The date of Christmas, December 25, was chosen by the ancient church, now the Roman Catholic Church. The date is exactly nine months after the date of the Annunciation, or when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told by the angel Gabriel she was pregnant with the Son of God. This date also corresponded with the Roman winter solstice. Traditionally, this season was a time of feasting and festivity due to the lack of work after the harvest season was completed. Contrary to popular belief, the celebration was originally considered sinful and the event of Christmas was barely acknowledged.
Middle Ages and the Reformation
The celebration of Christmas itself was not considered a major event during medieval times. Instead, a winter celebration was more widely celebrated. It was not until the crowning of Charlemagne, which occurred on Christmas Day in 800, that Europeans started recognizing the significance of the holiday. By the 12th century, the traditions of Advent, the 40 days before Christmas and the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the days between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, were firmly in place. In 1377, the biggest Christmas feast recorded up to that point took place in England and was hosted by King Richard II.
The Turning Point
In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote his famous book titled A Christmas Carol. The publication of this book changed the entire view of Christmas from that point on. Until then, Christmas was seen as a time to drink in excess and gorge on food. Dickens’s story, however, painted the holiday as one of a time of giving to loved ones and the importance of bringing family together. Soon, Christmas became a worldwide holiday synonymous with love, compassion and sharing.