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Christmas in Italy
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The Origins of Christmas

According to the historical records available, Christmas was first celebrated on January 6 according to the old Julian calendar. The day was also observed as an official Roman holiday starting from A.D. 534. The practice was continued until when due to some disputes or other reasons, the celebration of the day was switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1743. This resulted in a change of date for Christmas celebrations, which fell on December 25. It is said that Pope Julius I chose December 25 to be the date to celebrate Christmas. According to the popular belief, the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival or the Feast of the Nativity.

The celebration of the day gradually spread all across the world, where the followers of the Christian community lived. This custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.

In the early seventeenth century, a wave of religious reform threatened to change the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. In 1645 Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England and vowed to rid England of decadence. They cancelled the celebrations of Christmas as a step to achieve their goal. But, Charles II was restored to the throne and this resulted in the return of the popular holiday.

Christmas had a late arrival in America, and was even faced with some hostilities. In the years 1659 to 1681 the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. The Christmas spirit was fined. As an immediate result of the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favour and celebrating Christmas was among them. Though some places like the Jamestown settlement did celebrate Christmas with all the related gaiety, they remained an exception.

But with the beginning of the nineteenth century, the need for a festival to have some commemorative time, made the Americans embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday. Christmas was declared as a national holiday for celebration on June 26, 1870. And that was not all; Americans even re-invented the Christmas celebration and transformed it from a mere carnival into a family-oriented day of feast, fun and frolic.

Within hundred years, the Americans built a tradition in the Christmas celebration that was all of their own including, decorating trees, sending Christmas or holiday cards and presenting gifts. The festival also fulfilled the cultural needs of a growing nation.

With the passage of time, Christmas celebration became a part of life for the Christians all over the world.



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