Traditions are something strange. An accumulation of strange rituals, songs, and habits that you learn from childhood as normal and never really have to question. Christmas is one of the many traditions that we keep, but it is a very special one. After all, it is the most important holiday of the year. On closer inspection, however, Christmas is just another strange ritual. And a rather freely invented one at that. Especially if you ask since when we celebrate Christmas at all. So: Where does Christmas come from?
Let’s face it. Who would think of going to the forest, cutting a tree, putting it in the living room and decorating it with metal balls?? It wouldn’t pass for a socially accepted hobby anywhere. Similarly, the idea that an old man with a beard would come down the chimney at night and bring us presents. In reality, this would be more an occasion for a police visit than for rejoicing. With so much absurdity the question arises even more: Since when and why do we celebrate Christmas the way we do??
A complicated story for centuries
Like so many strange traditions, Christmas goes back a certain time. When exactly people started celebrating Christmas, however, is surprisingly unclear. It was not, of course, that people began to celebrate them annually immediately after the birth of Jesus Christ. That would also have been a bit inappropriate. For the next thirty years or so, Christmas would simply have been Jesus’ birthday. And what is true today was also true 2000 years ago: Nobody wants to have a birthday on Christmas. While parents vehemently claim that there are twice as many gifts. But we all know that this is a lie!
To begin directly in the year 0 (or even 1) to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, however, would have been difficult also practically. First of all there were no Christians. For that the good Jesus had to work a little bit first! On top of that, the real Jesus was probably born about 4 or even 7 years before Christ anyway. And if the people at that time could not even estimate the year of his birth correctly, how should they know that he was born exactly on the 25th day before Christ?. December was born? Well, that’s the thing. They just did not know it. And we still do not know today. The question of when we celebrate Christmas – that is, on which day – is already the first mystery in this story.
As is well known, there are several holidays in the year and they all tell a story. These stories I have eBook compiled. It is for all recipients of my newsletter directly downloadable for free.
Since when do we celebrate Christmas? And why?
The first Christians did not celebrate Christmas at all, that much can be said with certainty. But when then began? Since when is Christmas celebrated? This question is not so easy to answer. It is only sure that the early Christians did not celebrate this day before the 2nd of March. or 3. In the eighteenth century people began to commemorate the birth of Jesus. As a date there but first many things came into question. For as I said, when Jesus was born was not known. The spring equinox (thanks for this word monster, German language) was about a hot candidate. That would be around 21. March. But from May to January there were all kinds of suggestions.
Only in the 4. Century then slowly the late December became generally accepted. For the exact reasons there are there different opinions. The proximity to the winter solstice plays surely a large role and according to the Julian calendar falls evenly on the 25. December. It surely helped that many Romans celebrated this day as the birthday of the god Mithras (also called Sol Invictus) anyway. Be that as it may. Since that time the 25. December as Jesus’ birthday. Strictly speaking, we have been celebrating Christmas since the 4th century. Century. Or at least the feast was celebrated then for the first time. This is then more than just a funny ritual. It is a mighty proud tradition with a lot of history behind it!
But since when do we really celebrate Christmas now?
Well, well, well, not so fast! The problem is that the first time we celebrated Christmas, in the year 300-dazumal, has almost nothing to do with our present celebration. At that time the celebration was no more than a festive service. And let’s face it: if Christmas were still just a church service today, would we really be so interested in it? Just. Christmas as we know it today is still missing a few things. Today’s traditions came along very slowly and over many centuries. In fact, they are still doing so.
Let’s start with the Christmas tree. As central as the tree is for today’s festivities: before the 17th birthday, the tree was a symbol of Christmas. In the nineteenth century, the average European city dweller would have flown the coop if you had asked him the location of the local lighted tree. No, in the form as we know it, the Christmas tree came up quite late. It was not until the 18th. It was in the 19th century that the custom really became popular. This very central tradition of Christmas does not exist for a very long time.
By the way, this was a purely German invention and quite unknown outside the German lands. There was in many places in Europe already longer the custom to hang up branches and evergreen plants in the winter at home. From a branch to a tree loaded with metal it is then nevertheless still a piece. Another hundred years later, in the 19th century. Century, the tree made it then from Germany to Great Britain, thereby into the remaining empire and over some detours finally into the USA. In this respect, Germans can really pat themselves on the back. Great job! Someone roughly in our area of the world has hundreds of years ago a tree from the forest dragged and set up. Good performance! We can be really proud of our customs.
O, you German Christmas
But the German influence on Christmas does not stop here. Even Santa Claus comes from Germany after all! All right, officially from Lapland or the North Pole or somewhere else. That the Americans on the European map are not particularly unerring, we know yes. But the idea of Santa Claus is German at its core! It is simply a variation of the old St. Nicholas, who was worshipped in Germany long before Christmas was even a thing. Also the children were already given presents, by the way. So it’s not all that new.
Santa Claus came on the scene after Martin Luther wanted to put an end to Santa Claus. The veneration of a saint was simply a horror to him. St. Nicholas was just a run-of-the-mill Catholic bishop! The children should rather worship something decent and now just get presents for Christmas. And by Jesus himself, by the Christ child! Ironically, although Luther’s new date prevailed, most Protestant countries, of all places, eventually abolished the Christ Child and switched to Santa Claus. Nicholas 2.0 if you will. Stupid run, dear Martin.
A freely invented story. Like all good stories
And so it continues with Christmas and its invented traditions. In 19. In the twentieth century, there were also trifles like the Advent wreath and Advent calendar. The first well-known Christmas carols also made the rounds. Most of the Christmas carols you hear on the radio today didn’t even appear until the 1940s and ’50s, at least the English ones. Funnily enough, most of them were written by Jewish composers, who were probably not that interested in Christmas. Well, and with that we are already in today’s. Only I haven’t said anything yet about the consumer mania. In any case, it is not completely out of the 1. Century after Christ, that much is betrayed.
Everything is a lie! But the nice thing about it is that you don’t have to believe in traditions any more than you have to believe in the Christ Child, Santa Claus or Jesus Christ himself. One can also enjoy its beautiful sides just like that. So whatever you do this Christmas, whether you freeze your ass off in church, burn your fingers on the Advent wreath, or are guilty of trespassing while looking for a tree, I wish you a Merry Christmas! And remember, the meaning of Christmas is entirely up to you. (And by the way, this is also true for other holidays, like Easter, Labor Day, Halloween, New Year, Pentecost, Carnival …)