Ever wonder how did Christmas start? Many people think that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus on December 25. Further research reveals that there is no date or year for the birth of Jesus. There are even theories that Jesus was born in August, on March 28 or on September 11. While the religious aspects of the Christmas holidays have a long and deep tradition, there are some other reasons why this celebration takes place on December 25.
There are many theories, other than the birth of Jesus, for how Christmas started. Isaac Newton believed that Christmas was timed to coincide with the Winter Solstice. In ancient times, this date was marked as December 25. In the early days of Christianity, missionaries often tied important holy days to the dates of pagan celebrations, to encourage people to celebrate their new faith.
Louis Duchesne believed that December 25 is celebrated because it falls nine months after the Annunciation, which is March 25. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, believed that Christmas was the celebration of the Roman solar holiday, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. The Roman holiday celebrates the birthday of the unconquered sun; December 25 was picked because the sun reversed its southward retreat, thereby proving it to be "unconquered."
Many cultures had a winter festival around the time of December 25. One of the most popular reasons for the different cultures to celebrate was because there was less agricultural work to be done during the winter months. The Winter Solstice was a time to gather with the community and celebrate the harvest. A large feast of fresh foods served as a sendoff to the fruitful autumn months, as people hunkered down for the stored food that would sustain them through the winter.
Christmas as we know it today is a combination of many different cultures. Gift giving and celebrating came from the Roman Saturnalia. Christmas lights and greenery came from the Roman New Year. Germanic feasts provided the Yule Log. Mistletoe was originally a part of pagan Winter Solstice celebrations in Europe. Christmas trees first appeared in 16th century Germany and did not become a part of American celebrations until the middle of the 19th century.
Over the years, different cultures melded or one culture was brought to a region by travelers, bringing us the Christmas we celebrate today. Christmas was not always a popular holiday. It became more prominent after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800 AD. Some historical accounts say that Pope Leo III slipped a crown on Charlemagne's head while he knelt to pray on Christmas Day, making Charlemagne the first king of the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne maintained strong ties with the Vatican throughout his reign over Europe, and encouraged celebration of the Christmas holiday.
Christmas is a special time for children, and every parent wants to make it something memorable, something magical. That may seem like a tall order considering the seasonal hoopla and commercial excess that now associates itself with this celebration, but the magic can be kept if a little forethought goes into holiday preparations.
Italian Christmas traditions are a festive blend of Christian influences and pagan celebrations. Whether your family is Italian or you just want to explore global holiday traditions, you can incorporate some old-world charm into your holiday.
Although they are not well-known worldwide, Polish Christmas traditions are full of important symbolism. If you are of Polish ancestry, perhaps incorporating a few Polish Christmas traditions will help you feel more connected to your family's heritage.