Christmas: Origin, History, and customs
It’s that time of year again when you hear carols in the streets, see wonderfully colored light decorations outside, and you stuffing down all of grandma’s cookies she made for the whole family… yes, you guessed right, Christmas! Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year in the world. Actual according to many online sources, it is the most celebrated holiday out there being at about 1.6 billion with the second closest (Valentine’s Day) 151 million (from theguardian.com). But how did this holiday become so popular world wide when there are so many others like fathers/mothers day, valentines day, thanksgiving,(yes other countries celebrate it other than U.S.) etc. etc.? Ok, I’m not too sure if i can answer why but i can give you some info so you can infer why, let’s learn about Christmas!
Before Chistmas came to be there similar festivals held before that presumably contributed to how christmas is celebrated today.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. Fathers and sons would bring home logs,set them on fire, and feast on them until it burned out which could take as long as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. December was the perfect time for celebration because many would slaughter their cattle to avoid feeding them giving them an abundance of food over the winter. Also most of the wine and beard that was fermenting during the year was ready. In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden and were terrified of him because they believed that he would fly up in the sky during the night and decided who would live and die. Because of this many decided to stay inside during the winter holiday. Many other pagan holidays occurred in Europe.
The Romans celebrated Saturnalia -a celebration in honor of saturn, the god of agriculture- which was a insane celebration of feasting and orgys. In addition to this Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. They also honored Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, which was celebrated in December 25 and was considered the most holy day.
The beginning roots of Christmas go back to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth approximately 2000 years ago in the Christian faith. The story goes that an angel from the Lord visited Mary and told her she would Mary Joseph and bear a child still being a virgin and she shall call him Jesus. There was census that was declared in the Roman Empire by Caesar Augustus. All should have registered where they live but In Philistine all the families had to go to their historical tribal town.This meant that Joseph and Mary had to Bethlehem. Mary was pregnant at the time and when the couple looked for a spot to rest they went to a stable, there Jesus was born.
Christmas at first was not a celebrated holiday amongst Christians. They celebrated more Easter (Jesus’s crucifixion) rather than his birth. Christians never could find out Jesus’s real birthday since it was never recorded in the bible.
In the fourth century however, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Pope Julius I choose to have it on December 25, probably in hopes to absorb the pagan cultures of the Saturnalia festival. By doing this they did embrace pagan traditions.
This led to the introduction of the tradition of decorating Evergreen trees to England by German Prince Albert when he married Queen Victoria in the 1800s. When a photo of a 40foot christmas tree was published in a magazine to the U.S. in 1848, the custom caught on as well. Evergreen trees became a popular tradition with apples as decorations to represent the the of Eve which eventually turned into today's Christmas ornaments.
Also in the 4th century was the birth of santa claus with the death of a much loved Turkish Bishop. The anniversary of his death became to be know as St. Nicholas Day where December 6th was the day nice children would receive gifts while disobedient ones would receive nothing. In Holland he was known as SinterKlaas. 1500 years later in America, a seminary professor by the name of Clement Clark Moore reinvented the legend of St. Nicholas in a poem called “The Night Before Christmas”. This is where the typical Santa Claus came to be in America with its iconic sled of reindeer and his act of going down people’s chimneys to give gifts. However he did not make clear santa looked liked so when a Coca Cola designer made a image for him in propaganda it stuck and was adopted into today’s well known red suited, chubby, white bearded, cheerful Santa Claus.
Believe or not, there are many different variations of Christmas and they don't include our well known Chubby red suited santa.
Although I have alluded much to it i do reckon to have the need to explain the American Christmas customs very briefly. Many Americans (primarily Christians) will go to church on Christmas to hear the story of the birth of Jesus. People will tend to send out Christmas cards and sing carol songs. Many homes and cities will decorate their outside surroundings with lights to look nicer. Christmas trees, buying and gifting wrapped presents, watching movies, and making cookies with milk are common practice.
The UK is very similar to the American way of celebrating. They have Christmas trees and they decorate their cities with fabulous lights. They like to celebrate together to show off their presents. They call their sometimes call their santa Father Christmas and he tend to leave the presents either beside the child’s bed or in the stocking that are hanged next to the chimie. the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It's normally roast turkey, roast vegetables and 'all the trimmings' which means vegetables like carrots & peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. It's often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. Traditionally, and before turkey was available, roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. One vegetable that is often at Christmas in the UK are brussel sprouts. The UK is also famous for Christmas Cake- It's traditionally a rich fruit cake covered with marzipan and icing.
In France it's common for people to decorate their house with a nativity crib often times having clay figures in them. Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned in French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and is sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it is burning. In France the santa there is called Père Noël (Father Christmas in French). In eastern France he is accompanied by Le Pere Fouettard, a man dressed in black.The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve,Dishes might include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten.
Almost every country has its own form of Christmas which I would to include more about but I’d just end up listing things that would never end.
With all this info I hope that you have learned substantially more about Christmas than what previous knowledge you had known before and have a better grasp and understanding. With that I bid you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!