Christmas Historical Facts

TALKING TO MYSELF 20 December 2013   A correspondent has shared the blog post of retired UM Bishop Joe Pennel. I enjoyed reviewing his brief historical glance at the way Christmas has been celebrated over the centuries, and thought you might too. Some things I'd read before, but others I had not. For example, I did not know that the red and green colors we associate now with Christmas are symbolic of the blood of Christ (red) and eternal life (green), a tradition that  originated in the 18th Century. (Color me ignorant.)  

I am aware, of course, that the early Christian Church arbitrarily decided to observe the birth of Jesus during the Roman holiday Saturnalia to civilize that pagan holiday. While I would feel out of place with the Romans' Bacchanal revelry, I confess that I enjoy much of the frivolity that has come to be associated with modern-day December. As a Christian, however, I am mindful of Bishop  Pennel's closing words: "If we are not careful we can have the experience and miss the meaning." He is writing to Christians in his flock, but at this time of year, when the dark nights are longest in the northern hemisphere, I think it is helpful for all of us, Christians and Non-Christian people of other faiths and those with no professed faith, to pause and reflect on the meaning of our lives and the power of love in the world. 


The Church did not set aside December 25th until the early 4th century.

By the 5th century December 25th became known as " the Feast of the Nativity".  

The English set aside this day for "Christ's Mass" which eventually became known as Christmas.

In the 15th century thorns from the Holly Tree were used to represent the crown of thorns which we used at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Colors originated in the 18th century--red representing the blood of Christ and green symbolizing eternal life.

The Christmas Tree was first used in Germany in 1835 and the lights on the tree are to remind us of Christ who is the light of the world.

Americans did not start using the Christmas Tree until the late 1870's.

Christmas songs originated in the 13th and 14th Century.

Santa Claus did not make an American appearance until 1810 in New York City. The name came from St. Nicholas who was the bishop of Myra (modern day Turkey) in the 4th century. He was known for giving gifts to children.

The Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in Boston from 1659-1681 because it was too "Popish".

Christmas fell out of favor during the American Revolution because it was considered an English custom.

The Gospel of Matthew and Luke have different versions of the Nativity. Put them the side by side and you will see.

Some believe the making Christmas a civil holiday has taken away much of its meaning.

If we are not careful we can have the experience and miss the meaning. I like the way the Gospel of John puts it: "the true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world". His life and message happen to be the light which pushes back the darkness of the world. It is this light of love [that, sic] can save the world.

Why this is so is...

Worth Pondering,

Joe Pennel

from Georgia-If interested in reading about the Roman holiday Saturnaria see the link below. The website is not co-operating today and would not let me place this link closer to the reference. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/saturn...