Friday, December 07, 2007

A Brief History of Christmas

The first mention of a Christmas celebration was in the year 336 A.D. when a Roman calendar called the Philocalian Catalogue listed it as a holiday. Some believe that the actual date of Christ’s birth was in the spring. Clement of Alexandria, a noted church father, stated that some church historians place His birth in April or May. Epiphanius, a bishop in Cypress, said the Christians in Egypt believed Christ to be born in January.

The date of the Christ’s birth was disputed by the church, but John Chrysostom, a noted church leader, helped the fourth century Christians come to agreement on the date to be celebrated. They agreed that Christmas Day should be December 25.

The custom of giving gifts not only came from the gifts given to the Christ child by the wise men, but it was also Roman custom. Roman Christians were used to celebrating a pagan holiday during this time of year, where they gave gifts to their children. When they received Christ as Lord, they continued to give gifts as they celebrated the Lord’s birth.

During a particularly difficult time in the history of England and Scotland, the celebration of Christmas became a time of revelry. So much so, that a member of a household was chosen to be responsible to keep the family in order. For a period of English history, celebrating Christmas was actually outlawed do to the commotion caused by the holiday. An act of Parliament in 1555 brought refinement to the celebration by emphasizing the Christian elements of Christmas.

In 1627, the English Parliament, which was dominated by Puritans, abolished the singing of Christmas carols, since such singing was viewed as being part of a worldly festival. This produced a scarcity of Christian hymns to be sung at Christmas time in the 17th and 18th century. Charles Wesley’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was one of the hymns written for Christmas during this time.

During our modern era, one of the great Christmas challenges for us is to look beyond the commercial enterprises of our day and remember why Christmas exists. It is a day that celebrates the love and grace of God as the first gift-giver to the world. He has given us His only son . . . and through Him the gift of personal salvation through faith in Christ. That’s the real gift that keeps on giving.

Research Sources
1. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1957, Moody Press, p. 196.
2. Eerman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., p. 147.
3. Amazing Grace, 1990, Kregel Publications, p. 374.


Blogger Ros said...

Interesting reading...

1:05 AM  

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