A Brief History on the Origin of Christmas
It's officially December and the holiday season is in full effect. Every year people look forward to this merriest of seasons and celebrating Christmas with family and friends, exchanging gifts and watching the magic of the holidays envelope everyone.
With that being said though, how did we get to the point where we celebrate the holidays, particularly Christmas the way we do? Well just like every superhero or super villain, the Christmas holiday as we know it, has its own origin story.
Thousands of Years of History
To properly understand the origin of Christmas, it needs to be said that for thousands of years, the winter season has been a time for celebration. In particular, people would celebrate the winter solstice, the time of year when the darkest days of winter were now behind them and people could look forward to days being longer.
For example, people of Norse culture would celebrate "Yule" during this time and the celebrations could last for weeks. Father's and sons would bring logs and burn them and while the logs burned a massive celebration would ensue and it would continue until the fire died out.In addition, the winter time was also perfect time to have celebrations, because it was only time of the year where fresh meat was plentiful and it was also the time when alcohol made during the year was now ready for consumption.
Different cultures also had different customs. For instance, ancient Romans celebrated "Saturnalia" for the god of agriculture, Saturn. These festivities would begin a week prior to the winter solstice and would continue for an entire month. Basically imagine Mardi Gras on steroids.
The Founding of Christmas
The Christmas that we celebrate today came to be thanks to Pope Julius I who selected December 25th as the day of celebration due to the fact that no record exists that actually states what day Jesus of Nazareth was actually born. It was also stated that...
It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.
Whether it was planned or not, by the middle ages Christianity would end up replacing the vast majority of pagan religious celebrations.
Christmas As We Know it Today
Christmas today was really established in America until the publishing of the holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. The story promoted the importance of being good and kind to people around you and in your community and those ideas began to spread through American and English society.
It was around this time that the traditions of giving gifts, decorating trees and even sending celebratory cards began. The repackaging and rebranding of Christmas in some aspects would be beneficial to a young American nation which lacked a culturally unifying link in its society.
Here Comes Santa Claus
Of course no analysis of Christmas could be complete without the holly jolly old fat man. Santa Claus is based on the real life person St. Nicholas, a monk who during his life gave away his possessions and went on to aid the poor and sick. He would become known as the protector of children and sailors.
The classic story "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was the story that introduced the world to the idea of Santa Claus. The classic image of Santa was not created until 1881 thanks to Cartoonist Thomas Nast who gave Santa his red suit, white beard, reindeer and all.