The Spirit of Christmas: Stories of the Season

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Talley holds that the Roman Emperor Aurelian placed a festival of Sol Invictus on December 25 in order to compete with the growing rate of the Christian Church, which had already been celebrating Christmas on that date first. With regard to a December religious feast of the deified Sun Sol , as distinct from a solstice feast of the birth or rebirth of the astronomical sun, one scholar has commented that, "while the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas".

But the medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the "forty days of St. Martin" which began on November 11, the feast of St.


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Martin of Tours , now known as Advent. By the High Middle Ages , the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus. Various writers of the time condemned caroling as lewd, indicating that the unruly traditions of Saturnalia and Yule may have continued in this form.

Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy , holly , and other evergreens. In , King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games. Associating it with drunkenness and other misbehaviour, the Puritans banned Christmas in England in the 17th century. In the early 19th century, the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church ushered in "the development of richer and more symbolic forms of worship, the building of neo-Gothic churches, and the revival and increasing centrality of the keeping of Christmas itself as a Christian festival" as well as "special charities for the poor" in addition to "special services and musical events".

Following the Protestant Reformation , many of the new denominations, including the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church , continued to celebrate Christmas. However, in 17th century England, some groups such as the Puritans , strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the "trappings of popery " or the "rags of the Beast ". The calendar reform became a major point of tension between the Anglican party and the Puritan party.

King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old-style Christmas generosity. Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans.

As such, in Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged the observance of Christmas, and though James VI commanded its celebration in , attendance at church was scant. At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely. With the atheistic Cult of Reason in power during the era of Revolutionary France , Christian Christmas religious services were banned and the three kings cake was renamed the "equality cake" under anticlerical government policies.

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In the earlyth century, writers imagined Tudor Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration. In , Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol that helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment. Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking "worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation. The term Scrooge became a synonym for miser , with "Bah!

In , the future Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a Christmas tree, hung with lights , ornaments , and presents placed round it. An image of the British royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor Castle created a sensation when it was published in the Illustrated London News in A modified version of this image was published in the United States in Irving's stories depicted harmonious warm-hearted English Christmas festivities he experienced while staying in Aston Hall , Birmingham, England, that had largely been abandoned, [] and he used the tract Vindication of Christmas of Old English Christmas traditions, that he had transcribed into his journal as a format for his stories.

Nicholas popularly known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas.

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In her book The First Christmas in New England , Harriet Beecher Stowe includes a character who complains that the true meaning of Christmas was lost in a shopping spree. While the celebration of Christmas was not yet customary in some regions in the U. The First Congregational Church of Rockford, Illinois , "although of genuine Puritan stock", was 'preparing for a grand Christmas jubilee', a news correspondent reported in He has been called the "father of the American Christmas card". Up to the s in the UK, many Christmas customs were restricted to the upper classes and better-off families.

The mass of the population had not adopted many of the Christmas rituals that later became general. The Christmas tree was rare.

Christmas dinner might be beef—certainly not turkey. In their stockings children might get an apple, orange, and sweets. Full celebration of a family Christmas with all the trimmings only became widespread with increased prosperity from the s. Post was still delivered on Christmas Day until League football matches continued in Scotland until the s while in England they ceased at the end of the s. Under the state atheism of the Soviet Union, after its foundation in , Christmas celebrations—along with other Christian holidays—were prohibited in public.

What Is The Spirit Of Christmas?

European History Professor Joseph Perry wrote that likewise, in Nazi Germany , "because Nazi ideologues saw organized religion as an enemy of the totalitarian state, propagandists sought to deemphasize—or eliminate altogether—the Christian aspects of the holiday" and that "Propagandists tirelessly promoted numerous Nazified Christmas songs, which replaced Christian themes with the regime's racial ideologies.

As Christmas celebrations began to be held around the world even outside traditional Christian cultures in the 20th century, some Muslim-majority countries subsequently banned the practice of Christmas, claiming it undermines Islam. Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in countries around the world, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian. In some non-Christian areas, periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration e. Hong Kong ; in others, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the holiday.

Countries such as Japan, where Christmas is popular despite there being only a small number of Christians, have adopted many of the secular aspects of Christmas, such as gift-giving, decorations, and Christmas trees. Christmas celebrations around the world can vary markedly in form, reflecting differing cultural and national traditions. Among countries with a strong Christian tradition , a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed that incorporate regional and local cultures. Christmas, along with Easter, is the period of highest annual church attendance.

A survey by LifeWay Christian Resources found that six in ten Americans attend church services during this time. The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history.

In the 15th century, it was recorded that in London it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be "decked with holm , ivy, bays , and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green". Nativity scenes are known from 10th-century Rome.

They were popularised by Saint Francis of Assisi from , quickly spreading across Europe. Within some families, the pieces used to make the representation are considered a valuable family heirloom. The traditional colors of Christmas decorations are red , green , and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion , while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter, and gold is the first color associated with Christmas, as one of the three gifts of the Magi , symbolizing royalty.

The Christmas tree was first used by German Lutherans in the 16th century, with records indicating that a Christmas tree was placed in the Cathedral of Strassburg in , under the leadership of the Protestant Reformer , Martin Bucer. By the Christmas tree had become even more widespread throughout Britain. Since the 16th century, the poinsettia , a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas carrying the Christian symbolism of the Star of Bethlehem ; in that country it is known in Spanish as the Flower of the Holy Night.

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What Is The Spirit Of Christmas? | Mystic Christmas Blog

Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage. The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. The outside of houses may be decorated with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs , snowmen , and other Christmas figures. Mistletoe features prominently in European myth and folklore for example the legend of Baldr , it is an evergreen parasitic plant which grows on trees, especially apple and poplar, and turns golden when it is dried.

It is customary to hang a sprig of mistletoe in the house at Christmas, and anyone standing underneath it may be kissed. Mistletoe has sticky white berries, one of which was traditionally removed whenever someone was kissed under it. This is probably a fertility ritual. The mistletoe berry juice resembles semen. Other traditional decorations include bells , candles , candy canes , stockings , wreaths , and angels.

Both the displaying of wreaths and candles in each window are a more traditional Christmas display. The concentric assortment of leaves, usually from an evergreen , make up Christmas wreaths and are designed to prepare Christians for the Advent season. Candles in each window are meant to demonstrate the fact that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate light of the world. Christmas lights and banners may be hung along streets, music played from speakers, and Christmas trees placed in prominent places.

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Rolls of brightly colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts.