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【The Christmas Season – Old Christmas Traditions】



(Contributed by Ana)

【The Christmas Season – Old Christmas Traditions】


In Medieval times (400AD – 1400AD), Christmas was a time for feasting and partying which lasted 12 days from Christmas Eve on the 24th of December until the Epiphany on the 6th of January.  They were mainly secular in nature, although they did incorporate some religious elements. Many invading Roman soldiers also brought with them pagan traditions.  This included celebrating Saturnalia, covering the houses in greenery and partying.


The Church, on the other hand, tried to curb pagan practices and popular customs by giving them Christian meanings.  For example, carols that originated as pagan songs for various events were changed to Christmas carols and eventually, Christmas carols became a tradition too.   Holly, which was used to decorate homes, became a symbol for Jesus’ crown of thorns that legend states he wore when he was crucified.


Christian Puritans, however, suppressed Christmas celebrations in Europe and America by the middle of the 17th century.  The Christian Puritans greatly believed in strict moral codes, and closely following the New Testament scriptures combined with lots of prayers.   As they felt Christmas was linked to the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia which tended to be boozy and lively, they banned it completely.


Nevertheless, this all changed in Victorian times (1837-1901) when Christmas came back with gusto in Britain and in America.   The Victorians saw it as a special time for the family.  So they revived the old traditions of carol singing as well as popularising giving cards.  Even Christmas trees were introduced, which is based on a German tradition, which commenced after Prince Albert received a Christmas tree from the Queen of Norway.  Hence, the Victorians gave us a Christmas that we recognise today.

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