Christmas tree at Sandringham
Photo from https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

What is the origin of Christmas?

Have you ever thought what the origin of Christmas is?  We all know that it’s the time of year when the world gets into a frenzy about getting the perfect gifts, cooking the tastiest meal and throwing the best parties. But have you ever wondered when it all began? We’re here to share the origins of Christmas with you!

What invented Christmas?

A popular story for the origin of Christmas is that it’s a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But this isn’t one hundred per cent the case. This may be the origin of the name Christmas but the holiday itself has pagan origins.

What we know as Christmas practices had been around a long time before the Christians adopted the holiday. The origins of some practices we still do come from pagan traditions surrounding the winter solstice. For example, gathering around a tree in our homes and sharing a meal with those you care about.

So, in short, who invented Christmas? Pagan tradition is at the base of the origin of Christmas. The celebrations were adopted by the church in order to preserve the customs but change the meaning for it to be centred around celebrating the spirit of Christ.

What is Christmas in simple words?

Christmas is a time of year when people get together and celebrate. Whether religious or not, Christmas encourages people to get together with family and friends. Although by the title it’s a Christian holiday, other faiths celebrate the time of year. For example, Jewish people have Hanukkah which is celebrated around the end of November/beginning of December.

Crhistmas feast
Christmas feast

History of Christmas?

Before Christmas, people celebrated the winter solstice as part of the Norse holiday Yule – like the delicious log cake. Yule runs from December 21 into January. This was widely celebrated across Europe.

In the 4th century, Pope Julius of the Church in Rome made the decision to place a festival of celebration for Jesus’s birth in midwinter. He adopted the feasting aspect of the pagan celebrations for the churches holiday which was called the Feast of Nativity.

The choice to have it at the same time as the pagan celebrations was part of the effort to encourage people to convert to Christianity. This worked because by the middle ages Christianity and Christmas were more popular than non-secular celebrations.

More recently it has become more common for Christians attending services like Christmas mass and Christingle and for others, the holiday became more commercialised.

Society putting more emphasis on the gift-giving and exchanging Christmas cards aspect to entice more people outside the religion to partake in festive practices.

How was Christmas celebrated in the 1900s?

In the 1900s the biggest change to Christmas was the commercialisation of the holiday, with companies finding ways to market the holiday more towards children and buying toys as presents.

In 1902 the plush teddy bear was invented specifically for Christmas. Every year since companies have been trying to put out the ‘toy of the year’ for Christmas.

Prior to this, the mid-1800 tradition of putting out stocking stuck even as toys became the gift of choice. With stockings, children would find little toys and an orange (or apple) in their stocking which would be hung up and ready to be riffled through on Christmas morning.

In America, although suffering the great depression in the 1920s they still tried to keep up with Christmas traditions and families tried to make sure the children would have something to open on the day.

coca cola santa
Copyright The Coca-Cola Company

A big standout moment of Christmas in the 20th century was the iconic image of the Coca Cola Santa first being shown to the world. Since 1931 to the present day, seeing that image of Santa has marked the beginning of the festive season.

Through the 20th century Christmas parties became big post-depression and like many of the 20th century Christmas tradition evolutions this one has stuck with us to this day.

From its roots in the winter solstice to now being a fairly commercial holiday. Has the long history of Christmas surprised you?

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