For those of you who visit me regularly you may have noticed by now that I am not a blind follower…of anything…I live to learn, question, grow, think, etc, etc, etc…So for those of you as curious as I am, here’s some interesting history for you. It’s a bit long but worth a read. Enjoy!!! And may you all have a blessed and happy Christmas…
The following is from here…if you want even more information.
A winter festival was traditionally the most popular festival of the year in many cultures. Reasons included less agricultural work needing to be done during the winter, as well as people expecting longer days and shorter nights after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. In part, the Christmas celebration was created by the early Church in order to entice pagan Romans to convert to Christianity without losing their own winter celebrations. Certain prominent gods and goddesses of other religions in the region had their birthdays celebrated on December 25, including Ishtar, Sol Invictus and Mithras. Various traditions are considered to have been syncretised from winter festivals including the following:
In Roman times, the best-known winter festival was Saturnalia, which was popular throughout Italy. Saturnalia was a time of general relaxation, feasting, merry-making, and a cessation of formal rules. It included the making and giving of small presents (Saturnalia et Sigillaricia), including small dolls for children and candles for adults. During Saturnalia, business was postponed and even slaves feasted. There was drinking, gambling, and singing, and even public nudity. It was the “best of days,” according to the poet Catullus. Saturnalia honored the god Saturn and began on December 17. The festival gradually lengthened until the late Republican period, when it was seven days (December 17–24). In imperial times, Saturnalia was shortened to five days.
Natalis Solis Invicti
The Romans held a festival on December 25 called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” The use of the title Sol Invictus allowed several solar deities to be worshipped collectively, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian (AD 270–274); and Mithras, a soldiers’ god of Persian origin. Emperor Elagabalus (218–222) introduced the festival, and it reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian, who promoted it as an empire-wide holiday.
December 25 was also considered to be the date of the winter solstice, which the Romans called bruma. It was therefore the day the Sun proved itself to be “unconquered” despite the shortening of daylight hours. (When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 BC, December 25 was approximately the date of the solstice. In modern times, the solstice falls on December 21 or 22.) The Sol Invictus festival has a “strong claim on the responsibility” for the date of Christmas, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Several early Christian writers connected the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Jesus “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born”, Cyprian wrote.
Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period. Yule logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder, with the belief that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, which could take as many as twelve days. In pagan Germania (not to be confused with Germany), the equivalent holiday was the mid-winter night which was followed by 12 “wild nights“, filled with eating, drinking and partying. As Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, its pagan celebrations had a major influence on Christmas. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul. In English, the Germanic word Yule is synonymous with Christmas, a usage first recorded in 900.
It is unknown exactly when or why December 25 became associated with Christ’s birth. The New Testament does not give a specific date. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Christ’s birthday “as if he were a king pharaoh“. He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays.Sextus Julius Africanus popularized the idea that Christ was born on December 25 in his Chronographiai, a reference book for Christians written in AD 221. This date is nine months after the traditional date of the Incarnation (March 25), now celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25 was considered to be the date of the vernal equinox and therefore the creation of Adam; early Christians believed this was also the date Christ was crucified. The Christian idea that Christ was conceived on the same date that he died on the cross is consistent with a Jewish belief that a prophet lived an integral number of years. Thus, the date as a birthdate for Christ is traditional, and is not considered to be his actual date of birth.
Although the identification of the birth date of Christ is debated, liturgical celebrations of the Nativity were celebrated from at least A.D. 200 in the Christian East. The earliest reference is found in St. Clement of Alexandria‘s writings in reference to a celebration of the Nativity and the Epiphany.  Another reference is found in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354. In the East, early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ as part of Epiphany (January 6), although this festival focused on the baptism of Jesus.
Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the twelve days from Christmas Day to the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 that encompass the major feasts surrounding the birth of Christ. In the Latin Rite, one week after Christmas Day January 1 has traditionally been the celebration the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ, but since Vatican II, this feast has been celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Roman Emperor Constantine deliberately made Christian festivals such as Christmas to coincide with Roman pagan holidays, such as the birth of the sun god to try to spread Christianity, according to Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University. 
Constantine I the first Christian Roman emperor on october 28th 312 AD was on the eve of a battle against a rival Maxentius. The night before the battle Constantine had a dream which he was told to inscribe the letters XP (the first two letters of Christ in Greek, also known as Chi Rho) on his soldiers shields. During the conflict against Maxentius possibly at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge he saw the words “with this sign you shalt conquer” with a cross in the sun. After he won the battle against Maxentius he converted to Christianity.  . Constantine previously being a worshiper of the son God Helios converted to Christianity. There are numerous reasons why Constantine may have chosen the date of Christmas On December 25th it was the birth of the Persian god of light, Mithras which one can easily correlate to the sun. A another reason why Constantine may have chosen Christmas on the 25th was because December 17th was a pagan holiday where Saturn was worshiped, one of the chief Gods of the Roman pantheon, as so was Jesus in Christianity the son of the only God. Giving presents was also similar to many Roman and Persian holidays.[.http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/emperor-constantine-faq.htm]
In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in the west focused on the visit of the magi. But the Medieval calendar was dominated by Christmas-related holidays. The forty days before Christmas became the “forty days of St. Martin” (which began on November 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours), now known as Advent. In Italy, former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent. Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5); a time that appears in the liturgical calendars as Christmastide or Twelve Holy Days. The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800. King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066. Christmas during the Middle Ages remained a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving. Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was practiced more often between people with legal relationships (i.e. tenant and landlord) than between close friends and relatives. By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten. The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus. Various writers of the time condemned caroling as lewd, indicating that the unruly traditions of Saturnalia and Yule may have continued in this form. “Misrule” — drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling — was also an important aspect of the festival. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day, and there was special Christmas ale.
