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Saturday, 12 April 2014


For the first few centuries the church paid little attention to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Nevertheless as Christians increasingly commemorated the events of Jesus life the issue of the date of his birth became more prominent. However as Scripture at no point mentioned the date of Christ’s birth, early Christian teachers suggested various possible dates.

The Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus in 221, was possibly the first to nominate December 25th. He did this by identifying the spring equinox (March 25th) as the date of the creation of light on the fourth day of creation and by reasoning that Jesus’ conception was the same date, 5,500 years later, and his birth being nine months after that, December 25th.

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622  Wikipedia Commons

In 350 Pope Julius I designated December 25th as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth. He did so mainly as a political move to counteract the effect of Saturnalia, the popular feast held in honor of the Roman god Saturn, which occurred at the time of the winter solstice, climaxing on December 25th, a Roman holiday. December 25th also was a celebration of the birthday of the Persian sun god Mithra. It was hoped that by picking this date Christianity would be more appealing to pagans.

The earliest mention of December 25th for Christmas was in the Philocalian Calendar, a list of Roman bishops, which was compiled in 354 AD. These words appear for 336 AD: "25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae." (December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea.)

The date of December 25th was formally fixed by the church in 440 to celebrate Christ's birth. It was originally known as ‘The Feast of the Nativity’. Later it was called ‘Christ Mass’ which was eventually shortened to “Christmas”.

Christmas in England began in York. Historians date English festive celebrations to 521 AD, when King Arthur visited not yet completed Minster the Minster on December 25th in order to thank Christ on his birthday for helping him win a battle against the Saxons.

The Church in Jerusalem observed the birth of Jesus for the last time on January 6th in 548.

Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the ninth century but for many centuries it did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter Sunday, the other two major Christian holidays.

Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo - Adoration of the Shepherds 

The word Christmas comes from the Old English Christes Maesse (Christ’s Mass) which was first recorded in 1123.

In mid 17th century England Christmas celebrations had become increasingly rowdy and Oliver Cromwell and his Parliament felt that Christmas, like the other religious holidays were unscriptural. They reasoned that such days took away from the Sabbath, which God had given to Christians as a special day to celebrate God's work in Christ, so they abolished Christmas and declared it to be an ordinary working day.

Cromwell ordered soldiers to go round the streets and confiscate food being cooked for a Christmas celebration and to arrest those taking part. However many churches ignored the edict and entire congregations were detained. The law was soon repealed.

Oliver Cromwell once declared that "Christmas should be a fast day, not a feast day."

In America Christmas was not celebrated by the early settlers, who were mainly puritans. In 1659 in Boston, Christmas was banned with any one found guilty of observing Christmas or any other religious holiday being made liable to pay a fine of five shillings. The ban lasted for over 20 years before being repealed.

Although Charles Dickens is always associated with Christmas, when he was born in 1812, it was a very minor festival. However he became with stories like The Christmas Carol a successful protagonist for the Victorian middle-class philanthropic view that Christmas should be reinvented as a season of goodwill.

Christmas was declared a federal holiday by the United States Congress on June 26, 1870. Rigid puritanical attitudes opposing Christmas had softened by then and many were adopting the recent English custom of celebrating Christmas in a big way with cards, a tree and other associated paraphernalia.

Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," released in 1942, is the best-selling Christmas song of all time.

The popular Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life was first released in New York City on December 20, 1946. The film is now among the most popular in American cinema and because of numerous television showings in the 1980s has become traditional viewing during the holiday season.

Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played Zuzu in It's a Wonderful Life, didn't actually watch the movie until 1980.

Under the rules of the Gregorian calendar, Christmas Eve falls less often on a Tuesday than any other day of the week, but Christmas Day is more often on a Tuesday than any other day except Thursday.

British people say "Happy Christmas" because, in the 19th century, the word "happy" became more high-class than the word "merry."

"Xmas" stems from Greece. The Greek "X" is a symbol for Christ.

Noel derives from the French phrase "Les bonnes nouvelles" meaning "the good news."

The city of Yiwu, China produces 60% of the world's Christmas accessories.

It has been estimated that more than two billion people around the world celebrate Christmas every year.

Here is a list of Christmas songs

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