History of Christmas

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History of Christmas
By: Jacob Chapman

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a global cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both secular and religious. Christians celebrate the holiday as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular traditions include attending church, exchanging gifts, decorating their houses and Christmas trees, and of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive with his sack of goodies. Christmas day falls on December 25th every year and has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.

The winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of Jesus, early Europeans celebrated the winter solstice, when the worst of the harsh winter was behind them and they could begin preparations for spring. The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. By this time of year, most of the cattle had been slaughtered so they had plenty of food and they didn’t need to feed them in the winter. Along with the fresh meat, most of the wine and beer made during the year had finished fermenting and was ready to be enjoyed.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to really embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented and changed it from a raucous, carnival holiday to a family-oriented day of peace and happiness. The early 19th century was a time of turmoil and class conflict. During the time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes was a common occurrence during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council created the city’s first police force in response to a massive Christmas riot. This catalyzed members of the upper class to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America. Eventually, after many years of the holiday evolving, it finally became the modern Christmas holiday we now know and look forward to each and every year.

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History of Christmas