Origins of the Christmas holiday


Photo Credit: Macy Fowler

Macy Fowler

The time for hot cocoa and repetitive Christmas music has arrived, along with festive lights and poky pine trees. Everyone gets to enjoy some slushy, almost frozen water that causes plenty of chaos. Plus, little kids watch movies about snowmen or a reindeer with a red nose who helps Santa. In all seriousness, Christmas is a cozy time to be with friends and family. But where do Christmas traditions truly come from? The word Christmas came from Old English, and it means Christ’s Mass, which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25.

The act of giving presents, the Yule Log, putting the tree up, and hanging pretty lights actually came from transforming Pagan origins. Back then, absorbing Pagan traditions would’ve been a positive thing in the eyes of Christians since they believed that Christ had won against Paganism. Giving and getting presents was created by the Christians as a way for people to remember the gifts that were given to Jesus by the Wise Men. The Yule Log originated from Scandinavia, where they recognized the return of the father of the sun by bringing large logs into their home and burning them. Putting up a tree was an adaptation of Pagan tree worship surrounding the Winter Solstice. The pretty lights that we wrap around our tree and hang on our houses originally were candles in the 17th century. The candles would be lit for a few minutes every night, but only a few days before Christmas so the tree wouldn’t burn down. The first colored lights came into Christmas traditions as incandescent lights, and are the lights that people use now for decoration.

Christmas, although people all around the world celebrate it, is technically a Christian holiday. Christmas culture has morphed into the modern Christmas the U.S. knows now, celebrated with the Grinch, Santa and festive cookies. Santa Claus was created by political cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1881 and has now become the main symbol of the jingle bell holiday. Christians still uphold some of the beginning Christmas traditions, like Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass is a widely celebrated tradition on Christmas Eve, where church-goers celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ long into the night. The times have changed overall, ranging from 12am-9pm since kids get to bed early to open presents the next day. It is a tradition found in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and the Lutheran Church. One of the most popular traditions of Midnight Mass is the Advent Wreath, where the Christ Candle is lit during the service.

Of course there’s the whole other spectrum, where people who don’t identify as Christians still celebrate Christmas, since the modern version has become slightly more materialistic. Since the beginning of Christmas, it has transformed into a holiday that is predominantly built on giving and receiving gifts. Even if families are a different religion, some of them will celebrate Christmas but slightly differently that Christians would. Some families might leave for a week or two and take a vacation somewhere tropical.

Some people celebrate Christmas in hopes of getting the gift they’ve been wanting all year that’s just a little too pricey for them to buy themselves, but a lot of people celebrate it for the warmth and happiness that one feels. It’s a time to reflect on the year and spend time watching the snow fall, or drinking some hot chocolate with your best friend. Christmas will be here in a blink of an eye, so be prepared with your winter jackets and warm coffee. No matter how you celebrate it, have a merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate it, have a happy holidays.