A brief history of Christmas...
So what's Christmas all about then?
Why do we celebrate Christmas? Where did it all start? We have gathered together some usefull info to shed some light on this magical time of the year. Also, what does Christmas mean to you? We want to hear your stories, experiences and Christmas photos. Get in touch. :-)
Christmas is an old tradition that can be traced back over 4000 years with many of the current Christmas Traditions celebrated today dating back well before Jesus Christ was even born. An example of these include: the giving of gifts, carnivals, carol singers, Festive gatherings and feasts, church processions and many others going right back to early Mesopotamian times.
The Mesopotamians followed traditions at Christmas for different reasons as we do today, they worshipped many different gods and each year as Winter approached they believed that Marduk their chief god would do battle against the monsters of Chaos.
The Mesopotamians would hold a 12 day New Year festival that was believed to assist their chief god in conquering the enemy and help to bring in the New Year safely. However the King of the Mesopotamians would have to swear his faithfulness to the chief god Marduk, before being slain as the ultimate human sacrifice in order to return to help ward off the monsters of chaos the following year.
But the people of Mesopotamian, who respected the King, used the idea of replacing the real King with a convicted criminal dressed in all the royal robes this process was known as mock king or mocking as we now know it!
Early Europeans believed in witchcraft, ghouls, ghosts and evil spirits. They were terrified that the Sun would not return after the Winter Solstice with its long nights and short days so special rituals and lengthy celebrations were held to welcome back the Sun.
Roman's would celebrate a festival called Saturnalia which began mid December and continued through to the 1st of January. To celebrate the god of Saturn, countless festivities would take place which included: large feasts, the exchanging of gifts, street parties and singing. The streets would be filled with shouts of “Jo Saturnalia” and Villa's would also be decorated with green foliage and lit with bright candles. As a final joyous event the slaves would exchange places with the masters obviously dependent on how good they were!
In Scandinavia the sun would disappear for lengthy periods during the winter months. After five weeks scouts would be sent into the mountains, to the very peaks, to look for the return of the Sun. When the first light was seen by the scouts they would return with the good news. A great festival would then be held, known as the Yuletide, special feasts would be served around great bonfires burning Yule logs. Finally some native people would tie apples around branches of trees to remind them that Spring and Summer would return.
With Christianity being the main focal point of festive traditions today the exact birthday of Jesus Christ has never really been pinpointed. Traditions state that it has been celebrated since 98 AD and in 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered birthday celebrations for the son of Christ. But it wasn't until 350 AD that the present Christmas day - December the 25th was chosen, this time by another Bishop of Rome, Julius, recognizing the need for celebrations for the observance of Christmas.
But as Christianity took its hold with increasing numbers following pagan and Saturnalia festivals, the church became reluctant to follow celebrations and forbid any such festivities. But it was eventually decided that celebrations would be tamed and honed towards worshipping the son of god, Jesus Christ
Other sources claim that the Christian "Christmas" celebration was invented by the church to compete against the older pagan celebrations which were carried out during December. The 25th being chosen as a way of competing against the older Roman and Persian religion: Mithraism, which at the time was one of Christianitys biggest rivals. The church eventually shone through combining the gift giving, decorations, carol singing and special feast to create the special celebrations that is known as Christmas today. Or so the legend has it!!