The History of Christmas
Ho Ho Ho! It’s that time of year again – Christmas! Here at Let’s Travel we love celebrating Christmas, and in fact host a Christmas Party every year! However, for those of you who are not from the UK, we thought it would be nice to write a bit on the history of Christmas in the UK.
Christmas is not originally a Christian Holiday, it had been celebrated all over Europe by the pagans for thousands of years prior and was called the winter solstice or the midwinter festival, which would celebrate the shortest day of the year. All over Northern Europe it was called “Jul” which in English meant Yule, now a word for Christmas.
Pagan Midwinter Festival
The Roman Era
With the advent of the new religion of Christianity within the Roman Empire, in 313AD Constantine I passed an edict allowing Christianity to be practised. To make Christianity more appealing to the pagans Constantine adopted the December festivals of Saturn and Mithras into a celebration of Christ’s birth.
Roman Festival of Saturnalia
The Middle Ages
Christmas didn’t really take off however until 1066AD when William the Conqueror was given the Christmas Coronation. However, in these times Christmas celebrations were not just a day long but ran over 12 days. These 12 days were to celebrate the three wise men’s journey which lasted 12 days up until the birth of Jesus.
Christmas Feast in the Middle Ages
The Victorian Era
It wasn’t until the Victorian Era that Christmas took on many of the characteristics that we know now and take for granted. This is because Queen Victoria’s husband Albert brought over many Christmas traditions from his native Germany such as decorating the Christmas tree. In addition, the Victorians also popularised gift giving on Christmas Day. Traditionally gift giving was done at the new year, but the Victorians moved it to Christmas as the holiday took on more significance.
Prince Albert’s epic Christmas Tree
Before the advent of the 20th Century St Nicholas was the patron Saint of gift giving. He was a thin figure dressed in green and was known for giving out gifts to children. However, during the Victorian era as Christmas became more important artists and singers rediscovered St Nicholas. But it was not until 1870 when Dutch immigrants to the USA brought over stories of Sinter Klaas in Holland that the modern day Santa Claus was born.