It’s Christmas!

It's Christmas!

Christmas is currently 8 days away and it’s all people are talking about. We all know the story of the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, and why we originally started celebrating Christmas, but how did it get to be all about presents and music? Well, I decided I would do some digging to find out why we celebrate Christmas the way we do.

Now, of course, we know the story of the Virgin Mary and the birth of baby Jesus on Christmas day, which is originally why Christians started to celebrate the 25th of December. Even before this though people all over the world would celebrate the winter solstice. Many of these people would celebrate because the worst of the Winter was over. People in Scandinavia would celebrate Yule through the Winter solstice where they would feast off of a large log until it burned out. In Germany, people would celebrate the Pagan God, Oden during the Winter who they were terrified of because he decided who lived and died. In Rome, they would celebrate the god of agriculture, Saturn, with a holiday called Saturnalia which lasted a whole month. During this holiday everything would completely switch. Slaves became masters, school and work were canceled, and peasants ruled the city. Romans also celebrated Juvenalia which was a feast celebrating children. They also celebrated Mithra, the infant God of the sun, on December 25th.

Onto why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Jesus was presumed to be born on December 25th, but is that the case? At first, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated, only his resurrection, but later on, church officials decided to start celebrating the birth of Jesus. In the bible, it does not say when Jesus is born, but many speculate that it is in spring since the book mentions shepherds herding sheep. However, Pope Julius chose December 25th as the day to celebrate what was originally called “The Feast of the Nativity.” Many believe that Pope Julius chose this date to try and rid the pagan tradition of Saturnalia. Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia by the 8th century. By the middle ages, Christianity had pretty much replaced the Pagan religion and Christmas was celebrated by virtually everyone. Most of the time people who celebrated would go to church and then afterward drunkenly celebrate. The poor would demand food and entertainment from the rich and if they did not comply they would terrorize the owners of the house.

In England 1694 Christmas was canceled after Oliver Cromwell promised to rid England of all things immoral. However, King Charles the Second was given back the throne due to popular demand and the holiday returned. The pilgrims came to America in 1620 and due to their beliefs similar to Cromwells they did not celebrate Christmas in the early years of America. In Boston Christmas was banned for many years and people were fined if they showed any Christmas spirit. On the contrary, in the Jamestown settlement, Christmas spirit was embraced and everyone enjoyed the holiday. After the American Revolution, all English traditions were dropped, including Christmas. It was not considered a federal holiday again until 1870.

When Christmas was reinstated as a holiday Americans made it more of a family-centered holiday instead of a drunken party. During the 19th century, unemployment rates were high and a lot of gang rioting happened during Christmas time and to try and change this Washington Irving wrote a short comic series about a squire who invites peasants into his home for the holidays. Irving thought that Christmas should be peaceful and should bring all people together. Irving wrote these things from simply what he believed should happen considering he had never witnessed or experienced a celebration like this and basically invented the Christmas tradition of gathering together for a peaceful celebration. 

Now, who invented Santa Claus? Santa Claus came from a monk named St.Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 A.D. St.Nicholas gave away all his wealth and traveled around the country to tend to the poor and sick and became known as a protector for children and sailors. He first popped up in America in the late 18th century when Dutch families started to honor the death of St.Nicholas. In 1822 “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was written and the image of a jolly magical man was created and immortalized forever.