December 24, 2013

Eleven Things You Did Not Know About Christmas

Hundreds of millions of people celebrate Christmas every year. But do you really know the true story of Christmas? Follow me as  you read ten things you did not know about Christmas:

  1.       In the Norse countries around December 21st(Winter Solstice) fathers and their sons would drag home the biggest log they could find and then set it on fire. As long as the log burns(about 12 days) feasting and revelry reigned supreme. This celebration was called Yule which gave the name Yuletide, and the 12 days the log burned gave birth to the 12 days of Christmas.
Also dragged into the homes were evergreen trees,the one plant that can make it through winter. Evergreens were proof that life persisted in these dark times of winter.

  2. In Rome the festival of Saturnalia(In celebration of Saturn) was held around the Winter Solstice. They were times of revelry and wild celebration.

Among the upper class in Rome many celebrated Mithra(the Sun god). The birthday of Mithra was the holiest day of the year, December 25th the day of the Winter Solstice in Rome. Mithra had a miraculous birth and shepherds came to worship him after his birth.They had been celebrating him hundreds of years before Christ was born.

By the 4th Century A.D, the Catholic Church made it official, December 25th was to be the Feast Day of the Nativity. The Feast Day of the Risen SUN became the Feast Day of the Risen SON.

3.By the Middle Ages Christianity had largely replaced the old pagan religions of Europe.On December 25th the faithful were called to Gothic Cathedrals like Notre Damme and Salzburg Cathedral for CHRIST MASS, soon to be called CHRISTMAS.

4.When Lord Oliver Cromwell and his Christian Puritans overthrew the King of England in 1645 they vowed to rid England of all that was decadent. As a result Christmas was banned and outlawed in the whole of England by the Christian Puritans. Shops were forced to stay open and Churches were forced to stay closed on that day. Christmas celebration was then driven underground until the Monarchy was restored and then Christmas was restored.

In the New World (later to become U.S.A), in Boston Christmas was outlawed, also by the puritans. Anyone caught exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined 5 shillings.

5.After the American Independence when all things English fell out of favor in America, Christmas also fell out of favor. On December 25th 1789 the U.S Congress sat in session and continued to sit on Christmas Day for most of the next 67 years.

6. American Novelist Washington Irvin in 1819 wrote Bracebridge Hall a novel about Christmas and English Novelist Charles Dickens wrote his famous novel A Christmas Carol which became a Bestseller in both England and America. Both novels rekindled the public interest in Christmas.

7.In 1840 Victoria, the Queen of England was married to her cousin, Albert of Germany. Albert brought to Windsor Palace an evergreen tree, according to the Old Norse tradition of Yule. This arose the interest of the English public and within a few years a decorated tree can be found in every English home during Christmas. The modern Christmas Tree was born and Americans also embraced it.

8.In 1843 the English firm J.C Horsley printed the first Christmas Card. And a new and efficient post office in England and America helped made the Christmas Card an overnight sensation.

9. By this period the Protestant Church did not celebrate Christmas. And since most Americans were protestants, the pressure was such that the Protestant Church officially began celebrating Christmas in America.

10. Saint Nicholas was a Greek Orthodox Bishop of the Middle Ages. On December 6th, St Nicholas Day, good children woke up to gifts and bad children sulked away with nothing. In Holland he was also known as Sinter Klaas, and when the Dutch came to America they brought with them this story

In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore an Episcopal minister from New York wrote a poem about a good -natured Saint who came down the chimney on Christmas Eve. He created the sledges, reindeer and all the other paraphernalia for Saint Nicholas. This became a favorite with children all over America and soon every child began scanning the horizon hoping to see the saint on a reindeer. The modern day Santa was born.

11. In 1863 Thomas Nast a cartoonist for Harper's Weekly drew the picture of a rotund, jolly and bearded Santa. Soon everybody began to adopt this image as the image of Santa.

Let me mention here that Santa is also loosely borrowed from the Old Norse god, Odin.

The truth is that Christmas is not really about Jesus Christ and it seems that the only connection with him is in the name.