Christmas, what a wonderful time of the year! Everyone is joyful as they get to see loved ones. People give gifts to one another and celebrate Christ’s birth. But, was Christmas even a Christian holiday in the first place? Where did the idea of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth come from?
Long before Christ was even recognized, early Europeans celebrated a holiday in the middle of the winter. It was a holiday to show light and birth in the darkest days.
The Norse tribes (people in the southern and central part of Scandinavia) would celebrate Yule. This would start December 21 and would last through January. They would celebrate the return of the sun after the Winter Solstice. Fathers and sons would bring home logs and make a fire and cook all the meals on this fire.
In Rome, they would have a celebration commemorating the god of agriculture, Saturn. This festival was called Saturnalia. They drank and ate a lot of food during this festival. During the festival, slaves would become masters and businesses and schools were shut down.
Christianity finally adopted the idea of Christmas from a man called Pope Julius I. It was sometime during Pope Julius’ reign from 337 to 352 A.D. Even though evidence has shown that Jesus was born in the spring, the Christians of that time already were celebrating Easter in the spring, so that didn’t work. So, Pope Julius, being a Christian adopted December 25, so then his people would not be celebrating Saturnalia, the pagan holiday.
It was not originally called Christmas, it was actually called the Feast of the Nativity. This custom spread to Egypt by 432 A.D. and to England by the sixth century. By the 700s, the celebration of Christmas had spread to almost all of Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries. The Church leaders of that time purposely chose to celebrate Christmas during all of those pagan holidays, so then the chances that Christianity and Christmas being embraced by most people was very likely.
Yes, Christmas was and is most definitely a Christian holiday. It was adopted by the Church of that time to celebrate a very important time for most Christians: Jesus’ birth. To argue whether His birth was really during the winter, especially December, is wide open. But, what stands is that Pope Julius was smart and created Christmas so then people wouldn’t celebrate pagan holidays. Well, his work back in the 300’s was worth it because now Christmas is celebrated in over 160 countries worldwide.