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A History of Christmas

23 Dec A History of Christmas

It’s December 23rd 2011 and this evening I am looking forward to a lovely Christmas meal at a local restaurant with my family. Having had a look through some of the recent tweets appearing in my timeline this morning, I came across a number of articles focusing on the history of Christmas; the two that most caught my eye were entitled: Did the Romans Invent Christmas? and˜Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-1660′.

So having read both of these articles I am now equipped with a number of interesting facts.

  • Saturnalia was a Roman public holiday celebrated around December 25th in the family home.
  • Gifts were exchanged such as small dolls, candles and caged birds and dress codes were relaxed and executions cancelled; trees were decorated and the wealthy were expected to pay the month’s rent for those who couldn’t afford it.
  • During  Saturnalia there were public banquets and declarations of war were put on hold
  • The celebration of Saturnalia continued even when the Roman emperors converted to Christianity
  • During the 17th century Christmas was one of the most important dates in the calendar
  • During the twelve days of a seventeenth-century Christmas, churches and other buildings were decorated with rosemary, holly and ivy
  • Christmas Day church services were widely attended, gifts were exchanged at New Year, and Christmas boxes were distributed to servants, tradesmen and the poor
  • Great quantities of beef, ‘plum-pottage’, minced pies and special Christmas ale were consumed, and the people indulged themselves in dancing, singing, card games and stage-plays.
  • The Puritans launched a concerted attack on Christmas- many of its traditions were associated in the eyes of the Puritans with popery
  • The attack on Christmas was extremely unpopular and perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of the Parliamentarian government
  • Traditional Christmas festivities duly returned to England with Charles II in 1660

For more fascinating articles related to the History of Christmas please click here.

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