Tis the season to be…au courant. There is possibly no other event which affects lives across the globe as much as Christmas. Christmas is full of traditions— decorating trees, singing captivating carols, building gingerbread houses. It is effortless to drift away with the presents and endless fun. But the truth is, Christmas has only recently become the gigantic consumer-friendly holiday it is today.
The holiday season offers a mix of religious and secular traditions, and there is a lot to ponder. So, buckle up, as we are about to take you through a bunch of less-known Christmas facts to polish your holiday smarts.
Christmas is NOT the birthday of Jesus Christ
For nearly two millennia, Christmas has been celebrated by people all around the world to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The bizarre thing is, most historians believe that Jesus was born in the spring. The date 25th December has no mention in the bible whatsoever. Early Romans celebrated 25th December as Saturnalia, a pagan festival dedicated to the agricultural god Saturn. It was marked frivolous by parties, gambling, and gift-giving, practices which have since then been a part of the Christmas merriment.
Coca-Cola didn’t create Santa Claus’ look
Among the Patheon of characters shown in the religious holidays, the beloved Santa Claus has the most distinctive persona of all. The unknown origin of his look has led to many speculations and unfounded rumours. The American corporation did not shape Santa Claus, instead was formed over the years by historians, writers, and artists. The images of the jolly man in a red suit were all over the press way before Coke’s advertisement of Claus. The origin of Santa Claus lies in the story of St Nicholas, a Christian bishop who took pleasure in giving away his wealth to help the needy. He was called Sinter Klaas by the Dutch, which eventually became Santa Claus.
Christians once banned Christmas
Christmas may seem like a festival which was celebrated since the beginning of time, but it’s not the case. The joyous holiday was banned in the States and the UK for several decades. The debate was waged on by the puritanical, or Protestant Christians’ minds—who considered strict religious rules and any kind of merrymaking sinful. The pagan roots of the festival was also a cause for the apprehension of the Christian minds. The city of Boston banned Christmas from 1659 to 1681, and the celebration was declared a federal holiday only since 1856. Although the change was gradual, people grew to love the holiday that it is today.
Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving song
It is hard not to sing along the classic tune of Jingle Bells in the month of December, but it didn’t start that way. The truth is that you should have heard it in November. First published in 1857 and written by James Lord Pierpont, it was sung at Thanksgiving–not Christmas. Kids and adults loved this song and eventually changed it to fit the Christmas season. The original title “One Horse Open Sleigh” was then changed to “Jingle Bells” on its reprinting in 1859. No wonder why the lyrics are significantly different in the original song.
The Christmas tree did not begin as a Christmas tradition
The Christmas tree is probably the most recognised telltale sign of the festival. Friends and family gather and decorate the tree every year. But, evergreens have held a special meaning for people long before Christmas, especially during the winters. Pine, spruce, and fir tree branches were hung over doors and windows. Besides the fact that many believed these branches could keep evil spirits at bay, evergreen boughs were used in celebration during the winter solstice. These branches were a reminder of greenery that accompanies the spring when it was believed that the sun god would become strong again.
Hanging out stockings for Santa
Christmas is one of the days that are especially festive for children. Every year, they hang stockings and put out cookies and milk for Santa, who they believe leaves them gifts in the night. The tradition of the stockings has a story behind it. A poor man with three daughters couldn’t afford the dowry to have them married. One night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the man’s chimney so that his oldest daughter would be able to get married, and the bag fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire. And thus began the custom.
While Christmas has changed over the centuries of its practice and traditions have evolved, the one thing that has not changed is the merriment it brings to the people. People may not know about the history of it, but the spirit of Christmas is not lost on them. The holiday season brings us all joy, a sense of togetherness, and a reason to celebrate life, a tradition as old as Christmas.
– Alankriti Singh and Ribhav Singla for MTTN
– Artwork by Mayank Kashyap
Image courtesy: Google Images