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The Origin of the Christmas Celebration

Celebrations during the mid-winter season were common, even before Christmas was celebrated on December 25. Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated many different times during the year. The choice of December 25 was made by the Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one. In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch was from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The December 25 date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously Dec. 25 of the Julian calendar.) Many of the traditions associated with Christmas (giving gifts, lighting a Yule log, singing carols, decorating an evergreen) hark back to older religions.

What is the origin of the Christmas Tree?

Predecessors of the Christmas tree can be seen in pagan customs of tree worship, which involved bringing trees indoors and adorning them to ensure good crops the following year.

Martin Luther is said to have started the tradition of the lighted Christmas tree in the 16th century in Germany. The sight of an evergreen tree on Christmas eve, with stars blazing above, is said to have made a great impression on him, and he put a similar tree, decorated with lighted candles in his home. By the mid-1800's, the custom of trimming Christmas trees had spread rapidly throughout the world.

In 1882, the world's first electrically lighted Christmas tree was decorated in the New York City home of Edward Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison. Today, more than 72 million trees are trimmed each Christmas season, 35 million of which are real trees and 37 million artificial.

The Origin of the Christmas Card

According to Britannica Online, though wood engravers produced prints with religious themes in the European Middle Ages, the first Christmas card, as the term is now understood, is believed to have been designed by John Callcott Horsley in England in 1843, created for his friend Sir Henry Cole. An edition of 1,000 cards was placed on sale in London. It was lithographed on stiff cardboard, 5 1/8 by 3 1/4 inches, in dark sepia and hand-colored. The center of the card shows a family party in progress, beneath which were the words "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." To one side is a scene of the hungry being fed and to the other side the poor being clothed. In the United States, the owner of a variety store in Albany, N.Y., in the mid-19th century produced a card carrying Christmas greetings from "Pease's Great Variety Store in the Temple of Fancy."






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