The History of Christmas7:08 PM
The History Behind the Holiday
Christmas day was not always so merry. It was such a despised holiday that most Christians refused to celebrate Christmas until the last two hundred years. Christmas seemed to be especially bad in England. Christmas was not celebrated as a day of worship or a time of reflection about what Christ has done for us. Instead, Christmas was a day to sing, get drink in excess and riot in the streets.
Christmas was indeed a strange holiday. People wore bizarre costumes and many times mobs roamed the streets. The wealthy became targets with demands for fine food and drink. If the mobs were not satisfied, they would ransack the home until they found what they wanted. Christmas was a day of the strange combinations. It had the party atmosphere of Mardi Gras with the costumes of a Halloween celebration. Christmas Day was nothing more than an excuse to drink and behave uncontrollably.
The drinking and rioting of Christmas Day were traditions that stemmed from the pagan practices of celebrating the winter solstice. The church leaders did not have a day that celebrated the birth of Christ until the late third century. The day of December 25th was selected not because it was the day Christ was born but because the church could easily celebrate without fear of persecution. December 25th was the end of the Roman celebration Saturnalia and could easily hide the Christian celebrations. However, a major problem developed that church leaders did not expect. Christians began to celebrate Christmas with the same practices as those of Saturnalia. The Christian practices seemed to be lost among the chaos of common pagan practice. These practices became prevalent in England.
When the Puritans settled in America in 1620 there was no celebration of Christmas. The same Pilgrims that celebrated Thanksgiving would not celebrate Christmas. The Puritans believed that Christmas was an unholy holiday that encouraged sinful behaviors. Anyone caught celebrating Christmas would be arrested. Churches did not hold worship services and government leaders forced businesses to remain open. The ban on Christmas would eventually fall away due to the massive immigration that came from Europe. The European immigrants brought with them the wild practices of their Christmas celebrations.
There were European countries that had different celebrations of Christmas that were more like what we know today. Germany held Christmas as a day for family, food, and faith. The Germans celebrated Christmas with homemade treats and gifts. The tradition of the Christmas Tree and evergreens were an important part of Christmas decorations in German houses. These traditions would eventually make their way into the American Christmas through immigration but also through the Revolutionary War.
During the American Revolution, England hired German mercenaries called Hessians. These soldiers were among the most elite in the world. Christmas Trees were found in Trenton when Washington crossed the Delaware to attack the Hessians on December 26, 1776. Many of the Hessians decided to make their home in America following the war and brought their Christmas traditions with them.
Additional changed came to both England and America with the publication of Christmas in literature. Clement Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas and the views of children at Christmas began to change. Christmas would slowly become a day to celebrate with children. Charles Dickens wrote his classic A Christmas Carol and revealed the plight of the poor in England. The popularity of these stories would create radical change in the way people viewed Christmas.
The change in Christmas may have been gradual but it came and a transformation took place. No longer would Christmas be a day hated for its drinking and rioting but instead it was a day of celebration and reverence for the one whose birth it celebrated.
NOTE: I dont own this entry, i just read it in Yahoo, just posted it here. Hope you like it the way i do. The publisher of this post is David DeWitt (a minister in southwestern Ohio).