Sure it’s the favorite time of year for many – as it should be – and the history of Christmas is special, too!
Every special event has a history, no matter how big or small.
(Editor’s Note: Folkmoot will be closed from December 23 to January 4. We wish you a safe, peaceful and wonderful holiday!)
This time of year lots of people are bustling around, decorating homes, buying gifts for loved ones, cooking delicious holiday treats! It is easy to forget the history of Christmas.
Christmas has been celebrated for over two millennia; the celebration of the Birth of the Christ Child. Centuries before (and after) the 25th of December became a Christian celebration, winter was still a time of celebration. Winter holidays abound throughout many cultures and traditions, now and in centuries of old.
The winter solstice, December 21st, has long been a very special time for many religions and cultures. In Northern Europe of antiquity it was celebrated as a time when the sunlight returned to normal. For Rome it was a time to celebrate Saturn, the God of agriculture. Romans also celebrated the children of Rome and on December 25th the birth of Mithra the God of the unconquerable sun.
As Christianity grew and spread from culture to culture, Christmas was not necessarily celebrated widely. Easter was the most popular observance and celebrated far more than Christmas. Pope Julius I declared in the 4th Century that December 25th should be celebrated as the Feast of the Nativity and this eventually become Christmas.
By the time America was being colonized by Europeans Christmas was barely celebrated at all. It didn’t become an official Federal holiday in the United States until 1870. And Christmas was transformed yet again in the 19th century from a festive party time toward a holiday centered around peace and spending time with family.
Christmas has had a very long and interesting history. It is hard to believe the holiday so popular now was not begun in the same way nor even accepted. Here are few interesting facts that you may not know:
- The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
- The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
- Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.
On behalf of the Folkmoot USA staff and board, Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year!!