December 17, 1996
Well, folks, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that yesterday’s supposed good deed has in fact turned out to be a hoax. The good news is that it means my record is still completely free of good deeds, nice things, and other assorted decent acts.
Enjoy this special time-line which traces the development of Christmas from its earliest, most shadowy origins all the way up to the present. Well, almost…perhaps it’s just as well that it leaves off after 1970 because, let’s face it, the present is best enjoyed thirty years after it’s gone.
1200: Druids / Vikings celebrate Winter solstice around December 22 as tradition had it, evergreen trees were brought indoors as a symbol of good luck (only tree that kept it’s "leaves" in the cold, winter months); the tree was decorated with dried fruit and candles; holly decorated the house as well, for luck, since it retained it’s leaves and bore it’s fruit in the winter;
274: Romans celebrate feast of Invincible Sun on December 25
4: Christ is born a little early.
29: Christ dies
66: Druids and Celts defeated by Romans
336: Pope Julius starts to celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 to counter the pagan celebration of winter solstice
350: the Christmas stocking tradition starts rumor has it, St. Nicholas (Russian bishop) tossed money into window of widower (with 3 daughters) and it fell into a stocking hung by the fire (to dry after washing)
500: Pope Gregory officially declares Dec 25 as Christ’s birth
550: Pope Gregory asks archbishop Augustine to convert pagan customs (of winter solstice celebration) to Christmas yet another way to counter pagan celebrations and win them over to Christianity;
1224: St. Francis of Assisi introduces the CRECHE he placed it in his church so that the Christmas story would be better understood by his people (who were predominantly unable to read); it aroused a new spirit / interest in Christmas
1300: Christmas carols come to England from France
1350: Boxing Day starts (Dec 26) a tradition (still custom in England and Canada) of employers giving money to employees; money, food, clothing to churches for poor; originated in middle ages when an earthenware "alms" box was placed in a church for donations to poor; on Dec 26 the box was shattered – this gave way to the, now, tradition of the (you guessed it) Piggy Bank
1648: Cromwell comes to power and Puritans rule and rule lasts until 1659; however, because Puritans controlled ALL religious matters Christmas was all but outlawed; businesses were required to be open and churches closed; it wasn’t until the 1800’s that Christmas became popular again
1700: Plum pudding becomes popular
18–: the rhyme "The Twelve Days of Christmas" becomes popular in U.S. it got it’s origins from Medieval times and is actually a numerological wit; by the end of the rhyme the person received from his/her true love 364 gifts (one for each day of the year but one – Christmas); the actual 12 days of Christmas was started by the Saxon King (Alfred) who decreed that Christmas should last from Dec 25 to the day of Epiphany (Jan 6, the day the three wise men first saw Christ); during this time, no business was opened and many festivities occurred (gambling – otherwise illegal – was allowed as well)
1824: Clement Moore writes "A Visit from St. Nick" which starts with: "Twas the night before Christmas. . ." Moore is credited with the myth that Santa rides in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer (and also for naming them)
1843: Charles Dickens writes "A Christmas Carol"
1843: John Horsley prints the first Christmas card the first year, he only sold 1000
1850: Christmas gifts become tradition
1852: Dr. Joel Poinsette, brings the poinsettia to the U.S. the poinsettia was native to Mexico and became popular because of it’s red/green colors; Dr. Joel Poinsette was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico and a botanist; he is credited for cultivating the plant here in the U.S.
1880: the Santa Clause myth (but is it?) is firmly established Santa Claus is the American adaptation of St. Nicholas; Santa’s name is derived by the Dutch: Sinter Class; his attributes are also from the Dutch (his red suit’s modeled after their Bishop’s white-fur-trimmed cape and miter)
1892: Tchaikovsky writes the "Nutcracker" ballet
1897: Francis Church writes "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause" as the story goes, Virginia O’Hanlon could not understand why none of her friends believed in Santa Claus (she was 8 years old); her father, an avid reader of the New York Sun, was fond of saying "if it’s in the Sun, it had to be true"; so she wrote the Sun asking if there was a Santa; on September 21, 1897, Francis Churches article appeared; so it has to be true
1898: electric Christmas lights are invented replacing candles;
1906: T. Roosevelt helps make Christmas trees a U.S. crop
1919: Madison Square Garden has a public Christmas tree
1920: red Christmas wreaths become popular
1942: Bing Crosby makes "White Christmas" popular
1949: Gene Autry sings "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer"
1952: outside Christmas lights become popular
1955: aluminum Christmas trees become popular
1970: artificial Christmas trees become popular