Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas once not so popular...

Once upon a time celebrating Christmas was considered "popish" (pronounced poh-pish) meaning "of or pertaining to the Roman Catholic Church or the head of the Church, the Pope." Protestant denominations since the time of King Henry VIII would call any excessive show of religious zeal or decoration, "popish."


From the beginning, Mayflower Pilgrims didn’t mark Christmas, considering it “diabolical” because its celebration was encouraged by their enemy, the pope. The Puritans’ political influence was so strong in Massachusetts that the commonwealth banned the holiday’s observance until 1681. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics in Maryland, Anglicans in Virginia and Lutherans in Pennsylvania celebrated Christmas.

Interdenominational disagreements and language barriers prevented the development of any broad consensus on how to celebrate the holiday. But in the early 19th century, businessmen and religious leaders began calling for a wider and more public observance of Christmas. Quakers, Congregationalists and Calvinists still balked at marking the day because of its commercialism and revelry. But acceptance of the holiday haltingly grew. By 1860, 16 of 33 states legally recognized Christmas. It took another 10 years before Congress made it a federal holiday.

It has been said that Christmas grew out of the Roman (pagan) festival called Saturnalia and that pagans and Christians celebrated side by side with eating, drinking and all kinds of festivities. According to Wikipedia, though,

Christmas was [probably] set on the feast of Sol Invictus, which was on December 25, [also the date of the Winter solstice) and which had supplanted Saturnalia. However, others claim that early Christians independently came up with the date of December 25 based on a Jewish tradition of the "integral age" of the Jewish prophets (the idea that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception), and a miscalculation of the date of Jesus' death. A theory has been advanced that the establishment of the feast of Sol Invictus on December 25 was an attempt by Aurelian to co-opt the day already celebrated by Christians for a pagan festival.
And so what's the point of all this? Well, the point is that no matter what we do on Christmas, no matter how we celebrate there is no RIGHT way to do it. Celebrating by decorating profusely, or shopping for loads of presents for under the tree, or helping at a soup kitchen or doing nothing at all is just fine.

And anybody who complains that Christmas is too commercialized or becoming too secular had better read up on his/her history.



Anonymous said...

great post!!

Jeff B said...

Interesting bit of history. It's amazing how many people think of their way of celebrating is the 'correct' or only way. Quite obviously it holds a very different meaning for each of us.

I've seen your comments at other sites I frequent so I thought I'd pop over for a visit. Thanks

the teach said...

Thanks Jeff, I appreciate your thoughts. I'll be over to vissit you...Happy Holidays!

the teach said...

Thanks Bridget, How's the move going? I'll visit you in a little bit!