By Chloe Hartzell
It’s hard to imagine December without Christmas. The holiday has become synonymous with winter ( at least in the U.S. and Europe) and the warm fuzzy feeling we get around December. It suffices to say life would be unimaginable without the beloved, anticipated holiday. But the absence of Christmas could have become a reality.
The early origins of Christmas are somewhat hard to trace but luckily historians have some idea of how the iconic holiday came to be.
In the early years of Christianity Easter was the main holiday that was celebrated. This is because they thought saints should be honored on their days of martyrdom, their true birthdays, as opposed to their actual day of birth. It wasn’t until the fourth century that church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. There are also different theories of how December 25 became Christmas day, both involving Pagan celebrations from ancient Rome (bet you didn’t see that coming).
To clarify: Paganism was a word revived during the renaissance to differentiate old traditions from newer Christian ones. It was also an umbrella term for any non-Christian or non- Jewish religion. Some historians believe December 25 was chosen to absorb, adapt, and Christianize Saturnalia which was an agricultural festival to celebrate the autumn planting season. The other view suggests that December 25 was chosen to Christianize dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun” a winter solstice celebration that symbolizes the casting away of winter and rebirth of the sun. This of course correlated to the birth of the son (the birth of Jesus). This idea is also supported because it identified the spring equinox as the date of the earth’s creation and thus the date of conception. Nine months later would symbolize the birth of Jesus.
The early history of Christmas is a stark contrast from how many Christians view the holiday today. By revisiting the early origins of Christmas we can see how much it has evolved and appreciate the intricate history behind the adored holiday.