“Origins of Christmas”

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“Origins of Christmas”

Abby Black, Staff Writer

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Christmas, today, can be celebrated as a religious holiday or just a day for family to get together and share gifts.  Everyone knows how the holiday is celebrated today, but do we really know how it all began?

Christmas is celebrated on December 25th in a lot of countries.  In fact, that day has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870, but Christmas has been around for much longer than that.  For nearly two millennia, people all over the world have been taking part in these Christmas celebrations.  Christians celebrate this day as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  Events on this day include exchanging gifts, attending church, and sharing meals with family.

Winter has been the basis of many celebrations.  Before Jesus was born, Europeans would celebrate light and the darkest days of winter.  Many would celebrate during the Winter Solstice because that meant that the worst of the winter was behind them.  Then end of December was a perfect time to celebrate for Europeans because their cattle had been slaughtered, so they would not have to be fed anymore.  For many, that would be the only time they got fresh meat.

In the 17th century, religious reforms changed the way that Christmas was celebrated.  When the Puritans took over England in 1645, they planned to rid England of corruption, thus, cancelling Christmas.  It was not brought back until Charles II regained the throne.  The pilgrims were even more orthodox than the Puritans, so America was not introduced to Christmas.  From 1659-1681, the holiday was illegal in Boston.  After the American Revolution, British customs were thrown out and Christmas was not considered a holiday until 1870.

The reason that Christmas is celebrated on December 25th is to remember the birth of Baby Jesus.  The name Christmas comes from the Mass of Christ which is a service, Communion or Eucharist, where Christians remember that Jesus died for them and is coming back.  It was the only service that was allowed to occur after sunset.  It was held at midnight, so the name Christ-Mass was shortened to Christmas.  It is now celebrated by people around the world, not just Christians.

No one knows the birthday of Jesus as it was not mentioned in the Bible so people just picked a date to celebrate.  The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on the 25th was in 336.  It was during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine as he was the first Christian Roman Emperor.  A few years later, Pope Julius I declared that it would be celebrated on December 25th.

Whether you are Christian or not, Christmas still has the same basic meaning: family and friends.  We have also come a long way as Christmas has not always been celebrated the way we celebrate it and when.