This is the time of year where the major thing dominating conversation is Christmas (The Holiday’s if you want to be more politically correct). So something that we rarely think about is why do we actually celebrate this holiday. Fortunately and maybe even unfortunately we don’t really think about why, but we still end up giving gifts (for no apparent reason). But lets get into some of the background behind why we celebrate Christmas and what some of the things mean.
The History of Christmas
Christmas has been celebrated for now over 2000 years as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Traditionally celebrated on a few different dates, most formally December 25th in most North American Churches with the exchanging of gifts, food, and the arrival of Santa Claus (Which came much later for the holiday). In the United States Christmas has been a federal holiday since 1870.
So as you can tell (Even from this small excerpt from History.com’s History of Christmas) this is most notably a christian holiday; yet millions of people worldwide (especially in the US) celebrate it, even if they are not religious.
On the Contrary, for Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the middle of winter has been celebrated around the world. The winter solstice has been celebrated for light and birth through the darkest days of the years. Around the world many different cultures have celebrated for different reasons. In Scandinavia they celebrated from December 21st through January for a holiday called Yule in Recognition of the return of the sun. Those days which they would have extravagant feasts to celebrate.
Many European countries celebrated this time of year because the cattle no longer had to be fed for preparation to harvest, in addition most of the beer and wine had fermented for the rest of the year and was ready to drink. Sounds like a pretty good time of year eh?
Germans honored the Pagan God Oden, Romans celebrated Saturnalia in honor of Saturn the god of agriculture. So as you can see, the Christmas time of year has been celebrated for much longer than just the normal reasoning behind Christians.
Which raises the question (for this section) was the Christians version of Christmas just adopted from a Pagan holiday?
The Implementation of Santa Claus
Now here is the fun part, Santa Claus.
Santa Claus has been a legend with many names. He is the red jolly fellow that we imagine when we think about the Christmas that dominates the advertising on Tv, in nearly every shopping mall in American, and even our children’s imaginations.
Now, Santa Claus (Father Christmas, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, etc) is a legend for sure; but many think the actual legend aspect came from a monk named St. Nicholas in Turkey around the year 260. This monk was subject to many “legendary” aspects due to his kind giving nature and selflessness. Even during that time, the different rumors and legends circulated the area around St. Nicholas. Even after his death, through the region, it was considered to be a lucky day, and one to make large purchases.
It actually wasn’t until 1773 that Santa Claus made his way to the US when a New York newspaper reported a number of Dutch families celebrating St. Nicholas’s death, under the name Sinter Klaas (Dutch for Santa Claus).
Now fast forward 30 years when Washington Irving helped popularize Santa Claus in the pop culture of the US. This was also where the famous images of the stockings with gifts and fireplace became popular as well.
Pop Culture and Christmas
Clearly we have gotten a huge media based image of what Santa and Christmas contain. This is also a time of year where we continue to have tons of new movies featuring the iconic time of year.
One of the most notable of these was The Santa Claus in the early 90s where Tim Allen gave an awesome performance and opened the imagination of what Santa could be and what he could do for the millions of children. The Home Alone series, is also another major example of the holiday season, but not necessarily in the Santa Claus aspect.
What I’ve been seeing is that Christmas has been started to take over many malls and department stores. Not just in December, but starting almost in October.
That gives the other holiday’s that are happening around the same time much less meaning, due to the mainstream taking over and unfortunately seeing the dollar signs through the stores and sales.
Even the “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales ads have been dominated with Christmas designs and colors. Giving another aspect of how psychology is taking over, especially in a sales sense.
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is one of the biggest shopping times of the year; but its turning to be more around gift giving and less around the gathering of family and friends. Which to me is not really a good thing. Yes, businesses need to make money; but when a holiday is turning to being shopping dominated, something kind of has to change.
Remembering Family for the Holidays
But, things have been swaying to more away from the idea of gathering regardless of the holiday. Hopefully even something like this can give you a bit more insight to how this Holiday really started (I didn’t want to touch on the other holiday’s that are celebrated around this time, since here its dominated by Christmas).
The big thing about all of this is not just knowing why we celebrating; but remembering we need to gather with our families not just on holidays but when we can. Oh and don’t forget that there are other days of celebrating things as well!
Thank you guys for reading a ton!