18 December 2015
Christmas, besides being a joyful tradition of gift-giving and ham-devouring, has always been pretty weird, right? Like, just in general. How did everyone start celebrating it? Why?
Here for your enjoyment we present a few interesting facts about Christmas that you can tell your family around the dinner table and give them a chance to think “Wow! Can’t believe how smart my niece is!” and “God, do you always have to be the center of attention?”
Christmas Wasn’t Originally Jesus’ Birthday
“Christmas” comes from “Christ’s mass”, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday and christening. But did you know that Jesus wan’t born on the 25th of December”? In fact, no one knows when he was born, but we can safely bet that it wasn’t December. The clue is in Luke 2:8: the shepherds were “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night” when he was born, which couldn’t have been in December, since it’s so cold.
Christmas Is an Adapted Holiday
So how did Christmas come about? Well, you’d be surprised to hear that many Christmas traditions you know have roots in pre-Christian seasonal celebrations. In fact, many traditions, for instance, the gift giving, carolers going from house to house, feasts, and many other traditions come from the Mesopotamian celebrations of the New Year. They held festivities for twelve days to honor one of their gods, Marduk. These festivities were called Zagmuk. By the way, have you already found Christmas gifts for friends and family? There are some Christmas gifts ideas you may like.
The Romans Had Something Like Christmas, Too
Like Zagmuk, the ancient Romans would hold seasonal festivities of their own. Their holiday was in the beginning of winter, just like ours, and held until approximately the beginning of January. They were celebrating “The Birth of the Unconquerable Sun”, since it’s at this time that the duration of the day began to lengthen. Like all pagans, they believed that the Sun was being reborn at this time. As the Christian church gained power and influence, they decided to ban this celebration, but many continued the tradition. The Christian church then decided to co-opt the holiday, and turn it into the celebration of Christ.
Some Christians Celebrate Christmas in January
In the US, the holidays are over with the New Year’s celebrations, but there are millions of Christians who celebrate their Xmas on January 7th. The reason here is a calendar mixup: a large part of the western world use the Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar, who didn’t invent it, but loved naming things after himself). The gregorian calendar, which Orthodox Christians use, is shifted, and their “December 25th” falls squarely on January 7th.
Santa Came from Saint Nicholas
You’ve heard Santa Claus be called Saint Nick, but did you know that he was a real person? And an actual saint? The story of how he became Santa is pretty interesting: in the new world, after the revolution, Americans wanted to depart from British traditions and looked toward their Dutch roots for that. The Knickerbockers (writers, not baseball players) had a huge role in creating Santa – they released a poem titled A Visit from St. Nicholas, which popularized the character, and was later adapted into The Night Before Christmas. Santa’s name comes from the nickname fro St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaas (Dutch, of course). And lots of other cultures have their own Santa, as well.
Weren’t those Christmas facts both weird and interesting? And there’s lots more to find out! Like that Xmas comes from the Greek “Xristos”. And that Christmas wasn’t an official holiday in America until 1870! Finding out about the genealogical anthropology of this holiday is lots of fun, and you can research it on your own to find out more. If you know other interesting facts about Christmas, feel free to add them in the comments!
If you get tired from traditional ways to spend Christmas, to check out the unusual things to do for Christmas!
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