In our last post, we discussed the war on Christmas. We asked the question, “How Christian is Christmas?” What many of us may not know is that Christmas wasn’t always an explicitly Christian holiday. Perhaps it never was. Holiday celebrations of the past would be almost scandalous today.
- The first Christmas trees in the English-speaking world weren’t topped with stars or angels, but the Union Jack (If someone put the US flag on top of a Christmas tree today, they might find themselves accused of Christian nationalism—or worse).
- The first anthology of Christmas carols, titled Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, was published in 1833 by musical antiquarian William Sandys. He collected Christmas carols by doing house-to-house interviews and was often shocked at the bawdy lyrics that he had to sanitize for general use.
- In Victorian England, children born on Christmas were thought to possess the gift of “second sight” or clairvoyance.
- Christmas cards appeared in the 1840s, with the first one featuring a picture of a mother giving a sip of wine to a little girl who seems to have been her (very) underaged daughter.
- Christmas celebrations often featured copious amounts of alcohol.
- In the mid-1600s, Christmastime events could turn violent. Schoolboys had a tradition called “barring out the schoolmaster,” in which students stockpiled supplies and barricaded themselves inside their school. Should the schoolmaster or other officials breach their defenses, they would be beaten harshly. So, they defended themselves with a variety of weapons, including swords, clubs, and even pistols. The students “won” by locking out school officials for three days. Records indicate that excitable students shot and even killed a few people accidentally.
Christmas celebrations have not always been Christian—these connections, historically, seem to be incredibly weak. But, this is a time of the year when people’s minds are turned toward Christ more than any other (excepting perhaps Easter). We can take advantage of this fact by continuing to imitate Christ visibly, not only in the holiday season but throughout the year. How do we do this?
- We keep Christ in Christmas by making sure he doesn’t slip into irrelevancy during a highly commercialized holiday season filled with distractions.
- We keep Christ at the center of our thinking and living at all times at a time filled with hope but also plagued by increased stress and higher rates of depression.
- We refuse to bow to the idol of materialism, which can pose a threat to the financial well-being of many families who feel pressured to give expensive gifts.
- We should pay attention to those who may not have many close relatives during a holiday that emphasizes friends and family.
“Keep Christ in Christmas!” is often used as a rallying cry for those who believe there is a war on the holiday (and, by extension, the Christian faith). I’m not so sure that this war is as intense as many believers think. You and I should do one better, by keeping him at the forefront of our daily living so others can see the difference he makes year-round.