instance, in 1836 the Jewish community in Rome sent a petition to Pope Gregory XVI to ask him to stop an annual tradition of forcing Jews to run through the streets naked. Unfortunately, that was not to first case; nor was it the last.
Now, back to a very short description of Christmas history, and avoiding most of the gore…
Exactly who decided on December 25th?
The information that I have found points towards Pope Julius I. The first documented celebration of Christmas was held by Emperor Constantine of Rome in approximately 336 CE, but Christmas was not an actual holiday until Pope Julius I declared it as such a few years later.
Another Funny Fact: At many points through history some churches have banned the celebration of Christmas because of its relation to Saternalia and Yule.
How did this controversial holiday become what it is today?
Christmas was brought over to the New World just like many other things; but it was not the commercial holiday that it is now. A large part of Christmas (at least today) is Santa Claus… and Santa Claus is a large reason for the commercialization of Christmas.
Santa Claus is actually linked to stories of a Turkish monk named Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was known for being kind and generous; and many stories were based off of him. He was most likely born around 280 CE somewhere close to Patara. After his death, people would hold a feast on December 6 to honor him.
However, he did not become linked to Christmas in the USA until the late 1700s. In 1809 Washington Irving published a book titled Knickerbocker’s History of New York that mentioned an elf-like Santa Claus. And in 1810 John Pintard hosted a holiday party and commissioned Alexander Anderson to draw a portrait of Saint Nicholas. And then, in 1822, Clement Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas (or An account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas). Eventually, Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus.
Yet another Funny Fact: Santa Claus is not the only magical being who brings gifts on Christmas; there are also Swiss, German, Scandinavian, Russian, Italian and French versions.
Well… that is a very short, and very broken up, version of the history of Christmas. I hope you had fun reading it… or I hope that it was interesting. Fun might not be quite right.
Regarding writing: I will have something up soon!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!
*If you want to read more about the history of Christmas, here are some of the articles and sites I found:
History of Christmas, Christmas Customs, Origin of Christmas, Christmas History, Santa Claus, Saturnalia and the Roots of Christmas, St. Nicholas origin of Santa and A Pictorial History of Santa Claus.