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Crowds of people dressed up and going door-to- door while asking for treats and hanging mischief if the homeowners did n’t pony up …. Sounds like Halloween, right? Actually, that was one popular way Christmas was celebrated during the Middle Periods! That’s right, our ultramodern vacation — celebrated with Christmas traditions like gifts and trees and marked by Christmas symbols including stars and nightsticks — is a far cry from how Christmas began.
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The middle of downtime has long been a time of festivity around the world. Centuries before the appearance of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of downtime. Numerous peoples rejoiced during the downtime solstice, when the worst of the downtime was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sun.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the downtime solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as numerous as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new gormandizer or shin that would be born during the coming time.
The end of December was a perfect time for festivity in utmost areas of Europe. At that time of time, utmost cattle were massacred so they would not have to be fed during the downtime. For numerous, it was the only time of time when they had a force of fresh meat. In addition, utmost wine and beer made during the time was eventually fermented and ready for drinking.
In Germany, people recognized the idolater god Oden during themid-winter vacation. Germans were scarified of Oden, as they believed he made nightly breakouts through the sky to observe his people, and also decide who would prosper or corrupt. Because of his presence, numerous people chose to stay outside.
In Rome, where layoffs weren’t as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia — a vacation in honor of Saturn, the god of husbandry — was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the downtime solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a sybaritic time, when food and drink were generous and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, enslaved people were given temporary freedom and treated as equals. Business and seminaries were closed so that everyone could share in the vacation’s fests.
Also around the time of the downtime solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast recognizing the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes frequently celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the insuperable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an child god, was born of a gemstone. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the time.
In the early 17th century, a surge of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they pledged to relieve England of degeneration and, as part of their trouble, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular vacation.
The pilgrims, English secessionists that came to America in 1620, were indeed more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas wasn’t a vacation in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the festivity of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone flaunting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By discrepancy, in the Jamestown agreement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas was n’t declared a civil vacation until June 26, 1870.
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