So I thought that whilst I'm incapable of doing much at the minute due to a debilitating chronic bout of Influenza I would share with you a brief history of what we know as Christmas.
So as the dulcet vibes of “spirit of radio” blast their way across the office our story begins.
The history of Christmas does not begin with Christ. The winter solstice – the shortest day of the year – has been celebrated in one form or another for millennia.
Northern Europeans called it “Jul” (a term remembered in the English word Yule, which now means Christmas); in ancient Rome it was the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or "the birthday of the unconquered Sun”. Through sacrifices and feasting, pagans celebrated the beginning of the Sun's revival.
The birth of the Messiah had been foretold in one form or another for a very long time but there is a great deal of debate about whether or not there was a “virgin birth”, you see the phrase “virgin birth” was actually a mistranslation: the Hebrew word that is translated to “virgin” more usually means “young woman, and let’s face it when you look at some of the slappers around today that call themselves “young women” you would be hard pressed to think that just because it was a long time ago the “young women” back then were any more chaste.
So it is a lot less probable that the birth of Christ was a “virgin birth”.
A child is born! Or is he? The existence of Christ the historical figure is still a controversial topic among scholars of the period.
The most problematic point is the date. Or is it a case of don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, You see Medieval Christians put it at (what we now call) 0AD, but the Gospels say it is in the reign of King Herod, who died in 4BC.
Further, the Gospel of Luke says that Joseph and Mary travelled before his birth to Bethlehem for a great census. The closest such census took place in 6AD. But as Humphrey Carpenter says in his book Jesus, we can regard it as “virtually certain” that a Jewish religious teacher was born around this time, and was executed by crucifixion between 28AD and 30AD. It is just far from clear that he was born in December: some early reports put it in May.
After the birth of Christ it was rumoured that 3 blokes in pointy hats booked a trip to go and see the child. Wise men or magi they were not that wise as it took them 12 days to arrive, they didn't have a Garmin so followed a bright light in the sky and this is known in the Christian faith as the Epiphany.
The 12 days of Christmas as they have become known were not actually celebrated until some time in the 12'th century and in some Christian cultures, gifts are given on the 12th day; in others, on all 12.
“They are banning Christmas” is usually the reference to some local council going insane about political correctness and making people replace merry Christmas signs with happy holidays so as not to offend people from different religions,
sorry but if they don’t like it they can fuck off and the taxi drivers can not charge me double as it would be a normal day in his faith etc etc etc I could go on but will refrain,
however my diversion avoided, back in the 17th century, this was actually true.
The English parliament under Oliver Cromwell, and Massachusetts Puritans, both tried to ban the celebration of Christmas; in England because it was “popish” and pagan, in America, because 25 December was viewed as an arbitrarily selected date, rather than the true anniversary of Christ's birth, and because drinking, eating, dancing and having fun were not things that went down well with 17th-century American Puritans generally.
Santa Claus and Father Christmas are, or were, two different people. St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of sailors, ships, archers, children, students and pawnbrokers, became in Dutch folklore a bringer of gifts at Christmas, known as “Sinterklaas”. He originally was shown as a large, bearded man in a green cloak, like the Ghost of Christmas Present in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Father Christmas, or Pere Noel, was a depiction of the Christmas spirit of cheer, but was not associated with gift-bringing. The two myths were merged, until they became synonymous. Until the 1930s Santa wore a variety of colours, but a Coca-Cola advert by Haddon Sundblom showed him in red and white, and the image has stuck.
Back in 1957 there was controversy in the United States when the Church League of America claimed that the term Xmas was an attempt by “world Jewry” to subvert Christmas, using the symbol X as an “unknown quantity” and a “blasphemous omission of Christ”. In fact, X stood for the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the word Christ in Greek. But the idea of a war on Christmas continues in the popular mind and the press, even as the holiday is more widely celebrated than ever before.
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.”