The Unwrapped History of Christmas

History gets unwrapped.

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Photo Courtesy of Brownstoner

Part of the Christmas tradition is getting a tree, this was a sketch of one of the first trees purchased in NYC.

Shelby Summerhays, Staff Writer

Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is both a sacred religious holiday and a universal cultural phenomenon. 

For ages, people all over the world have observed this day with traditions and practices that are both religious and temporal.  Christians celebrate Christmas Day to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, a spiritual leader whose teachings are the basis of their religion. 

Gift giving, decorating Christmas trees, attending church services, and family gatherings are all popular Christmas traditions. 

Freshman Sydney Cordova said, “I have always loved spending time with my family on Christmas.”   Additionally, Valerie Gallegos said, “Decorating the tree is my favorite Christmas tradition.” 

Since 1870 in the United States Christmas day has been a federal holiday.

The middle of winter has been a time of celebration for a very long time around the world.  Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. 

Many people joyed during the winter solstice, when the worst of winter was behind them and the longer days of sunlight were ahead of them.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrate Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, until January.  In observance of the return of the sun, men would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. 

People would feast until the log burned out, which usually took 12 days.  The Norse believed that each spark from the fire symbolized a new pig or calf that would be born in the new year.

The end of December was a great time of celebration in most areas in Europe.  During this time, cattle were slaughtered so they would not be fed on during winter.  For others, it was also the only time of year they had a supply of fresh meat.  

In Germany, people worshipped the pagan god Oden in the middle of winter.  Germans were horrified by Oden, as they thought he flew through the sky at night to watch his people, and then decide who should live or die.  Many people chose to stay inside to avoid his presence.