The history of Christmas
Christmas is a sacred religious holiday observed on December 25 as well as a global cultural and commercial phenomenon. People all over the world have been celebrating it for two millennia through religious and secular customs and practices. Christmas Day marks the anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth’s birth, a spiritual leader whose teachings are the foundation of Christianity. Christmas traditions include giving gifts to one another, decorating Christmas trees, going to church, eating with friends and family, and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. Since 1870, the 25th of December—Christmas Day—has been a federal holiday in the United States.
Around the world, the middle of winter has long been a time for celebration. In the darkest days of winter, early Europeans celebrated light and birth centuries before Jesus arrived. When the worst of winter was over and they could look forward to longer days and longer hours of sunlight, many people celebrated the winter solstice with joy.
The Norse people of Scandinavia observed Yule from January 21 through the winter solstice. Fathers and sons would bring large logs home to celebrate the sun’s return and light them on fire. For as long as 12 days, the people would feast until the log burned out. The Norse believed that a new pig or calf would be born in the coming year with each spark from the fire.
The finish of December was an ideal time for festivity in many areas of Europe. The majority of cattle were slaughtered at that time of year to avoid feeding them during the winter. It was the only time of year when many people had access to fresh meat. Additionally, the majority of the year’s wine and beer was finally fermented and ready for consumption.
During the middle of the winter holiday, people in Germany paid homage to the pagan god Oden. Germans were alarmed by Oden, as they accepted he made nighttime trips through the sky to notice his kin, and afterward conclude who might thrive or die. Many people chose to remain inside due to his presence.