History of the Celebration of Christmas
People have celebrated a mid-winter festival since pre-historic times. They marked the beginning of longer hours of daylight with fires and ritual offerings. The Roman festival of Saturnalia — a time for feasting and gambling — lasted for weeks in December. Germanic tribes of Northern Europe also celebrated mid-winter with feasting, drinkingand religious rituals.
It’s thought that Jesus of Nazareth was born in springtime. A Pope, Julius I, chose December 25th for the celebration of his birth in the 4th century — to include a Christian element in the long-established mid-winter festivals.
Also in the 4th century, a bishop in Turkey who came to be called St. Nicholas was known for good deeds involving children. St. Nicholas is illustrated in medieval and renaissance paintings as a tall, dignified and severe man. His feast day on December 6 was celebrated throughout Europe until about the 16th century. Afterwards, he continued to be known in Protestant Holland.
Dutch children would put shoes by the fireplace for St. Nicholas or “Sinter Klaas” and leave food out for his horse. He’d gallop on his horse between the rooftops and drop candy down the chimneys into the children’s shoes. Meanwhile, his assistant, Black Peter, was the one who popped down the chimneys to leave gifts behind. Dutch settlers brought the legend of Sinter Klaas to North America — where we came to know him as Santa Claus. Clement Clarke Moore first described the jolly old elf with his sleigh drawn by reindeer, in the poem “The Night Before Christmas.
Although it was never celebrated in biblical times, Christmas is celebrated in local churches here in Visalia, California in praise of the fact that God loved us so much; he sent his one and only son to earth. He was wholey god and wholey man. Whereas we have succumbed to the temptations of this earth, Jesus was able to overcome all temptations and live a sinless life. He was then crucified as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. One cannot understand why we celebrate the birth of Christ without seeing the other end of his life. He was crucified for our sins and resurrected.
Christmas was declared a Federal Holiday in America on June 26, 1870 under the government headed by President Ulysses S. Grant during the period of reconstruction following the American Civil War. Thus, it is untrue that Christmas has always been a Federal holiday. When Charles Dickens published his Christmas Carol in 1843, the US Government was a Scrooge and remained so for 26 years. However, it is a holiday in the United States this year!
In our culture is “Christmas” a seasonal celebration of winter or a religious celebration honoring the birth of Christ? In truth, it is a mixture of both with, as any economist will confirm, quite a bit of materialism thrown in.