A Brief History of Christmas Celebrations around the
Although commercial activities during Christmas today are often blamed for making
the season too materialistic, let's not forget that it's this very commercialization that makes Christmas so
Comments that the religius aspect of Christmas is so overlooked and overshadowed
that its celebration seems purely pagan are actually not far from the thruth. There has always been some link
between Christmas and pagan celebrations.
|Celebrations of Christmas during winter time has
its roots in pagan end of year
Church leaders instituted Christmas as a religious holiday during winter because
that time of the year was popular for the celebrations of many pagan festivals. The hope was that Christmas would
also become a holiday that would gain much popularity.
Long before the birth of Jesus Christ, people in various parts of Europe
celebrate light and birth in the darkest days of winter. The winter solstice
(the longest night of the year),
when the harshest part of winter was over, was a time of celebration for many peoples because they would look
forward to more hours of sunlight during the longer days ahead.
The Norse in Scandinavia celebrated Yule from the winter solstice on December 21
through to January. Men brought home logs that were lighted and a feast would take place until the log was
completely burned. Each spark from the fire was believed to represent a new pig or calf to be born in the coming
The pagan god Oden was honored by Germans during the mid-winter holiday. Oden
inspired great fear in the Germans who believed that Oden traveled at nights through the sky, to observe people and
make a decision about who would perish or prosper in life. This belief caused most people to stay inside during the
|Organizing a Christmas feast is part of Christmas
history and origins that goes back to its early
In Rome it was the god of agriculture, Saturn, who was honored in a holiday called
Saturnalia. It was a holiday that started during the week that led up to the winter solstice and continued for a
month with hedonistic celebrations. There was plenty of food and drink and the normal social class rules of who had
privilege and power in Roman society were totally disregarded as everyone participated in the festivities. Some
Romans also had a feast called Juvenalia to honor children and the birthday of the sun god Mithra was sometimes
celebrated by the upper classes.
The Feast of the
In the early years of the start of Christianity Christmas was not celebrated. The
main Christian holiday in those years was Easter. It was in the 4th Century that church officials made a decision
to have the birth of Jesus celebrated as a holiday and Pope Julius I chose December 25 as the day of Jesus' birth.
The holiday, which was first called the Feast of the Nativity, spread to England by the end of the 6th Century and
to Scandinavia by the end of the 8th Century.
Christmas Pagan Celebrations
Church leaders achieved the goal of having Christmas celebrations, including
attendance at church, become popular during the winter solstice. But they were unable to control other pagan-like
celebrations during Christmas. Believers would attend church on Christmas and then participate later in raucous and
drunken celebrations. But by the Middle Ages, from around the 5th to the 16th Century, Christianity had outgrown
paganism as a religion.
|Modern Christmas celebrations have their roots in
the past, but have been modified to keep in step with the modern times and
Christmas celebrations in
The celebration of Christmas in Europe changed in the early 17th Century, when
Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans gained power in England in 1645. To remove decadent behavior from the society,
Cromwell cancelled Christmas as the Puritans noted that the Bible doesn't mention any date for Jesus' birth. The
lack of this information and specific Biblical references to Christmas is also cited by religious groups like
Jehovah Witnesses as the reason they don't observe or participate in Christmas. Christmas celebrations returned in
England around 1649 when Charles II was restored to the throne.
Christmas celebrations in
Christmas wasn't a holiday in early America because the Pilgrims who came to
America had even stricter beliefs than Cromwell and the Puritans. Christmas celebrations were even forbidden in
Boston from 1659 to 1681. During the same time however, settlers in Jamestown in Virginia were reported to have
After the American Revolution, Christmas again lost popularity and it wasn't until
June 26, 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holiday. Christmas in the United States gained popularity as a
holiday period during the 19th Century. Christmas celebrations also changed at that time to be more family-centered
rather than being carnival-like.