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History of Christmas

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We all know Christmas as a time of family, presents, treats and, best of all, no school, but where did Christmas actually originate from?

 

Christmas is a Christian holidays that celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1870. Christmas is now celebrated with the exchange of gifts, decorating a Christmas tree, spending time with your families and waiting for Santa Claus to deliver presents.

 

Many countries worldwide have celebrated the winter solstice worldwide, before the birth of Christ. Norwegians would celebrate the winter solstice, through January. The men would cut down large trees, and burn them, and the family would have to feast until the logs finished burning, to celebrate the returning of the sun. Many countries in Europe enjoyed this time of year because they would slaughter their cattle, so they wouldn’t have to feed them, leaving them a large quantity of fresh meat. In Germany, people honored Oden, the pagan god, during the holidays, since they believed he would wander the skies at night, and strike those who were believed to be unworthy. This caused many people to stay inside during winter.

 

Romans also celebrated this holiday, for over a month, beginning the first week of winter solstice. They would feast during this holiday, and social order would be out of control, letting slaves control their masters, business and schools closing, and the city being run by peasants, just to have fun.

 

Saint Nicolas was a man born in Patara, which is now modern day Turkey. He was a Christian bishop, and was known for helping the poor, using his inheritance from his deceased parents. His miracles and helping of the poor made him known as the protector of children and became associated with gift-giving. America gave him many transformations, changing his name from Sinterklaas to Santa Claus, and he became known as a large, jolly man, and was associated with his suit by the cartoonist Thomas Nast. Saint Nicolas was just a charitable bishop, and received a transformation by American culture.

 

Christians also celebrated Easter as the main holiday, before the birth of Jesus Christ. In the 4th century, church officials made the birth of Jesus a holiday. There was controversy over the date of Jesus’s birth, with Puritans claiming it happened in the Spring, but Pope Julius the first decided Christmas would be celebrated on December 25th. The popularity of Christmas increased since it was in the middle of the winter solstice festivities, also leading to Christianity replacing Paganism.

 

Christmas became a time where the wealthy would give back to the poor, because of a tradition where a peasant was crowned the “lord of misrule”, demanding the rich to give them what they need, or the peasant would plague them with mischief. This lead to the modern tradition of the rich giving back to the poor.

 

When the separatists came to North America, many were against Christmas, and Boston even began fining residents when they showed Christmas spirit. However, some places like Jamestown had no issue with it in the early 17th century.

 

Americans truly embraced Christmas in the 19th century, reinventing it to be recognized as a time of family-centered-peace and nostalgia. During the early 1800s, however, many people were unemployed and their was often a lot of rioting during the Christmas season. New York officials had to send the police to deal with the rioting in 1828, forcing the upper to begin changing how Christmas was celebrated.

 

Washington Irving’s novel The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, was viewed as one of the major factors in changing American Christmas as well.

 

“The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.” (History)

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol shares ideas of charity, and began changing people’s attitudes during Christmas. As the 19th century progressed, people began to accept Christmas as the perfect family holiday, unearthing old traditions like fires, feasts, and many other pastime traditions. The Christmas we know today was built to fill the cultural needs of the developing nations around the world.

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History of Christmas