The history of Christmas was not the most joyful of all the time, even tho Christmas is the most loved celebration in all the world.

History of Christma

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, full filling the Old Testament's Messianic Prophecy, Jesus was born in an old stable surrounded by farm animals.

It's not know for sure the exact date in which Jesus was born, and people did not pay much attention the first couple of centuries.

Around 350 A.D., the Bishop of Rome set the date of Christ's birth on December 25th, this was backed up by Sextus Julius, who using a work reference known as Chronography, found out that Jesus was conceived on the spring Equinox (March 25th).

Some authorities were not sure that this was the real motive why December 25th was picked, and believed that it was chosen because it coincided with the pagans celebrations of the Mithrac Feast of the God Sun, the Roman Saturnalia and the Jews Feast of Hanukkah (Chanukah).

Looking how Christmas was becoming more and more popular, the Church gave a new meaning to the old Pagans customs of these festivities in favor of the adoration of Christ.

One of these customs was the Christmas feast in 379 to Constantinople, but in 381, when Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as Bishop, the feast disappeared, but was brought back in 400 by John Chrysostom.

By Middle Ages, Christmas was one of the most popular holidays, overshadow only for Epiphany (this holiday was focused on the visit of the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus) and the Advent (or 40 days of St.Martin).

During the late days of the Middle Ages, Christmas was the most popular holiday. In England, Christmas was known as Jule or Yule, this name came from a ceremony in which men and boys dragged in the Yule log, used in the bonfires for the winter Solstice Feast.

The log was picked months before and let to dry, then set afire, the ashes were used to protect the homes from storms and also was believed they could heal wounds and make fields fertile.

Another prominent tradition was the Feast King on Christmas day, the Feast lasted several hours. The King was the first to walk into the main hall,and when he was seated at the table, trumpeters then would announce to the guests the coming of the Lord of Misrule (person in charge of the games and ceremonials during the Yule season).

The Chief Serving man would then enter to the hall carrying a silver plate for the King, then the guest would take their seats to enjoy the food, which usually included meat pies, haunches of beef, young pigs and fancy cakes called "Yule Babies".

In the people's home, there were customs that used to be follow, for example, family members (the kids were allowed to be up till midnight) sat around the flames of the Yule log, to burn out the old wrongs, then go to church services at midnight.

People also used to exchange gifts on Christmas eve, this is believed to go back to the Roman's Saturnalia times. During this celebration, people used to give friends "Strenae" (jewelry, pastries or fruits). Plus the homes used to be decorated with greens.

It is believed that Romans were the ones that started to decorate their homes, temples and public buildings, also Teutonic people believed that some greens would scare evil spirits away. The most common greens used were Laurel, Rosemary and Ivy, but the ones that are more related to the holiday are the Holy and the Mistletoe.

The Mistletoe used to be hung from the door or ceiling and every time a guy stand under it, had to steal a kiss from a lady and pluck a berry from the green. Another people believed this is another tradition that started in Rome, when there was a fight, Romans used to re conciliate when they met under the Mistletoe.

But the Holy was above all of the greens. Legend says that is because Christ's crown of thorns was made of Holy, also it is used to do the Christmas crowns because the berries resemble Christ's blood. In the present, Holy wreaths are the most distinctive holiday decorations.

Another important part of Christmas were the Waits (Ministres that sang and played at the court), along with the Mummers, Guisers and Masquerades, who used to go from hall to hall dancing, singing and staging plays.

After the Norman Conquest, it was very common sing carols. the carols composed in other countries were sang most of the times. The Englishmen produced some of the most loved carols in history of Christmas, such as: "Joy To The World"; "Deck The Halls"; "Angels From The Realms Of Glory".

Like we said before, the history of Christmas was not joyful all the time, during the 1600's, puritans condemned Christmas, calling it "trappings of property", trying to change this view around the holiday, the Church decided to promote it as a religious oriented holiday.

Finally when the Parlament won over Charles I in the Civil War, puritans banned it on 1647. Because of this, various riots broke, being one of the most important in the city of Canterbury. The rioters took the city and decorated the doorways of the city with Holly.

Another factor that helped reinvindicate Christmas, came with the publication of The Vindication of Christmas, in London, 1652. The book made note about the old English Christmas traditions, finally the ban came to an end in 1660, with the restoration of King Charles II.

Now let's talk about the history of Christmas in America. The celebrations were brought to America thanks to the Irish and Germans immigrants, becoming popular almost right away, but even in the new colonies, Christmas struggle thanks to the protestants and the puritans.

Between 1659 and 1681, the Christmas celebrations were banned in Boston, and New England, because of the protestants, but thanks to the Governor Sir Edmund Andros, the ban was revoked in 1681, after this year, the celebrations spread to New York and Virginia and Pennsylvania.

On the Southern colonies, feast and gala balls were held and the slaves were not required to work as long as the yule log burned, while on the Southwest,people of Mexican background staged plays like the Posadas and Pastorelas.

In the history of Christmas we can find also that around 1820, writers in England noticed that the history of Christmas was repeating, and was dying out, so in an effort to revive the holidays, in 1843, Charles Dickens wrote :A Christmas Carol", helping revive Christmas, becoming very popular this story, because portrayed Christmas as a holiday based on compassion, family and good will, also popularized the phrase "Merry Christmas".

In America during 1820, Christmas was dying out as well, but thanks to Washington Irving's short stories published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon's", he brought back the old Christmas traditions. Also in 1822, Clement Clarke Moore's poem "A Visit From St.Nicholas" (better known for its first line: "Twas the night before Christmas), helped to make popular Christmas again.

In 1833, the Christmas carols were made popular thanks to William B. Sandals, who printed "Christmas Carols Anthems And Modern". Ten years later, in 1843, Sir Henry Cole printed the first commercial Christmas card.

The history of Christmas tree starts in Britain, during the early days of 19th century, the Christmas tree was introduce thanks to the union of Queen Charlotte Of Mecklenburg-Streliz of Hamovor and King George III, but it was until 1832, that Queen Victoria started to place ornaments, lights and presents on the Christmas tree.

In 1848, the Illustrated London News published an image of the British Royal Family with their Christmas tree, creating a sensation. Later a version of this image was published in America, and by 1870 it was very common to have a Christmas tree in every home.

By 1860, 14 stated in U.S.A. adopted Christmas as a legal holiday and in 1870, it was declared a federal holiday, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.

And this is the history of Christmas.

If you have an interesting fact about the history of Christmas or would like to add more information to this page SUBMIT YOUR CHRISTMAS STORY HERE.

Return From History of Christmas To Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.