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History of Christmas

Fun facts about the early celebration of the holiday

Fun facts about the early celebration of the holiday

December 23, 2008|By RACHAEL JOHNSON / Pulse correspondent

The exact origin of our modern celebration of Christmas is unknown.

The old English word for Christmas is "Cristes Maesse." In Dutch it is "Kerst-misse." In Latin it is known as "Dies Natalis." This gave the French name "Noel." Italians call it "Natale." Germans refer to it as "Weihnachtsfest," from the preceding sacred vigil. The word Christmas translates into "Mass of Christ."

However, people dispute the origin of the term yule. The name in Anglo-Saxon was "geola." Christmas was not among the earliest.

Church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian both omitted Christmas from their list of feasts, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia's Web site (www.newadvent.org). They refused to recognize it as a true religious holiday even though they are both Christians. This, at one point, caused an uproar in the Christian community.

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Believe it or not most of today's Christmas traditions began way before the birth of Christ. Exchanging gifts, burning yule logs and putting decorations on trees were all winter traditions before Christ. In fact, according to a 2002 article published at www.biblebb by Kathryn Capoccia titled "Christmas Traditions," many early Christians didn't even give gifts because they didn't want to associate it with pagan practices. Mistole, which in Celtic means "all-heal," was used by the Druids in their practices, Capoccia writes. Romans believed that holly, too, helped to keep away evil. And the yule log was burned by Roman pagans in honor of their winter festival holiday. Eventually, they became incorporate with the holiday we all know as Christmas.

The Mesopotamians celebrated each new year with a 12-day celebration, according to the History of Christmas's Web site (www.historyofchristmas.net). This celebration was known as Zagmuth. They believed in many gods, but they had this festival in honor of their chief god. His name was Marduk, they had the festival because they believed that he battled monster born of chaos at the start of every winter. Scholars believe this may be the origin of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

According to another history of Christmas Web site (TheHistoryofChristmas.com), the Romans had a similar festivity in honor of their god, Saturn. They are the culture that began decorating the homes with garland and trees with candles. During this celebration Roman citizens would visit each other and have a great feast.

There is no one origin of the Christmas we celebrate today. Over time winter traditions evolved with the time to create this holiday that has become a world-wide event. Christmas has become a time of year were we can all care for one another. It should always stay that way.

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