Christmas is a huge part of our lives today. A vast amount of people all around the world celebrate Christmas and enjoy the build up to it but there are some cultures and religions that do not recognise or celebrate this holiday.
So how did it all begin?
Since time began there have been celebrations at this time of year. Ancient Babylonians celebrated the victory of the Sun God and Romans celebrated the birth of the god Sol in the feast of Saturnalia. These celebrations both took place on December 25th.
Ancient Germans honoured their pagan god Oden during the winter and the Norsemen of Scandinavia celebrated the feast of Yule at this time.
Winter was a time when there was plenty of fresh meat as it was slaughter time, wine and beer had fermented and people were eager to break up the long cold and dark season.
Around the 4th Century, Christians decided that it would be a good idea to absorb some of the traditions of Saturnalia and other such feasts and that this would be a good time to bring people together and spread the word of Christ. Because the actual date of the birth of Jesus is unknown, this date seemed as good as any to mark the occassion in the minds of the people of the world.
Pope Julius 1 chose the day of December 25th (due to Saturnalia) and proceeded to call it the Feast of the Nativity. It became a day of Christian celebration where pagans were taught Christian beliefs but were also allowed to celebrate at the same time.
This custom developed and spread to countries such as Egypt in 432AD and to (by what is now known as) in the United Kingdom by the 6th Century.
In the 17th Century there was a reform in England and Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans vowed to rid England of excess, indulgence and decadence. In England, Christmas was cancelled in 1645.
When Charles II was restored to the throne Christmas was celebrated again.
Many Puritans left England and travelled to the New World of America. These Pilgrims had totally orthodox beliefs to such an extent that Christmas was outlawed in Boston from 1659-1691.
Christmas was declared a federal holiday in America on June 26th 1870 and this combined with Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” and the popularity of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert firmly reinstated Christmas as a celebration.
The fact that people of different nationalities and customs were now living in close proximity in the New World meant that customs and traditions melded together and formed a lot of what we count as festive in this day and age.
German dough and cookies, Austrian Christmas trees, Scandinavian yule logs, English plum pudding, Scottish tartans and bows. All these customs are now at the forefront of Christmas celebration.
Look out for another great Christmas Worldview next week. It’s nearly time for Santa!