Origins of Christmas

Samson Mosley, Staff Writer

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Since December 25, 1870, the phenomenon that is Christmas has been celebrated as a federal holiday here in the U.S. For two millennia Christmas has been honored with various traditions such as giving gifts, decorating houses and Christmas trees, and having dinner with family and friends. Christians celebrate Christmas religiously, as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. There are many different ways that this holiday is celebrated as well as different origins and symbols that go along with those customs. That is because it’s both a sacred holiday and a widespread cultural occurrence.

One place that celebrates Christmas differently than the U.S is Mexico. Originally families in Mexico celebrated Christmas longer than many other countries. Celebrations known as “Posadas” began nine days before Christmas Eve which is known as “Noche Buena.”  Also in 1828 Poinsettias, red and green plants, were brought from Mexico to America where they would eventually become a symbol of Christmas.

The German winter solstice tradition has always included decorating evergreen trees. In the 17th century, the first largely decorated Christmas trees appeared in Strasbourg in the historic region of Alsace. In the 1820’s the first German immigrants began decorating trees in Pennsylvania. Soon in 1848 the first American newspaper carried a picture of a Christmas tree which caused the tradition to spread rapidly.

During the holidays, fireplaces are used greatly and are a central aspect of the Christmas scene. This common tradition dates back to Norway, specifically the Norse Yule log. “Yule” comes from the Norse word hweol, which means “wheel.” The Norse believed that the sun was a wheel of fire and celebrated the return of the sun during the winter solstice. Norway is also credited for log-shaped cheese, cakes, and desserts around this time of year.

Christmas has many different stories and representations that go along with the celebrations. Whether it be plants, fireplaces, of desserts, there are various symbols of Christmas with distinct and diverse origins from numerous places around the globe.

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