Sunday, December 24, 2006

Geography and Christmas

Since tomorrow is Christmas Eve so I thought I may give a brief history and geography of Christmas. I will skip the common knowledge beginnings of Christmas and start my story right before the Reformation.

Christmas was a very popular holiday in Catholic countries. When the first wave of the Reformation came many Protestants kept the celebration. The Germans were well known for their Christmas traditions including the exchange of cards and the Christmas tree which represented the continual life of Jesus Christ.

At first Protestant England continued celebrating Christmas until the seizing of power of the Puritans during the English Civil War. The Puritans thought that celebrating Christmas was a Catholic-thing and outlawed it. Several Christmas riots and a restoration of the Monarchy later and Christmas was once again legal to celebrate but a very controversial holiday which was kept low-key.

The United States continued the British custom of observing but not celebrating Christmas. However, as more German Lutherans and Irish Catholics came to America, the Christmas season became much more celebratory in nature. The full coming of Christmas came after the Civil War as Irish gained acceptance and Thomas Nast gave the world the common image of Santa Clause.

In the 1840s class and religious background murmurs finally subsided in England. One of the reasons Christmas became such a celebrated holiday was Charles Dickinson's work A Christmas Carol. Another tradition to come out of this time was the Christmas Card. Both the card and the arrival of the Christmas tree in England can be attributed to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

Today Christmas has become such a part of Anglo-culture that it has been naturally secularized. Some have argued the secularization and materialization has led to a War against Christmas where the Christian emphasis has been targeted.

The international Christmas dynamic is fascinating. Some European countries especially in the old Eastern Europe and Scandinavia give presents on St. Nicholas Day which presents are given on. Many Hispano countries traditionally give gifts on Epiphany which is called El Dia de Reys on January 6. Finally, old calendar Eastern Orthodox celebrate Christmas on January 7 (which is December 25th on the Georgian calendar).

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