The Historical Significance of Christmas
Called the most wonderful time of the year, December 25th holds a special place in many people's hearts as a time of celebration with friends and family. With both religious and cultural significance, it is celebrated across the globe and remains many people's favorite holiday, especially in the United States. With many traditions that have been handed down through the years, like decorating a Christmas tree or hanging festive lights in the trees of your yard, Christmas remains a special time for anyone that celebrates the holiday.
Whether your celebrations take on more traditional religious practices like attending a church service on Christmas Eve or you love the joy of loved ones gathering over communal meals and sharing stories from the past year, celebrating Christmas is one of the most fun ways to mark the end of the year.
The history of Christmas originates with the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of the Nativity, though the celebrations and traditions have evolved through generations into the modern version of the holiday we celebrate today.
At the cornerstone of the Christian faith lies the story of the Nativity, when Joesph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, and Jesus was born. His birth in the stable of the inn with no vacancy remains an iconic part of Christmas celebrations and has been reenacted in plays dating as far back as 1223. According to the story of the Nativity, angels proclaimed the arrival of the son of god to shepherds who began to spread the word.
Nativity scenes are often erected in yards and at churches to celebrate the Christmas season, and many memories are created for children performing in nativity plays throughout their formative years. .
The earliest church records demonstrate followers of the Christian faith celebrating the birth of Christ as early as the 2nd century. By the time of the early middle ages, Christmas day was overshadowed by the celebration of the Epiphany, which focused on the visit of the magi.
Following the protestant reformation in the 17th and 18th centuries, Christmas continued to be celebrated across Western Europe and the American Colonies, with festive traditions becoming established annual celebrations. Though more conservative Puritans in North America still did not observe Christmas, with the holiday even being banned in Boston until 1659.
Some of the most iconic images of Christmas celebrations, like Christmas trees and nutcrackers, have roots in Germany and other European nations. in 1629, Anglican poet John Milton wrote "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," a poem that has been read for centuries as part of traditional Christmas celebrations. Today Christmas remains one of the most symbolic celebrations for practitioners of the Christian faith, as well as a part of our shared culture which brings friends and family together and creates bonds and memories that last a lifetime.
In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Story," which revived the spirit of the holiday season and became an instant classic which remains a part of many people's celebrations to this day. The novel helped shape modern Christmas celebrations and reframed the holiday as a time to emphasize goodwill, family, and a spirit of compassion towards one's fellow man. Dickens' influence helped create many of the most recognized traditions we celebrate, including family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games, and a festive spirit of generosity.
"A Christmas Story" also helped popularize one of the most recognized greetings during the holiday season, Merry Christmas! Dickens' novel is also the origin of the phrase Bah Humbug which dismisses the festive spirit of the Christmas season.
The year 1843 also marked the first commercial print of a Christmas card printed by Sir Henry Cole. Today taking a Christmas-themed photo and sending a personalized Christmas card is a revered tradition that will create memories that last a lifetime and can become one of the most cherished Christmas traditions.
Also known as Twelvetide, this period marks a celebration of the Nativity. In Western Ecclesiastical traditions, December 25th marks the first day of Christmas and continues until January 5th. In the United States, Christmas is a celebrated holiday, though the traditional twelve days of Christmas are typically no longer celebrated.
Typically the period from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve is a time of celebration culminating in a countdown to mark the strike of midnight on January 1st. In Great Britain, the day after Christmas is celebrated with Boxing Day, where small gifts are exchanged, and friends and family continue to gather and remain in the Christmas spirit.
Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, is a fictional character whose history dates back to the 16th century and the reign of Henry VIII. This character is meant to represent the spirit of Christmas and bring tidings of peace, joy, and goodwill. Santa Claus became a popular image during the Victorian period in England and has evolved over the following decades to represent the global bearer of gifts from his workshop in the North Pole delivered with his twelve reindeer.
As the image of Santa Claus adapted to modern times, numerous stories and films have become part of our collective culture and celebrations of Christmas. There are a number of variations of Santa Claus depending on the country Christmas is being celebrated in, though, in North America, he is largely depicted as a jovial, white-bearded man who slips down the chimney to deliver presents to boys and girls from his sleigh.
According to modern storytelling, Santa Claus and his team of elves work year-long at the North Pole to create the gifts he will deliver while children sleep. When they awake, their gifts are thoughtfully placed underneath the Christmas tree, and the festivities begin.
From handmade yard decorations to elaborate inflatable depictions of Santa and his twelve reindeer, decorating for Christmas remains one of the most fun activities during the Holiday season. Placing a white candle on windowsills is a subtle and traditional decoration that has been done for centuries. The most iconic symbol of Christmas is often considered the Christmas tree, which was first introduced in England in 1832 by German-born Queen Charlotte.
Wreaths and garlands are also a festive way to decorate your home or office, and making them can be a fun activity for every member of the family.
Singing traditional Christmas Carols is one of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas and remains a cherished custom across the globe. Whether carolers are going house to house or singing in a church choir, these classic songs are an enduring tradition that brings joy to the singers and listeners.
Modern Christmas music has also been produced to celebrate the season and is immediately recognizable, whether it's "Jingle Bells" or "Away in a Manger."
One of the most classic holiday traditions is gathering to sing a Christmas Carol or listening to Christmas songs while ice skating.
Many families have traditions that are unique to them that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some traditions may include making and decorating a gingerbread house, decorating the home or Christmas tree, or telling Christmas stories to get everyone into the spirit of the holiday. One of the most popular family traditions is attending a Christmas Eve church ceremony followed by opening a single gift in anticipation of the Christmas morning gift exchange.
A large meal is often central to a traditional Christmas celebration and is a great way to bring friends and family together during the holiday season. Other popular drinks during the Christmas season are apple cider and eggnog, which both are synonymous with Christmas celebrations and parties.
Traditional meals include a large bird like a turkey or goose and lavish desserts including Christmas pudding or a classic fruitcake. Cooking these meals is a great way to bring the family together during Christmas gatherings and remains one of the most popular Christmas activities.
Families and offices often have festive holiday parties with themes like ugly Christmas sweaters or small gift exchanges like a Secret Santa party. These usually occur leading up to Christmas, leaving December 25th as a time for familial gatherings following the opening of gifts on Christmas morning. Many families have their own traditions and holiday memories which can be passed down through generations.
Happy holidays from the team at Historic Prints; we hope that this season is full of joy, festive celebrations, and gatherings of friends and family!.
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