History of Christmas:
The Columbia Encyclopedia:
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2008 The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press.
Christmas [Christ's Mass], in the Christian calendar, feast of the nativity of Jesus, celebrated in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches on Dec. 25. In liturgical importance it ranks after Easter , Pentecost, and Epiphany (Jan. 6).
The observance probably does not date earlier than AD 200 and did not become widespread until the 4th cent. The date was undoubtedly chosen for its nearness to Epiphany, which, in the East, originally included a commemoration of the nativity. The date of Christmas coincides closely with the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a time of rejoicing among many ancient cultures. Christmas, as the great popular festival of Western Europe, dates from the Middle Ages. In England after the Reformation the observance became a point of contention between Anglicans and other Protestants, and the celebration of Christmas was suppressed in Scotland and in much of New England until the 19th cent.
In the mid 19th cent. Christmas began to acquire its associations with an increasingly secularized holiday of gift-giving and good cheer, a view that was popularized in works such as Clement Clarke Moore 's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823) and Charles Dickens's story A Christmas Carol (1843). Christmas cards first appeared c.1846. The current concept of a jolly Santa Claus was first made popular in New York in the 19th cent.
The Yule Log, the boar's head, the goose (in America the turkey), decoration with holly, hawthorn, wreaths, mistletoe, and the singing of carols by waifs (Christmas serenaders) are all typically English. Gifts at Christmas are also English; elsewhere they are given at other times, e.g., at Epiphany in Spain. The Christmas tree was a tradition from the Middle Ages in Germany. The crib with the scene at Bethlehem was popularized by the Franciscans. The midnight service on Christmas Eve is a popular religious observance in the Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches.
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday celebrated on December 25 that commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The date of commemoration is not known to be Jesus' actual birthday, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with either a historical Roman festival or the winter solstice. Christmas is central to the Christmas and holiday season, and in Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days.
Although traditionally a Christian holiday, Christmas is widely celebrated by many non-Christians, and some of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, and garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, Father Christmas (known as Santa Claus in North America, Australia and Ireland) is a popular mythological figure in many countries, associated with the bringing of gifts for children.
The first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria in 1937.
In Japan, “Hoteiosho“, who closely relates to Santa Claus, is thought to be an old man who carries a huge sack.
In Hungary, the Christmas meal can’t be served until a twinkling star is seen in the sky.
The first documented use of an evergreen tree in a Christmas celebration was in Riga, Latvia, in the year 1510.
Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. It was originally played on the guitar.
In ancient times, it was forbidden to fight in the presence of mistletoe.
In Brazil, the children serve breakfast on Christmas day
Star Man visits all Polish homes after Christmas Eve supper, bringing small gifts and cookies to the children.
Chinese children await a visit from Dun Che Lao Ren which translates to “Christmas Old Man”.
The first candy cane dates back to 1670 when the choir master at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff.
Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today's Mardi Gras parties.
From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
Christmas wasn't a holiday in early America—in fact Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the country's first Christmas under the new constitution.
Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.
The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith's 1607 Jamestown settlement.
Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was the product of Robert L. May's imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.
Best 25 Christmas movies of all time, according to the Chicago Tribune:
25. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
24. Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
23. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
22. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
21. Holiday Inn (1942)
20. The Polar Express (2004)
19. A Christmas Carol (1951)
18. Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
17. Scrooged (1988)
16. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
15. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
14. Bad Santa (2003)
13. Home Alone (1990)
12. The Bishop's Wife (1947)
11. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)
10. Love Actually (2003)
9. Elf (2003)
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
7. White Christmas (1954)
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
4. The Santa Clause (1994)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
2. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
1. A Christmas Story (1983)
Sinterklaas is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5) or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6th. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children.
It is also celebrated in the traditionally Germanic parts of France, as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and in the town of Trieste and in Eastern Friuli in Italy. Additionally, many Roman Catholics of Alsatian and Lotharingian descent in Cincinnati, Ohio, celebrate "Saint Nicholas Day" on the morning of December 6. The traditions differ from country to country, even between Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve (December 5) is the chief occasion for gift-giving. The evening is called "sinterklaasavond" or "pakjesavond." In the Netherlands, children receive their presents on this evening whereas in Belgium, children put their shoe in front of the fireplace on the evening of December 5, then go to bed, and find the presents around the shoes on the morning of the 6th.
Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus.
Give a Heifer for Christmas:
Christmas Trees and More
Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Discrete Mathematics
Star Trek-The Night Before Christmas
Christmas At The Time of the Civil War
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