History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

25 December 2006

December 25

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this holiday

Here are a few tidbits about Christmas --

The word for Christmas comes from late Old English: Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. Generally I would say that it is not as closely connected to the ceremonies of other religions as is Easter.

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Before Christmas and Epiphany were added to the church calendar the only days celebrated were the Resurrection and Pentecost as well as the Lord’s Day.

The earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas is an the illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354. In the east, meanwhile, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as part of Epiphany (January 6) These two feast were added in the fourth century

In the early middle ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany. Eventually the celebration grew to include the twelve days of Christmas The evening of January 5 was called Twelfth Night in case you are wondering where Shakespeare found that title.

Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800 and William I if England on Christmas Day in 1066

Richard II hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten.

X (chi) in Greek is the first letter of Christ in Greek (Χριστός). Since the 1500’s the Roman letter X has been used as an abbreviation for Christ thus we have Xmas..

Following the Parliamentary victory over King Charles I, England’s Puritan ruler banned Christmas, in 1647. (See picture: Father Christmas on trial) Pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities, and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters who decorated with holly. Rioting and decorating with holly hardly seem comaptible to me. Wonder if it was not simply an "occupation" -- I must read more about this.

In America Christmas fell out of favor after the Revolution because it was considered an “English custom”. Note they continued to drink tea. Some things British could not be sacrificed!

Dickens “A Christmas Carol” played a large role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday with the family centered traditions we know today.

was declared US federal holiday in 1870.

Most of my information for this blog came from the OED, Wikipedia and The Catholic Encyclopedia


Blogger Unknown said...

Very cool stuff, Mary. I had no idea about the origin of Xmas, or about Cromwell banning Christmas (though it does seem a very Cromwellian thing to do!).

Happy Christmas to all of you out there. I'm home at my parents' waiting for our traditional cinnamon rolls to come out of the oven.


11:05 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thank you, Mary for a great post on Christmas! I enjoyed reading that.

Best wishes to all for the Holiday Season!


6:10 PM  

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