Sunday, December 04, 2005

Christmas and the Pilgrims

Just some food for thought...


The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston...

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
- The History Channel


Does anyone find it amusing that Christmas was instated as an act of rebellion against England? ;) I mean really, I smirked a bit when I read that.


In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday.

Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the "lord of misrule" and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined "debt" to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.
- The History Channel

6 comments:

Julie Robbins-Muff said...

Exellent lesson.. will teach this in Sunday School at Beulahland Campground, North Carolina to the kids. It will give them something to chew on for a while.. I love anything that causes 'thought'

Amongchosenones said...

I hate this time of year. I myself was born again on this day 20 years ago, but the pagan roots of this holiday make me dread it every year. The Savior told us to remember His death, not His birth. What He would have us celebrate would be the Passover, 1Cor. 5:7,8. The founders of our nation & the Pilgrims didn't celebrate this Catholic invention of the re-birth of the sun, winter solstice. The materialism of this time of year is choking dissipation. Ba-humbug, indeed!

Steve said...

Tupper Saussy wrote "Christmas Litmus" along the same lines. I have learned to dislike Christmas and believe it really displeases and dishonors the Lord. Tragically, lots of "Christians" still don't get it. Anyway, I pointed to your blog for this weekend's "homework" and hope you will write on!

Cheers!

Steve
http://tinyurl.com/anakypto

Anonymous said...

There was Christmas in the 17th century, just not in the Puritan area of New England. Jameston, VA, founded 15 years before the pilgrims, celebrated English customs, including Christmas. New Amsterdam, now New York, celebrated Dutch Christmas customs before and after the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

When Christmas was celebrated in the early 19th Century, there were no trees involved either, until after Queen Victoria married Albert, as she was not allowed to serve as the Duke of Hanover (no Duchesses allowed), a post traditionally held concomitantly by the English sovereign once they acceded the throne of England. Albert brought the German custom of the tree with him, and since the English liked Albert and his many reforms, many of them adopted the Tannenbaum custom from Germany. It's amazing what people don't know about history that's culturally relevant to them.

Nick said...

Look up Tabernacles and you'll find JC's birth