The holiday season is filled with weird rituals and strange traditions that seem completely normal to us, since we've been celebrating the holidays this way for our entire lives. Things weren't quite the same years ago, when holiday celebrations were in their infancy. And what about the Christmas story itself? Where do the specifics of Canada's most celebrated holiday even come from? Read on and find out the truth behind the holiday season as we debunk some major Christmas myths.
December 25th is NOT Jesus Christ's Bday
In case you forgot, Xmas is meant to be the celebration of Jesus' birth, along with Santa and presents, obviously. But unlike any other birthday celebration, Christmas doesn't actually coincide with baby J's expulsion from the womb. Truthfully, no one is really certain when Jesus was born (the Bible loves to be vague and cryptic), but biblical scholars are fairly certain it wasn't on December 2th. The reasoning? Well, as we all know in Montreal, it's cold as tits in December. In the nativity narrative, you got shepherds roaming about and pregnant ladies freely walking from inn to inn, so its probably not that cold out. Most likely, Jesus' birth occurred during the summer months.
So why the 25th? Take it back to the glory-pagan days, when the Saturnalia was the major holiday of the Roman Empire, based on the sun's movement in the sky. Christians, still persecuted at the time, secretly celebrated Christmas when everyone else was worshiping Saturn, and just kept the custom. Alternatively, since no one knows the exact date of JC's birth, the Christian church just chose the 25th based on past customs and the timing of the winter solstice.
Santa Is No Saint
Nowadays Santa is so removed from the religious side of Xmas that people forget he is supposed to be inspired by a Saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra to be exact. At least that's what the "Old saint Nick" tradition will tell you. Predating any story of Saint Nicholoas, and the likely inspiration for Santa Clause, is the Norse god Odin. In the middle of winter All-Father (Christmas) would lead a "Wild Hunt" and ride through the night sky, at times giving gifts to faithful worshipers. Read the full story on Santa's pagan roots here.
We Three Kings
Gold, frankincense and myrrh, the original xmas gifts given to JC by three wise men right after being born. That's what the Christmas cards tell you at least. Other than the gifts, everything else about the "three kings" is pretty much made up. Matthew:2, when the gift bearing guys are first mentioned, use the title "magi" and never king, although the term can be roughly translated to the familiar "wise men." No number is given, however, and the group of three is only inferred because of the three gifts given to JC. Something tells me gold didn't come cheap, even back then, so it makes sense to assume there was a posse of priests chipping in, and not just a trio.
Christmas Trees We're Always A Part Of Christmas
To us modern folk, Christmas trees have always been a part of the holiday celebration. The tradition originally came from German immigrants to North America, and the first recorded Xmas tree put up was way back in 1781 by Brunswick soldiers stationed in Quebec. It took a long time for the fad to catch on though, as people rejected the German tradition. The New York Times wrote an editorial condemning Xmas trees in 1880 and president of the U.S. Teddy Roosevelt saw it as a waste of timber. Well into the 20th century was when Xmas trees gained their popularity, with most towns and households adopting the tradition. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, evergreen trees date back all the way to ancient Egypt, as symbols of eternal life. Gotta love those pagan traditions.
Putting the X in Christmas
I've probably used the term Xmas like four times already in this article, but why the hell is there an "X" instead of "Christ?" Is it a secularization of the holiday? Not really, if anything it's just a lazy abbreviation. You aren't being anti-religious if you use X > Christ, since it equates to the same thing. "Christ" is spelled "Χριστός" in Greek (one of the original languages the Bible was written in), as x = chi. Sure, there's a few letters missing, but 'x' basically became a substitute for the christ- prefix. So that's why Christina Aguilera became Xtina for a while...
Dat Dickens Doe
So where did Christmas get all of its strange traditions like holiday cards, specific foods, and giving gifts? At what point did the holiday become a lot less centered on the religious aspects? You can largely thank the famous Victorian author Charles Dickens, as it was his short story A Christmas Carol that sparked many of the modern celebrations observed today. Historian Ronald Hutton actually argues Dickens did this on purpose, wanting to recreate the holiday as a more personal and secular event, rather than community and church-based. If your not a fan of the non-religious, consumerism aspect of Christmas, blame Dickens.
Why Is It Called Boxing Day?
We all know the day after Christmas is Boxing Day, where people go nuts for post-holiday sales, kinda like Black Friday part 2. But how did this traditin get started, and why the hell is it even called Boxing Day? 800 years back, the day after Xmas was when the alms/collection bozes were opened to distribute money to the poor. The tradition carried on, as before WW2, trade workers would go around on Boxing Day and collect their holiday tips. Servants also got the day off too, taking a day away from their bosses. Bosses and boxes may be a bit of a stretch, sure, but at least there's no connection to boxing as a sport, 'cuz that would be too easy...and ridiculous.