A Brief History of Christmas

WSJ has a brief history of the holiday, from Roman times, through the middle ages when it was more like a modern new years, to the reformation where the holiday was largely forgotten to the 19th and 20th centuries that created the child-oriented holiday we know celebrate.

The Christmas of parties and presents is far older than the Nativity. Most ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb once more in the sky. In ancient Rome, this festival was called the Saturnalia and ran from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24. During that week, no work was done, and the time was spent in parties, games, gift giving and decorating the houses with evergreens. (Sound familiar?) It was, needless to say, a very popular holiday.

In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it. Instead, the Church calendar was centered on Easter, still by far the most important day in the Christian year. The Last Supper was a Seder, celebrating Passover, which falls on the day of the full moon in the first month of spring in the Hebrew calendar. So in A.D. 325, the Council of Nicea decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring. That’s why Easter and its associated days, such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, are “moveable feasts,” moving about the calendar at the whim of the moon.
A Brief History of Christmas – WSJ.com



  1. StevePerkins says:

    It’s funny how many social conservative issues of “tradition” feature stunning ignorance of “tradition”.

    Bill O’Reilly rails endlessly about “taking the Christ out of Christmas” (and makes quite a few bucks for himself in the the process)… but Christmas is historically a pagan/secular holiday, with sporatic attempts to inject Christ IN rather than carve him OUT.

    The Confederate flaggers a few years ago tried to wrap their racism in the cloak of “history” and “tradition”. How many of them actually understood that the Confederate stars-and-bars wasn’t incorporated into the Georgia flag until the 1950’s (about a century AFTER the fall of the Confederacy)… as a nose-thumbing gesture in response to school integration?

    The debate over “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and what the founding fathers did or didn’t think about the matter? The “under God” religious reference wasn’t inserted into the Pledge until the Cold War started, as a nose-thumbing gesture to the atheist Soviet Union. The founding fathers didn’t even HAVE a Pledge of Allegiance… it was created in the early 20th century by a socialist who wanted to foster a sense of loyalty to a centralized government, rather than the attitude of the day in which people saw themselves as residents of their State first and foremost. If you do a Google Images search, you can still find photographs of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge as it was originally envisioned… facing the flag and holding their arms out in a Nazi salute. It wasn’t until the Germans spoiled that gesture decades later than we adopted the current protocol of putting your hand across your heart.

    Historical stories are interesting. Historical realities are more interesting still.

  2. GOPeach says:

    Actually the stars and bars were the 13 ( Manessah & Ephraim instead of Joesph) tribes of Israel and the 13 ( 12 plus Mathias) Apostles.

    And the cross represented the crossing of Jacob’s hands to bless the son’s of Joesph. That is the way my great grandfather told it ( who’s father faught in the war of northern aggression).

    Ephraim & Manessah are the Tribes of the US & Great Brittian ( according to Zionism)…

    Here are some web-sites to read over a steamy cup of joe on a cold winter night.


    These are facts in addition to:

    St. Andrews Cross ( who was crucified on an “X” shaped cross) and the 13 original colonies.

  3. jsm says:

    From our Nation’s point of view, Christmas has always been about Jesus’ birth. The Puritan pilgrims wouldn’t recognize it because it was associated with the Catholic Church, which had persecuted them. Those early settlers which were members of the Anglican Church did recognize it.

    Christmas was not accepted widely throughout the country until the 1860’s or 1870’s. The federal government first recognized the holiday in 1870. They didn’t recognize some ancient astronomical celebration.

    Holiday traditions in ancient Rome mean nothing to me. I see no one today celebrating the winter solstice like the ancient Romans or any other group throughout history.

    We celebrate Christmas, and we take this time to be thankful for Jesus’ birth. The date we celebrate has nothing to do with doctrine, but the facts surrounding the circumstances of His birth form the foundation of what we believe.

    This Nation chooses to celebrate Christmas because of its Christian heritage, and nothing will change what formed this republic.

    I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and will enjoy many more.

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