The History of Christmasby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Discuss the origin and changes that have lead to the modern celebration of Christmas.
Our culture has changed and Christmas has become more secular, Jesus has been forgotten and Christmas has become a time full of materialism.
The date the Christmas is celebrated on was used to replace the pagan worship in Rome on December 25, to celebrate the day of Jesus’ birth. Christianity spread throughout Europe, but was not accepted by the Orthodox Church because of it’s pagan beginnings. The story of Santa was expanded off of the tale of a bishop in Turkey who gave gifts to the poor. Many Christmas traditions today were taken from pagan ones.
Packed with busy shoppers, jingle bells, colorful lights and Santa Claus, Christmas is thought by many people to be “the most wonderful time of the year”. But few people stop to think how it originated. Starting as a pagan holiday during the time of the Romans, it developed into a Christian celebration of Christ. But as Christmas and our culture has changed and become more secular, Jesus has been forgotten and Christmas has become a time full of materialism.
In ancient times many cultures worshiped their deities around the time of the winter solstice. From their celebrations comes not only the date when we celebrate Christmas, but also many of our holiday traditions. First recorded before the times of Christ were the Babylonians, who worshiped the sun god Isis, annually on December 25. Later Romans designated December 25 as the day of their celebration. On this day, they honored, not only Saturn, the deity of agriculture, but also the birthday of Mithras the sun god. Meanwhile on that same day, the people of northern Europe celebrated Yule, also in honor of their sun god Mithras.
During Jesus’ time, worship of Mithras continued to be popular in Rome. After Jesus’ death, Christianity began to replace pagan religions. However, many pagan converts to Christianity refused to discontinue their pagan practices. Many of these Christians worshipped Mithras on Sunday (named after the sun god), and attended the annual feast. Sighting this as a problem, church leaders decided to Christianize pagan customs, in order to attract pagans and allow converts to observe their old traditions in a godly fashion.
In 321, the Roman Emperor Constantine gave Christianity freedom in Rome. Later in 336AD, Christians unofficially replaced the pagan Roman holiday with a celebration honoring Christ’s birth. Pope Julius, who designated December 25 as the official celebration of Christ’s birth, followed this up in 350AD. This holiday became known as Christmas, or the Mass of Christ.
Christmas soon spread to other countries beyond Rome. In 432AD it had reached Egypt; during the 6th century, England was observing Christmas and by the 8th century, Scandinavia practiced it. However, the Greek Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church, refused to recognize Christmas as a Christian holiday because of its pagan origin. Instead they chose to celebrate the Epiphany also known as Three Kings Day, which honored the visitation of the magi to Jesus.
Although Christianity has its basic origin in pagan holidays and early church history, the American celebration, as we know it today, has transformed over the years. Santa Claus, who is such a huge part of our Christmas celebration, originated long ago. In ancient Egypt they believed in Bes, a deity who supposedly gave presents to children who were good. Later the Romans had a similar belief in which Saturn brought everyone gifts in December. During the 4th century a bishop in Turkey by the name of Nicholas was known for his generosity specifically toward three poor, dowriless girls. After the bishop’s death his story changed over the years and eventually developed into the modern day Santa Claus.
The rather amusing practice of kissing under mistletoe came from the Norse and Romans. During their annual festivals both hung mistletoe in honor of their sun gods. Kissing under it was considered worship and the tradition has carried over into modern day.
Our most common tradition, the Christmas tree comes from the Romans. In honor of their god Mithras, they cut down trees and decorated them as Jeremiah mentions in Jeremiah 10: 3-4, “For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.” The decorated trees symbolized life and fertility but as Christmas replaced the Roman celebration the meaning changed to eternal life through Christ.
The practice of putting lights on the tree came from Martin Luther. One night as Luther was walking home he was inspired by the moonlight shining through the boughs of a fir tree. Once he arrived home he put candles in his Christmas tree. This came to symbolize Jesus being the Light of the World.
Wreaths are also associated with the Romans. Shaped like a circle, they represented the sun. Through wreaths, Romans thanked the sun for their ability to survive due to its warmth, but much like the Christmas tree the church changed the meaning to signify eternal life and God’s infinite love.
One tradition that did not originate from the pagans is the crèche. In 1223 Francis of Assisi aimed to draw the focus of Christmas back onto Jesus when he made a live nativity.
In the 16th century as colonists came to the new world, Christmas developed and changed. The Puritans banned Christmas due to its pagan aspects. Other colonists adopted traditions to fit their rugged lifestyles. As the communication increased and the colonists and people from countries such as England, France, Holland and Spain, inter mixed the traditional European customs changed. Practices such as feasting on boar’s heads, drinking wine from bowls and hiring Christmas performers were no longer done.
Many of the traditions we have today come from pagan civilizations, but have been changed to have new meaning. Over church history, leaders have taken some pagan holiday traditions and given them Christian meanings. (For instance the evergreens represent life in Christ.) But as our culture has grown more secular and humanistic, people who enjoy the Christmas celebration but don’t believe in God, are transforming it into a Godless holiday. It has become commercialized and centered on Santa and human goodness. They claim Christmas is the time of giving and joy, yet they forget to include Jesus who gave the ultimate gift.
Beginning as a pagan festival, Christmas has transformed over the years from the Mass of Christ and back into a time of idolization. For many, Christmas is the time when children drool over thoughts of Christmas gifts and we are swept up in the whirlwind of busyness. But as the din of the jingle bells fades, the last carols are heard and the wrapping paper settles, people realize that the idolized Christmas gifts are just as effective as the pagan gods of long ago. They do not satisfy. As fun as Christmas may be, it can bring no lasting joy without Jesus. Matthew 2:10, 11 gives an example of how we are supposed to act on Christmas. The wise men, kings, powerful men of their time; rejoiced when they saw the baby Jesus, and worshiped him with all of their hearts.
1. Which is false?
a. Christmas is on December 25.
b. Christmas is about Jesus.
c. Christmas was founded by the founding fathers.
d. Christmas has pagan origins.
2. Who did the Romans worship?
3. When was Christmas officially instituted as a Christian holiday?
a. 4th century
b. 1223 AD
c. 350 AD
d. 8th century
4. Which is true?
a. Christmas means mass of Christ.
b. Martin Luther was a traveling minstrel who composed “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer”.
c. John 3:16 mentions Christmas trees.
d. The Epiphany is celebrated by Jews.
Answers: 1)c, 2)b, 3)c, 4)a
9. Remson, Al. Where Did Christmas Come From?. New York City: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996.http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=29995
Additional information about <http://hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/cot/t0w32christmas.htm>
The above essay was donated to hyperhistory.net.
of inaccuracies or plagiarism.
Post a link to this essay,
a great essay
on your blog or website :
|Comparative Essays||Biographies||Doc. Based Questions||Change Over Time|