Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Some Christmas History~
The middle of winter has always been a time of celebrations.
Even Pagan celebrations were a ritual born of beliefs that followed the only spiritual guideline available.
Long before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, (the winter solstice,) through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, large logs were set on fire and people would feast until they burned out-sometimes lasting 12 days.
In the early days of Christianity-Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday.
By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced.
By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion.
In the early 17Th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.
The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.