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Sunday, November 30, 2008

The celebration of Christmas

The Babylonians (1750- 529 BC) celebrated renewal of the year and the same festivities were later adopted by the Persians (529BC - 637AD). Eventually this merged into ancient Roman culture. Called the Festival of Saturn one of the themes, thought to have started by the Persians, was to temporarily subvert social order during festivals. Subsequently masters and slaves exchanged places and the same practice was commonly seen throughout the Middle Ages during other festivals such as The Festival of Fools. In the Royal household of Queen Victoria this custom was observed throughout Christmas Day. The 25th December was used by pagans to honour the harvest god, Saturn and Mithras, the god of light. Pagans prepared special food, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. After Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the celebrations and customs became part of the Christian way. Christian Christmas Day has been celebrated on since 336AD. At the beginning of Christianity days of celebration out numbered the days in the year and it was only after the Reformation the holy calander was formulated and many of the original Holy days were lost. The most important of these retained was Christmas Day and was first thought to be celebrated by King Arthur in the city of York in AD 521. By the twelfth century Christmas had become the most important religious festival in Europe. Although merriment and religious devotion were not associated in the early church, ultimately they were incorporated due to political pressures. The obsolete feasts of antiquity were gradually adapted to the main events of the life of Christ. This was probably done to attract more followers. Most of the nativity scenes were painted in the 15 & 16th centuries and Christmas cards depicting them becoming popular only in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mithras worship took place in churches called grottos and may have given origin to Santa's Grotto.

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