From the Reformation into the 1800s
During the Reformation, some Protestants condemned Christmas celebration as “trappings of popery” and the “rags of the Beast”. The Roman Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in an even more religiously oriented form. Following the Parliamentary victory over King Charles I during the English Civil War, England’s Puritan rulers banned Christmas, in 1647. Pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities, and for several weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans. The Restoration of 1660 ended the ban, but many of the Nonconformist clergy still disapproved of Christmas celebrations, using Puritan arguments. In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas; its celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely. Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom. By the 1820s, sectarian tension in England had eased and British writers began to worry that Christmas was dying out. They imagined Tudor Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration, and efforts were made to revive the holiday. Charles Dickens‘ book A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion over communal celebration and hedonistic excess. Interest in Christmas in America was revived in the 1820s by several short stories by Washington Irving appearing in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon and “Old Christmas”, and by Clement Clarke Moore‘s 1822 poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (popularly known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas). Irving’s stories depicted harmonious warm-hearted holiday traditions he claimed to have observed in England. Although some argue that Irving invented the traditions he describes, they were widely imitated by his American readers. The poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. In her 1850 book “The First Christmas in New England”, Harriet Beecher Stowe includes a character who complains that the true meaning of Christmas was lost in a shopping spree. Christmas was declared a United States Federal holiday in 1870, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Santa Claus and other bringers of gifts
Originating from Western culture, where the holiday is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts are attributed to a character called Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or St. Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Saint Basil and Father Frost).
The popular image of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902), who drew a new image annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa had evolved into the form we now recognize. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.
Father Christmas, who predates the Santa Claus character, was first recorded in the 15th century, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French Père Noël evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana is the bringer of gifts and arrives on the eve of the Epiphany. It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way. Now, she brings gifts to all children. In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus.
The current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children’s homes. This story is meant to be a reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and modern day globalization, most notably the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.
In Alto Adige/Südtirol (Italy), Austria, Czechia, Southern Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia and Switzerland, the Christkind (Ježíšek in Czech, Jézuska in Hungarian and Ježiško in Slovak) brings the presents. The German St. Nikolaus is not identical with the Weihnachtsman (who is the German version of Santa Claus). St. Nikolaus wears a bishop‘s dress and still brings small gifts (usually candies, nuts and fruits) on December 6 and is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht. Although many parents around the world routinely teach their children about Santa Claus and other gift bringers, some have come to reject this practice, considering it deceptive.
Christmas tree and other decorations
The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. The English language phrase “Christmas tree” is first recorded in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. From Germany the custom was introduced to England, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. Around the same time, German immigrants introduced the custom into the United States. Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments.
Since the 19th century, the poinsettia has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage.
In Australia, North and South America, and to a lesser extent Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures. Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square.
In the Western world, rolls of brightly-colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts. The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, stockings, wreaths, and angels.
Economics of Christmas
Christmas is typically the largest annual economic stimulus for many nations. Sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas and shops introduce new products as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies. In the U.S., the “Christmas shopping season” generally begins on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, though many American stores begin selling Christmas items in October and early November.
In most areas, Christmas Day is the least active day of the year for business and commerce; almost all retail, commercial and institutional businesses are closed, and almost all industries cease activity (more than any other day of the year). In England and Wales, the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 prevents all large shops from trading on Christmas Day. Scotland is currently planning similar legislation. Film studios release many high-budget movies in the holiday season, including Christmas films, fantasy movies or high-tone dramas with high production values.
An economists analysis calculates that Christmas is a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, due to the surge in gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001 Christmas resulted in a $4 billion deadweight loss in the U.S. alone. Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory. Other deadweight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter.
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Throughout the 20th century, the United States experienced what became known as the Christmas controversies over the nature of the day, and its dual status as a religious holy day and a cultural holiday of the same name. The importance of the economic impact of the secular Christmas holiday was reinforced in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed moving the Thanksgiving holiday date to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy during the Great Depression. Religious leaders protested this move, with a New York Times roundup of Christmas sermons showing the most common theme as the dangers of an increasingly commercial Christmas.
Some considered the U.S. government’s recognition of Christmas as a federal holiday to be a violation of the separation of church and state. This was brought to trial several times, recently including in Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) and Ganulin v. United States (1999).
On December 6, 1999, the verdict for Ganulin v. United States (1999) declared that “the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a valid secular purpose.” This decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 19, 2000. At the same time, many devout Christians objected to what they saw as the vulgarization and co-optation of one of their sacred observances by secular commercial society and calls to return to “the true meaning of Christmas” are common.
Debates about Christmas in America continued into the 21st century. In 2005, some Christians, along with American political commentators such as Bill O’Reilly, protested what they perceived to be the secularization of Christmas. They felt that the holiday was threatened by a general secular trend, or by persons and organizations with an anti-Christian agenda. The perceived trend was also blamed on political correctness.