O’ Holy Night

December Traditions & Celebration Series

Tony Stahl, Staff Writer

Is Christmas about gifts? Is Christmas about trees? What is Christmas really about? This popular holiday is not only celebrated by most Christians but also non-Christians around the world and has a deep and interesting history behind it other than gifts and Christmas trees.

Before Christmas became a Christian holiday, there was another holiday near the 25th of December called the Winter Solstice. This holiday was celebrated by various cultures such as the ancient Norsemen of Scandinavia, as a way to rid themselves of a dark and unforgiving winter that had passed.

At this time, Christmas as we know it today wasn’t celebrated yet. Easter was the main holiday recognized after the birth of Christ. Many historians believe that He was actually born in January, 6 BCE, in Bethlehem. Even after the crucifixion of Christ and the establishment of early Christianity, Christmas was still not widely celebrated for hundreds of years. Eventually, near the 4th Century, Pope Julius I, decided to choose December 25th as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as a means to take the attention away from the pagan celebrations of generations before.

When it comes to American history, you may be surprised to know that Christmas was once actually outlawed in Boston, Massachusetts between the years of 1659 & 1681. It wasn’t until immigrants, such as the Dutch, reclaimed the Christmas holiday in America sometime around the mid-1800’s. In an attempt to unite the North and South in the American Civil War, President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas to be an official Federal holiday in 1870.

Today, Christmas continues to be celebrated worldwide.  For example in Mexico they have a tradition of having young children deliver Mary and Joseph statues to people’s homes to share the story of the birth of Christ with them. In Germany they celebrate Christmas by cutting down a Christmas tree and singing carols around it while adding decorations. Although many countries have various other traditions and customs, they all honor the story of Christ’s birth.