How Christmas has Changed Over The Years

December 18, 2009 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

This article was originally written for my school newspaper, so it’s longer than my normal ones

Being the 18th of December can only mean one thing…CHRISTMAS IS A WEEK AWAY!! This time of year usually means one thing for the most of us, buying the right presents, spending time with relatives and well, getting stuffed of course =). But what does Christmas mean these days? Do people see it as a chance to see relatives, or is it really just about the presents? How did people celebrate it in the past?

As most of us know, Christmas was originally celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus (even though he technically wasn’t born in that month, it was more around September). The word comes from the compound Cristemaesse, which translates to “Christ’s Mass” or “Mass of Christ”. It’s celebrated by Christians in many ways; the most common being a Nativity play, which retells the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s made up of Mary, Joseph, Three Kings, shepherds and random farm animals like donkeys and sheep, all happening in a barn with nothing but Jesus’ crib and a tone of straw.

Until a few years ago, I went to Catholic schools all my life, so I’ve done at least 4 or 5 Nativity plays in primary (One of my earliest memories was being a shepherd in Reception) so the whole nativity idea is normal to me like millions of other Christians.

Despite this, people have still made a few attempts in the past to make sure it wasn’t celebrated. Whether it was Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans cancelling of Christmas in 18th century England [according to HISTORY.COM], or pilgrims outlawing Christmas in Boston, a lot of extremist groups have wanted to abolish Christmas. The Puritans even put a fine on anyone found celebrating Christmas. Fortunately, these ideas failed miserably, this one you might not know about.

It turns out that during his dictatorship, Hitler literally tried to take the Christ out of Christmas. With Anti-Semitic carols and toy grenades hanging from trees, A Nazi Christmas wouldn’t be complete without glittering swastikas (…of course). He even replaced the star on Christmas trees with a sun, just in case people would get it confused with the Star of David. Though Hitler tried to weaken the power of the church, it didn’t work; neither did his aim of Nazi Christmas dominating the world].

Around the same time of those failed attempts, Charles Dickens created the tale Scrooge or a Christmas Carol, which as you probably know, is all about the importance of giving to others. It was a hit in England and America and showed some people the benefits of celebrating it. The focus was less on baby Jesus and more on general goodwill to humans. This eventually evolved into families splashing on presents for their kids without looking like they were being spoiled. (That probably explains why so many of us cared about presents when we were little) Aspects like these became part of modern day Christmas traditions that we are familiar with today.

Christmas became more commercialized soon afterwards; with Christmas now, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention people rushing to the shops to get those last few gifts for the family. Jesus was no longer the only figure associated with Christmas; the other one became the bearer of all gifts, Father Christmas, or Santa.

As popular as these factors are today, they don’t have a connection to everyone. Many people follow religions like Judaism, Islam or Jehovah’s Witness, so they don’t celebrate or even recognize Christmas. If people in America use the term Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas to respect that, shouldn’t more be done for people of those beliefs? If the Swiss were allowed to vote against minarets in case they “spread the influence of Islam”, should the same technically be done for Christmas in case it “spreads the influence of Christianity”?

Even for those who celebrate Christmas, originally Santa didn’t have a connection to kids or even gift bearing. On top of that, we all know he’s not real, so is it fair to associate him with Christmas when he doesn’t appeal to all kids? Is it right to make them believe in something that has no connection to the real meaning of Christmas? Is he there to up their spirits about the holiday or to make them more materialistic so that big corporate companies make more money?

I’m not saying that it should be cancelled; I just think that the commercialism should be toned down a bit. Even as someone who celebrates Christmas, I personally don’t want to be bombarded with endless ads of unnecessary things like a singing reindeer or tacky decorations.

Nevertheless, Christmas has come a long way. It’s gone from being completely banned to becoming a holiday that’s recognized almost worldwide. Although it’s originally about the birth of Jesus, even those who don’t believe in him have their own way of celebrating. While some still believe in the pagan ideas of the 17th century, thankfully it’s not enough for the influence to be spread worldwide. As commercialized and materialistic as it can be, the true meaning of Christmas hasn’t been forgotten. Each year millions of Christians celebrate his birth at the same time millions of kids patiently wait with milk and biscuits for Father Christmas to give them their gifts, even though he’ll never come (…I wonder how their parents will break it to them).

Personally, my parents didn’t have to tell me he wasn’t real. The older I got, the more I got freaked out by the idea of a fat, middle aged white man in a red suit coming into my house when I was sleeping.


Entry filed under: Britain, Celebrations, Religion, The Media. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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