If you are anything like Voice and Vision, you will be eagerly anticipating the extra-long holiday weekend. As a Christmas gift, we want to share some Christmas facts with you. These facts are great for sparking conversation at your next gathering. (You’re welcome).
Christmas is a product of both pagan and Roman cultures. The Romans actually celebrated two holidays in December. The first was Saturnalia. This festival honored Saturnalia, their god of agriculture. On December 25, they celebrated Mithra’s birth. Both celebrations were fill with revelry and alcohol.
December is the darkest month of the year. To keep the darkness away, pagan cultures lit bonfires and candles in December. This tradition was carry over to Roman celebrations.
Pagan customs and celebrations were not stop by the Christian clergy. The pagan ritual to celebrate Jesus’ birthday was modify because no one knew Jesus’s birth date.
Pagan cultures decorated their homes with greens for the solstice celebrations. Because they were green even on the coldest and darkest days, evergreen trees were thought to possess special powers. Romans added metal bits to their Saturnalia temples with fir trees. According to records, even the Greeks decorated trees in honor of their gods. It is interesting that the first trees were bring from the ceiling to be hung upside-down in pagan homes.
Northern Europe is the origin of the tree tradition we now know. Germanic pagan tribes decorated evergreens trees with candles to worship Woden, the god of the woods. The tradition was later adopt by the Christian faith in Germany during the 1500s. They decorated their trees using sweets, lights, and toys.
This Christmas tradition is a result of St. Nicholas. It has Christian roots and is not pagan. He was born in Turkey on 28 August 280. He was also subjecte to persecution and imprisonment. His kindness towards the poor and the disenfranchised was well-known. Many legends surround him. His most significant achievement was the rescue of three young girls from being sold into slavery. Their father was force to offer them a dowry to convince a man to marry their daughters. St. Nicholas is said to have save them by throwing the gold through an open window into their home. Legend has it that gold was find in a sock as it dried by the fire while it fell. In the hope that St. Nicholas would give them gifts, children began to hang stockings by their fires.
In honor of his passing, the 6th of December was declared St. Nicholas Day. Over time, each European culture created its own version. Christkind (or Kris Kringle), was the German or Swiss version of St. Nicholas. Children who behave well were given presents by them. Jultomten was a happy elf that delivered presents to children in Sweden using a goat-pulled sleigh. Pere Noel France and Father Christmas were also available. In France, Belgium and Luxembourg, he was also know by the name Sinter Klaas. Klaas is a shorter form of Nicholas. This is where Santa Claus was first Americanized.
Christmas In America
In early America, Christmas was mix. Puritan beliefs forbade Christmas because of its pagan roots, and the loud nature of the celebrations. Others in Europe continued to observe the traditions of their homelands. The Dutch brought Sinter Klaas from Holland to New York in the 1600s. Germans brought with them their tree traditions in the 1700s. Each community has its own celebrations.
The 1800s were not the era that saw the birth of American Christmas. Washington Irving wrote a series about an English landowner who invites workers to dinner. Irving loved the idea that people from all walks could come together to celebrate Christmas. Irving told the story of a rich landowner who had restored lost Christmas traditions and reintroduced them. Irving’s story was the catalyst for American Christmas.
Clement Clark Moore was a father of three and wrote An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas for his daughters in 1822. It is well-known for its title, The Night Before Christmas. The modern Santa Claus image, a smiling man riding in a sleigh across the sky, was born here. Thomas Nast was an artist hire in 1881 to draw Santa for a Coke A-Cola ad. He created a rotund Santa, surrounded by worker elves. American culture accepted Santa as a fat, happy, white-bearded man in a red suit.
A National Holiday
After the civil war, the country sought to find ways to overcome differences and unify as a nation. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant declared it a federal holiday. Although Christmas traditions have changed over the years, Washington Irving’s desire for unity and harmony during celebrations is still apparent. This is the time to give joy and wish others well, and also to support charities we care about.
Happy Holidays And Merry Christmas
No matter where you may be, we wish you the best holidays and the merriest of Christmases.