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
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.