"Put your problems on probation, Run your troubles off the track, throw your worries out the window, it is Christmas time again" This quote represents the maddening impatience with which people wait for their favorite winter festival, yes! Christmas has arrived to take away those winter blues, and replace those dowdy moods with an atmosphere of hope and grandeur. It is that fun filled time of the year when the regular banalities of life seem like a passing phase, and you carry on with life amidst joyful worries of Christmas trees, presents, and turkey. All this fun and frolic aside, for those of you who are the curious sorts, it also poses a couple of questions. It makes you wonder how this wonderful festival came into existence. When did it start? Was it always like this? If not, how different was it? Here are some answers to these tiring questions that tweak your brain and give you a better understanding of the festival you love.
History Of Christmas
Grand Mom's Biblical Version
To start off with, let us begin with your granny's version of the tale; a really long time ago, 2000 years ago to be precise, there was a nice girl called Mary. Mary loved praying and one day as she sat by her small wooden bed and prayed, a stranger appeared and stood before her. Mary of course was scared but the stranger told her not to be afraid. The stranger was the angel Gabriel and he bore a message for her. The angel told her that she would have a son. At this point of time as a child, you probably screamed, "the son is Jesus" which is pretty obvious, but however the story doesn't end here. The angel Gabriel also went to another person that night, the angel went to a man called Joseph, he asked Joseph to marry Mary. Joseph and Mary got married and she soon gave to birth to Jesus in a place called Bethlehem on the 25th December, the same day we celebrate Christmas. As a child, this story appealed to you and your granny's exaggerated version added magic to Christmas, however there exist other points of view.
Christmas; A Marketing Gimmick?
In the ancient world, winter was a very cruel time, people hated it. The end of winter meant the end of all their woes and miseries. So the end of winter was celebrated world over; the Mesopotamians had the festival Zagmuth, the Romans saturnalia and the Scandinavians celebrated Yule. These festivals were very popular. During the nascent stages of Christianity, the Church realized that having Christmas in December was the only way it could get popularly embraced and abolish the other pagan gods. It probably disheartens you to look at Christmas as a marketing gimmick, but the birth of Christ is highly disputed, with some scholars stating that it was too cold a time, in those regions for any shepherding activity let alone a birth of a child. The birth of Christ is estimated to be sometime during spring and not winter.
Christmas during this time was celebrated in a very raucous and chaotic way.
People indulged in excessive drinking and raided the house of the rich demanding food and other luxuries. A beggar was chosen as the "lord of misrule" and other eager celebrants his subjects. With time it became such a rowdy affair that people began to fear Christmas and it soon led to something that might make you choke on your food.
Christmas Gets Banned!
In the year 1645, Christmas was banned by Oliver Chromewell and his puritans in England and all British colonies. They had vowed to free England from her state of decadence and banning Christmas was part of the reform. People were even fined for celebrating Christmas. However, the ban didn't stay long, Charles the second came to power, and with it brought back Christmas. It was again outlawed in Boston (1659 to 1681) when the English separatists came to power.
Dickens And Irving's Christmas
America reinvented Christmas; it converted it from a raucous, hippie festival to a family centered festival of peace and nostalgia. After the American Revolution Christmas was declared a federal holiday only on june 26th 1980 soon after, began its reform. Washington Irving and Charles Dickens created masterpieces that changed the definition of Christmas. As hard as we try we can't forget the Christmas Carol, as kids didn't we all wonder if we too would be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Irving's short stories in his book "the sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon" are so popular that they invented tradition. Strange is the power of the written word, it transcends countries and boundaries. Christmas now is celebrated world over, even by non Christians. It now no longer remains a religion centric occasion, but a phenomenon. A joyous day eagerly anticipated all around the world.
Always been curious about the history of Christmas? Here is a small sneak-peak into the history of your favorite holiday.