A Brief History of Christmas
Christmas, as we know it today, didn’t come into being until the 1500s, but it has roots that stretch back much further than that. In fact, though most people probably don’t realize it, the tradition of Christmas celebrations can be traced back to Roman times. Despite being largely Christian now, Christmas has always had elements of different cultures and religions mixed in throughout its history. Here’s a brief history of Christmas all the way to today!
At its core, Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration and giving. But is it all just a result of one man’s birth? Where did we come from as humans, and how has that shaped our holidays? To begin to answer these questions, we have to go back more than 500 years ago . . . and even further before that. If you want to get into some deep theological or historical discussions with your family members during your holiday celebrations next month, then keep reading!
Renaissance Through Victorian Times
As Christianity became a dominant force in Western Europe during and after the fall of Rome, people started celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25th. St. Nicholas, who lived in what is now Turkey in 300 A.D., was a Christian bishop and man known for giving gifts to children.
The Middle Ages
It was originally a pagan holiday celebrating ancient mid-winter rituals. Pope Julius I officially declared Dec. 25 as a feast day in A.D. 350, and it gradually morphed into what we know today as Christmas with celebrations (at least for Christians) centering around three central events: birth, crucifixion and resurrection. The celebration on Dec. 25 was not originally an official holiday in many parts of Europe; rather, it became popular because it coincided with various local winter festivals.
Winter Festivals That Coincided With December 25
One explanation for how December 25 became associated with Jesus’ birth is that it was one of several pagan festivals (such as Yule) on or around that date. The winter solstice marked an important time for ancient cultures, including Celtic and Germanic peoples, who believed it signaled a new season. In Northern Europe, pagans honored winter gods like Odin and Thor by holding festivals during which they sacrificed animals and burned bonfires in their honor.
Christmas In The 21st Century
The Evolution Of Christmas From 1685 Years Ago: The evolution and history of Christmas is a complex one. It can be traced back to December 25th, A.D. 336 during the Roman Empire where it was celebrated by pagan Romans as the day of Saturnalia—the winter solstice festival which honored their god Saturnus by feasting and giving gifts. The modern concept of Santa Claus comes from St Nicholas, a Christian bishop in ancient Turkey who would later become known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus.