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November 14, 2001     Feather River Bulletin
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November 14, 2001
 

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Our Christmas eel b tion has a controversial By Sam Williams of his birth m"March or April or even battled with the spirits of disorder and mg Christmas was against May. Americans celebrate Christmas as Whatever the date, many in the one of the holiest and happiest of all early Christian church opposed the cel- Christian holidays, the day we cam- ebration of Christ's birth because a memorate the birth of Jesus Christ, divine birth would be nothing like a the son of God. natural one. Besides, they believed, the But the celebration's development observance of birthdays was a repug- into what we 21st century Americans nant pagan custom, even an obser- know as Christmas has not been vance of the birth of the son of God. smooth and without controversy. The Still, the urge to celebrate Christ's following information was culled from birth continued. The earliest recorded The American Book of Days. celebration was by a sect in Egypt The celebration we know as around the year 200. Christmas is actually a curious blend- According to a Catholic almanac ing of the seasonal traditions of published in 354, Christmas had been numerous peoples including the celebrated by the church as early as Persians, the Romans, the Norse, the 334. Goths, the Anglo-Saxons, and others. Of course, the exact date of Christ's Why Dec. 2S? birth remains a mystery. Many critics With the uncertainty surrounding of the Dec. 25 date point to the story of Christ's birthday, Dec. 25 was chosen, the shepherds in the field with their not for its historical accuracy, but flocks on the night Christ was born rather because it coincided with and argue that Christ must have been numerous pagan traditions celebrating born in the spring rather than in the the winter solstice. dead of winter. Some say Christ was To some ancient cultures, the winter born on Jan. 1, the Roman new year, or solstice was a period of great crisis on Jan. 6 or Jan. 10. Some put the date when the deities of the upper world darkness. The winter solstice celebrations were everywhere in the ancient world. The Greeks honored Zeus, the Romans, Saturnalia, the Persians (whose cult rivaled the Christians in Rome) cele- brated the sun god Mithras, who was born on Dec. 25. Of course, the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah also is very near this date. Spreading through Europe The Christmas tradition slowly spread throughout Europe, blending local customs with the Christian tradi- tion along the way. Christmas arrived in Germany in 813, and took another 300 years to make its way to Norway. Still, many in the church, including Augustine of Hippos, opposed the holiday. King Arthur celebrated England's first recorded Christmas in 521. And then Christmas gained a strong foothold in that country in 596, when Pope Gregory I ordered Augustine of Canterbury to allow an observance of the old customs and infuse them with Christian significance in order to prop- agate the faith. Those pagan traditions included the lighting of candles and the use of Yule logs, bonfires, evergreens, mistletoe, holly, and ivy. Curiously, mistletoe was a druid symbol of hope and peace. The tradi- tion of kissing under the mistletoe probably evolved from the druid tradi- tion of enemies dropping their weapons when they entered a home The answer is yes. The English Puritans revived the Christmas and made some changes. Believe it or not, the English Parliament (controlled by outlawed Christmas in 1642 and ordered the people to work as they would on any other day. As paced the cobblestone streets, they delivered the message, "No Christmas!" Why, even mince plum pudding were made illegal. Just a few years later here in America, the Puritan-controlled ernment of celobration of Christmas in 1659. made it a penal offense punishable five shilling fine. The pilgrims, from whom we our Thanksgiving holiday, 20 Plymouth Rock in November 16 • According to pilgrim writers, "No$ rested all day" that first Christmas in the New World, althou~ of the Mayflower did give beer. Luckily for those of us who cele" brate Christmas, the holiday to England during the reign Charles II, although Christmas' nents referred to the season as "Fooltide" rather than Yuletide. The Puritan ban of Christmas Massachusetts likewise was re in 1681. The tradition of probably reached its height 15th and 16th centuries in En decorated with the plant. Presents, presents, presents Holly became associated with The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas as a legend arose that Christmas arose from the Three Christ's crown of thorns was a wreath Men who visited the manger in made from holly. Bethlehem. Over the years, the gift givers Laws against Christmas? been elves, angels, the Christ child, Could there be a time when celebrat- and even "Jesus' camel." i:~¸:( :: In Italy and the Spanish-speakirig .... :: countries, gifts are often given on State Of The Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Art Pre-Mix Concrete Plant The tradition of St. Nicholas AssureSOn.TimeCOnslstent, QualitYDelivenes And to America with the Dutch immigr$ . November 23rd to New York. St. Nicholas, a bishOP from Asia Minor, supposedly threw three bags of gold into the window . Grout Pumping . -k "k three young women in need of • Radio Dispatched Mixer Truck ' _. _ _. happilyACC°rdingmarried.t° the story, all three , State Approved Aggregates W - Greek and Oriental literature, crY !iii: - SJ LI Holiday Hours: lized the American Christmas tradi" 9 am - 8 pm • 7 days tion and Santa Claus with his well- known poem, "The Night Before 150 Pacific , Portola Christmas," written in 1822. 832-4OO3 See Foundation, page