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History of Christmas

Posted by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM
  • 13 Replies

History

The earliest evidence of the celebration on December 25 of a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus is from the Chronography of 354 AD. This was in Rome, while in Eastern Christianity the birth of Jesus was already celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6. The December 25 celebration was imported into the East later: in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the 4th century, probably in 388, and in Alexandria only in the following century. Even in the West, the January 6 celebration of the nativity of Jesus seems to have continued until after 380.

Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus' birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity. These elements, including the Yule log from Yule and gift giving from Saturnalia, became syncretized into Christmas over the centuries. The prevailing atmosphere of Christmas has also continually evolved since the holiday's inception, ranging from a sometimes raucous, drunken, carnival-like state in the Middle Ages, to a tamer family-oriented and children-centered theme introduced in a 19th-century reformation. Additionally, the celebration of Christmas was banned on more than one occasion within Protestant Christendom due to concerns that it was too pagan or unbiblical.

Pre-Christian background

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the unconquered sun".

Some early Christian writers connected the sun to the birth of Jesus, which Christians believe was prophesied in Malachi 4:2 as the "Sun of Righteousness." "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born...Christ should be born", Cyprian wrote. In the fourth century, John Chrysostom commented on the connection: "But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December ... the eight before the calends of January [25 December] ..., But they call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord ...? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice."

One ancient source mentioned Dies Natalis Solis Invicti in the Chronography of 354, and Sol scholar Steven Hijmans stated that there is no evidence that the celebration precedes that of Christmas: "[W]hile the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas, and none that indicates that Aurelian had a hand in its institution."

Winter festivals

A winter festival was the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included the fact that less agricultural work needs to be done during the winter, as well as an expectation of better weather as spring approached. Modern Christmas customs include: gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; and Yule logs and various foods from Germanicfeasts.

Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period. As Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, its pagan traditions had a major influence on Christmas, especially Koleda, which was incorporated into the Christmas carol. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul. In English, the word Yule is synonymous with Christmas, a usage first recorded in 900.

Christianity

The New Testament Gospel of Luke may indirectly give the date as December for the birth of Jesus, with the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist cited by John Chrysostom (c. 386) as a date for theAnnunciationTertullian (d. 220) did not mention Christmas as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In Chronographai, a reference work published in 221, Sextus Julius Africanus suggested that Jesus was conceived on the spring equinox. The equinox was March 25 on the Roman calendar, so this implied a birth in December.

Bishops Theophilus of Antioch (ca. 175) and Hippolytus of Rome (204) are often cited among the earliest Christian references to December 25 being the Date of Christ's birth.[citation needed] In 245, the theologian Origen of Alexandriastated that, "only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod)" celebrated their birthdays. In 303, Christian writer Arnobius ridiculed the idea of celebrating the birthdays of gods, a passage cited as evidence that Arnobius was unaware of any nativity celebration. Since Christmas does not celebrate Christ's birth "as God" but "as man", this is not evidence against Christmas being a feast at this time. The fact the Donatists of North Africa celebrated Christmas may indicate that the feast was established by the time that church was created in 311.



by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM
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Replies (1-10):
suziejax
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 2:36 PM

TFS :)

ashleymosq
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 3:02 PM

NP

Quoting suziejax:

TFS :)


GypsiSky
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 3:52 PM

Tfs!!

ashleymosq
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 4:05 PM

NP

Quoting GypsiSky:

Tfs!!


Gabbysmom615
by Kira on Dec. 12, 2012 at 4:43 PM

 thanks

ashleymosq
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 4:51 PM

NP

Quoting Gabbysmom615:

 thanks


SarahSuzyQ
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 9:03 PM
This is really interesting to read about.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
bwsmommy
by on Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:46 PM

 So cool !! TFS !

ashleymosq
by on Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM
1 mom liked this

NP

Quoting bwsmommy:

 So cool !! TFS !


Sophie4910
by on Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:22 PM

TFS

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