Merry Christmas, one and all! Today we’re going to take a look at the history of possibly the biggest holiday in the world. For this particularly holiday, we’re going to have to cut back on some of the details. The particular origins and specifics of Christmas are more than enough to fill a couple books even when summarized.
The Old Christmas
Christmas was first affixed to December 25th somewhere around the year 336 A.D. At the time, there was no holiday celebrating Jesus’s birth. There were however, numerous other holidays from other religions. This meant Christians would celebrate Christmas along side Pagans celebrating the Solstice and Romans celebrating Juvenalia. These other holidays, combined with plentiful food from the recent harvest, made early Christmases more like Mardi Gras. It was a wild festival full of excesses.
In these days, social orders were turned upside down. The poor demanded fine food and drinks from the rich. There were extended periods of businesses closing, for weeks to celebrate. There could be feasts lasting nearly two weeks. It was a time to drink and be wild, with no real emphasis on gift giving or any of the holiday’s current focuses.
These excesses weren’t shared by everyone. The varied sects of Christianity took different approaches to the holiday. Some groups were in favor of celebration. Some were intent on banishing the holiday entirely. In the 17th century, Puritans taking political control in England would successfully cancel Christmas. It was an attempt to end decadence.
The Pilgrims who would eventually travel to the Americas shared this conservative approach. They were even more restrictive than the Puritans.
Christmas in the US
Christmas didn’t take root in the United States until nearly a century after the country’s founding. On the one hand, numerous religious groups such as the Pilgrims were against Christmas before they even arrived. In some cities, such as Boston, it was a punishable offense to even show the “Christmas Spirit”. On the other hand, after the American Revolution, the former colonists wanted to distance themselves from all things British.
When the holiday was celebrated, things didn’t always go smoothly. There were some early christmas riots. The classes didn’t mingle so effortlessly in the states as in other countries. When parties got wild, they would generally grow out of hand. At times, it was necessary to send in the police to subdue dangerous situations. “Good will toward men” was not a part of the celebrations.
Stories such as Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol helped to cast a new light on Christmas for the US and the rest of the world. The vast and varying background of the immigrants coming into the country soon lead to some holiday-thieving. Traditions from all the different celebrations, Christmas Trees, feasting, and more were slowly pulled into one gigantic holiday: Christmas.
None of these changes came over night, but over many years, even centuries, Christmas took on a new tone. It morphed from one type of celebration into another.
More to the Story
As we said at the beginning, this is only a brief history for Christmas. In doing our research, we came upon a wide range of strange facts and complexities to our favorite celebration. In some religions, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after December 25th. The choice of December 25th might not line up with Jesus’s actual birth (December is a guess, but there is some possibility he was born in the Spring!). To say nothing of the numerous Solstice-centric holidays we skipped over, such as Oden as a possible origin for Santa. The Germans believed he flew through the skies at night and chose who would prosper or perish. That almost sounds like picking out who’s naughty and nice.
For those interested in history (like us), you should really dive in this holiday season! Just be careful not to get too lost on the History Rabithole.
And a side note: The Procure Inc Blog will return in the New Year!