A Primer of How Christmas Came to Be

It’s the most wonderful time of the year


It’s the beginning of November and you go inside a department store. You quickly realize that all the Halloween decorations have now been replaced with Christmas ornaments and decor. You feel that Christmas is ‘here too early,’ but is there such a thing when it comes to Christmas? Let’s find out!

Despite the fact that December is widely known as the month of Christmas, there are many other celebrations that take place during this time. Some celebrate Hanukkah, Boxing Day, or even Kwanzaa. It’s easy to conclude that this is the month of diverse festivities. Christian churches commemorate the birth of Jesus, which is celebrated on Dec. 25 every year. This holiday is known for its festive decorations, gift exchanges and the Christmas tree.

Before people started celebrating the birth of Jesus, early Europeans honored the light and birth in the darkest days of winter. The Europeans were joyful during the winter solstice, since this meant that the darkest days are over and the longest days with extended hours of sunlight were underway. Scandinavians and the Germans had different ways to celebrate this special month.

Saturnalia was the most popular holiday in the ancient Roman calendar.

What is Saturnalia? People often gave gifts and hosted sacrifices to honor the God of Agriculture. The mood was cheerful during this time, as people dressed in special attire and decorated their homes with wreaths. Schools and courts were closed. This was a time for everyone to celebrate and relax, much more like what we do now, reported history.com. Through the centuries, newer December traditions replaced older ones, but Christmas was one that stuck around and gained popularity all across the world.

However, this holiday is not just about presents and Santa Claus. It is also about the birth of Jesus Christ. Historians are not truly sure that Jesus was born on Dec. 25, but Pope Julius I, chose this date for Jesus’s birth. By doing this, the Pope hoped to adapt the same traditions as Saturnalia.

Despite Jesus Christ being an important figure, nationwide Santa Claus is more popularly known.

According to history.com, it was believed that Santa Claus was born from a monk named St. Nicholas around 280 A.D. However, St. Nicholas was not known as the jolly old guy that gives presents to children. It was in December 1773 when people in New York heard about St. Nicholas. Newspapers started reporting how Dutch families will gather to honor his death anniversary. Then in 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, a Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poems for his three daughters. His poem is the main reason why we have the image of our modern day Santa Claus. Moore’s poem talks about how Santa Claus has a miniature sleigh being pulled by eight flying reindeer.  Now in modern times, children leave letters to Santa Claus asking for what they desire and leaving cookies and milk to feed him during his long journey.

History tells that Christmas was even ‘cancelled’ once when Oliver Cromwell took over England in the 17th century. It was only after Cromwell was overthrown that people began to celebrate the holiday. Moving to America, Cromwell’s followers failed to celebrate the holiday for many years. On June 26, 1870, Americans made Christmas an official holiday. Peace and love became the main symbols of the holiday. Then on June 26, 1870, Christmas became an official federal holiday  in the United States, according to history.com.

To some it is a religious holiday and for others it is just an excuse to vacation. However you see it, there is no doubt that this day should be spent with family, as you create your own traditions and memories.

Happy holidays from El Vaquero!