Christmas is the time of the year cherished by many. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas are often swept away by the wave of Christmas songs, festive cards, gifts, tasty food, and heartwarming movies on TV. But, what do we know about Christmas? If you were to test your knowledge on Christmas today, how high would your score be? You can discover that right now. Take the quiz we prepared and see how much you know about Christmas!
Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and is both a religious holiday and a cultural and commercial phenomenon. Christians commemorate Christmas Day as the birth anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings serve as the foundation of their faith. Popular Christmas customs include exchanging gifts, eating traditional dishes (which vary from region to region), decorating Christmas trees, or attending church.
Winter solstice has long been a time of celebration around the world. In the darkest days of winter, centuries before the arrival of the man known as Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth. Many people celebrated the winter solstice when the worst of winter was over and looked forward to longer days and more sunlight.
In Scandinavia, the Norsemen celebrated Yule from December 21st till January. To honor the sun returning after the season of darkness, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set ablaze. The people would feast until the long would burn out, which could take as long as twelve days. The Norse people believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf to be born in the upcoming year.
At the end of the year, most cattle would be slaughtered so they wouldn’t have to be fed during winter. That’s why the end of December was the perfect time for celebration for Europeans. It was usually the only time of the year when they had a ready supply of fresh meat. In addition to that, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.
In Rome, where winters weren’t as harsh as they were up north, people celebrated Saturnalia. This holiday was held in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture, abundance, wealth, and seasonal renewal. Saturnalia began the week before the winter solstice and lasted a month. It was a hedonistic time when food and drink were abundant and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down for a bit. Enslaved people were granted temporary freedom and treated as equals for one month. No one was doing any business, and schools were closed so everyone could celebrate the holiday.
In the early days of Christianity, Easter was the most important holiday and the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. It changed in the fourth century when church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The Bible does not mention the date of his birth, though some pieces of evidence suggest it could have happened in the spring. Pope Julius the I chose the date December 25th. The church picked this specific day most likely to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia holiday. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century.
Church authorities boosted the likelihood that Christmas would be widely accepted by timing it to coincide with traditional winter solstice holidays, but they also gave up control over how it was observed.
By Middle Ages, Christianity mostly replaced the pagan religion. On Christmas people attended church, and then enjoyed the festivities in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere. Every year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and excited celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would visit the houses of the rich and demand their finest food and drink. Owners who failed to comply would most likely be terrorized with mischief by their visitors. Christmas was the time of the year when the wealthy would attempt to repay their “debt” to society and help those less fortunate.
Did you hear about the time Christmas was canceled? During the early 17th century, a wave of religious reforms swept through Europe, changing the way people celebrated Christmas. When Oliver Cromwell with his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they decided to rid the country of decadence. Canceling Christmas was part of these efforts. However, by popular demand, King Charles II was brought back to his throne, and with him, Christmas returned.
Even more puritanical than Cromwell, the English separatists known as the pilgrims arrived in America in 1620. Christmas was not a holiday in early America as a result. Christmas was indeed forbidden in Boston between 1659 and 1681. Anyone showing Christmas spirit was subject to a five-shilling fine. In contrast, Captain John Smith stated that Christmas was celebrated peacefully and by all in the Jamestown settlement.
English traditions, including Christmas, lost popularity after the American Revolution. In actuality, it wasn’t until June 26, 1870, that Christmas was named a federal holiday.
How well do you know Christmas? Do you believe you can get a perfect score on our quiz? Get down to the questions and test yourself! Good luck and have fun!
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