The Christmas season is upon us, and with it comes excited children, putting baubles on trees, and singing carols out in the snow. What many people do not consider, however, is the history of this holiday.
The Christmas holiday is rooted in history, and has been celebrated in different ways for centuries. In began quite early. In Europe, it was celebrated as the winter solstice, meaning the days would only get warmer, and the sunlight would be around longer. In the Norse tradition, Christmas was celebrated from December 21st to the end of January, and it involved a lot of feasting.
This holiday was also present in Roman tradition. The weather was not as cold in Rome as it was in places like Scandanavia, so, at the end of December, the god of Saturn was celebrated instead of the solstice. This was an interesting celebratory period in which Roman society was literally turned upside-down, with the lower class ruling over the upper class. Also during Christmas-time took place a feast honoring Rome’s children.
When church officials decided to make the birth of Jesus an official holiday, they set the date during the time of these other celebrations to try to adopt some of the tradition. They figured people would be more inclined to celebrate this holiday if it was a morph of the ones that were already celebrated. The Christmas holiday only spread from there.
Of course, in lumping the Christmas holiday in with these other rituals, the church officials lost control of how people celebrated. While going to church was part of the norm, there was also copious amounts of drinking and much mischief directed toward the upper class.
Christmas went through a rough period in the 17th century, when it became outlawed in Europe. It was not declared a holiday in America until much later as well, as many of the early settlers were Puritan. In the 19th century, though, Americans slowly began to adopt it again by turning it into a time to spend with family instead of one in which to drink oneself under a table. Basing Christmas on charity and goodness made it more readily adoptable by everyone instead of just the upper class.
Christmas has been through some rough patches since, and it has turned into a holiday of consumption, but at its core, it is still based on the ideas of peace and giving that made it popular in America.
For more interesting Christmas facts, check out history.com.