Christmas

Christmas is one of (if not the) largest holiday in our country, and in the world. The most popular belief about the origins of Christmas is that it was created in celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus. However, the roots of Christmas trace back much farther than Jesus' birth.

The History of Christmas
The Story of the Twelve Days of Christmas
Before Jesus was born, the people of Scandinavia celebrated the winter solstice from December 21 with the burning of a fire of very large logs. The celebration would last until all of the logs burnt out, which usually took twelve days.
European Celebrations
The beginning of winter marked the time of year when animals like cows and pigs were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed throughout the winter, and wine was fermented. This was a great time for celebrations, because there was fresh meat and drinks.
December 25 in Rome
In Rome, the weather was not as harsh as it was in other places in Europe. Instead of celebrating the winter solstice, they celebrated the birth of the god Mithra. This celebration took place on December 25.
The Spread of ChristmasThe First Christmas in Rome
Probably to "outshine" the festivals celebrating Mithra, Pope Julius I chose December 25 to celebrate Jesus' birthday, because His real birthday was not recorded in the Bible. This festival was originally called the Feast of Nativity.
The Spread of Christmas
Egypt -- 432 A.D.
England -- 500 A.D.
Scandinavia -- 700 A.D.
America -- 19th century Americans "re-invented" Christmas by looking back at the traditional Christmas celebrations of Catholic churches.
Modern-Day Christmas
Christmas is sometimes referred to as the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day in honor of the supposed-three "kings" that came to visit Jesus on the day of His birthday. In the Greek/Russian Orthodox church, Christmas is celebrated on January 7 instead of December 25.

Sinter Klaus, one of the older versions of Santa ClausThe History of Santa
St. Nicholas
The original "Santa," the monk St. Nicholas, was real. He was celebrated because of his generosity to the poor and kindness to the sick. He became known as a protector of children and sailors. Originally, a feast was given on the anniversary of his death, December 6, and this was considered to be a very lucky day for all important activities.
St. Nicholas in America
In 1773 and 1774, a few Dutch families in New York gathered to honor the death of "Sinter Klass" (St. Nicholas's Dutch name). This name was "modernized" and became Santa Claus. Beginning in 1804, this new Santa was beginning to be depicted in drawings and stories, and he was described in many different ways. Some of these descriptions are similar to the modern-day pictures of Santa Claus, but many were very much unlike our current descriptions of a jolly fat man with a white beard and red trousers.

Other Interesting Facts
  • For 22 years in the 1600s in Boston, Christmas was outlawed.
  • Christmas became a federal U.S. holiday in 1870.
  • Rudolph was originally created as an advertisement for a department store.
Citations
http://www.history.com/minisite.do?content_type=mini_home&mini_id=1290

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