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The Business of Christmas

By Joshua R. Burkheiser

We have all heard the stories associated with Christmas but I think that it might benefit us all to hear the actual facts of Christmas as we know it today. Besides, I might be able to surprise you with a few things you might not know!

Ever since 4 B.C., the birth of Yeshua (English translation “Joshua”), better known as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, we have celebrated the birth of Christ. And thanks to rulers throughout two millennia using Christianity as a way to control their citizens, the tradition has lived on to this very day! The actual birthdate of Jesus has been in debate for thousands of years, however, most scholars agree that it falls most likely on June 17th in a very dry climate, so how did we come up with December 25th, exchanging gifts, decorating pine trees, attending church, sharing meals with family, and laying out cookies for Santa Claus? Do I have a story for you!

First let’s cover the whole December thing, why snow and cold? Well, that actually comes from the pagan belief of the winter solstice. Remember “Yule” tide carols? This comes from a Norse tradition of Yule, and Winter Solstice which is celebrated beginning on December 21st. During this, the Scandinavian people would burn a large “Yule” log that would burn for 12 days, during which they would feast and party until it burned out. So that explains December and the cold for sure.

The 25th is a very specific date, and you guessed it, pagan. In fact, it comes all the way from Rome. Juvenalia, a feast that honored the children of Rome, was celebrated in tandem with the birth of Mithra, a god of the sun. This day fell on the 25th of December. Pope Julius the first was the Bishop of Rome from 6 February 337 until his death on 12 April 352. During his time he chose the 25th of December as the day that all should celebrate the birth of the Savior, more than likely to include the pagan beliefs of the winter solstice.

Alright, so there is the reason we celebrate Christmas when we do, but how did we end up waiting for a fat man in a red suit? Oof, well that’s a long story, but I can sum it up fairly simply. St. Nicholas was born in Turkey around 280 A.D. and was well known for giving away all of his inheritance to help the poor. He quickly became known as a patron saint of both children and sailors. It wasn’t until the Dutch began celebrating “Sinter Klaas” that we added him to the Christmas roster in the 18th century in New York! It wasn’t until Coca-Cola commercialized Santa Claus as a chubby, but happy, bearded man in a red suit that we began seeing him pop up all over the world.

This is all fascinating of course but I promised to give you facts you didn’t know. And here they are. Did you know that Christmas was officially canceled once? That’s right, from 1659 to 1681 it was cancelled in Boston! This was even enforced to the point that if you were caught breaking this law you were fined five shillings. You must understand that this all began in 1645 when Oliver Cromwell took over England with his Puritan beliefs. The decadence of the holidays flew in the face of their beliefs so it was cancelled then as well. With the Puritan migration it made its way to the Americas, and the Puritans made an example out of Boston. It wasn’t until King Charles the second was restored to the throne that the holiday was slowly returned.

During the Middle Ages Christmas was more like Mardi Gras, and in Jamestown, John Smith tried the very first cup of Eggnog. In Germany they share stories of a darker compatriot of Santa Claus, and in Mexico they celebrate Christmas the entire month! No matter how you celebrate, know that you are in good company, for two thousand years we have been gathering together with loved ones and sharing stories and memories from Christmas’s past. And with 25-30 million trees, 10 million Poinsettias, and an average of $942 spent on presents per family each year, what a great time to be an Author!

Merry Christmas!

Joshua Burkheiser is the owner of iWrite.

iWrite is a copywriting company that specializes in copywriting for businesses, business photography, ghostwriting, and editing.