Christmas, December 25, is both a sacred holiday and a worldwide celebration. People around the world has commemorated this federal holiday for two millennia.
Christians celebrate Christmas as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, while other people might celebrate it for nonreligious reasons.
Christmas is possibly the most popular holiday, yet most people don’t know its history.
The beginning of Christmas began in the fourth century. In the early days of Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not a holiday; instead, Easter was the main celebration. Later, in the fourth century, church officials instituted the birth of Jesus as a holiday after deciding on the date.
In the 17th century, religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe.
When Puritan forces conquered England in 1645, they canceled Christmas as part of the effort to rid England of decadence. However, the holiday was reinstituted when Charles II was restored to the throne.
Pilgrims disliked Christmas even more than the Puritans and did not celebrate Christmas in early America. In fact, Boston banned Christmas from 1659 to 1681; anyone displaying holiday cheer was fined five shillings.
After the American Revolution, English customs, including Christmas, disappeared. It wasn’t even declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
Americans finally began to embrace Christmas in the 19th century, when stories by Washington Irving and Charles Dickens changed the way it was celebrated. Before the 19th century, Christmas was viewed as a raucous holiday.
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, by Washington Irving, consisted of a series of stories displaying how Christmas should be a peaceful holiday that brought people together, regardless of their social rank. It created a tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the holiday.
Charles Dickens’s tale, A Christmas Carol, had a message of the importance of charity and goodwill to everyone and showed people the benefits of Christmas.