The way Christmas is celebrated now is quite different from the celebrations during the medieval ages or the Roman era.
Ancient Christmas Celebrations
Jesus was born approximately 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem of Judea. But it was not until 300 years later, when the Roman Emperor Constantine recognised Christianity and brought about an end to the persecution of Christians, that Christmas became a common celebration. The oldest known reference to the date of the nativity as December 25 has been revealed in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript, which was compiled in Rome. Christmas is perhaps one of the oldest religious celebrations. However, the celebrations of Christmas have undergone a radical metamorphosis since ancient times. The way it is celebrated now is, in fact, quite distinct from the celebrations during the medieval ages or the Roman era. The historical accounts of these celebrations have revealed much dissimilarity and have shed light on some of the features, which its earlier versions constituted of. Here are some of the ancient Christmas celebrations from different ages.
Ancient Christmas Celebrations & Traditions
- During the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was eclipsed by Epiphany, which riveted the attention towards the 'visit of the magi'. The forty days prior to Christmas were referred to as the "forty days of St. Martin" and commenced on the 11th of November; this is now known as Advent.
- By the High Middle Ages, the Christmas holidays and the sequent feastings became so spectacular that it craved the attention of the chroniclers. They always kept track of the celebrations organized by various moguls and kings during the Christmas season. According to historical accounts, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377, where twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten.
- The Yule boar was the most popular delicacy of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also gained popularity which used to constitute of a group of dancers who also used to sing. The group was generally comprised of a lead singer and a ring of several dancers who provided the chorus.
- In those days, this festival was celebrated with boisterous merrymaking and drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling were common aspects of the festival. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day and there used to be special Christmas ale for the celebrations.
- One of the striking Victorian traditions included the hiding of a glass pickle in the Christmas tree the night before Christmas. The next day, whoever found the pickle would either be bestowed with a special gift or will be offered to open the first gift.
- During the Roman era, the period between mid-December and early January was spent in great revelry, merrymaking and non-stop feastings. The carousal commenced with the Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival. It gradually transformed into the celebration of birth of Jesus, from the celebration of sun's rebirth.
- Saturnalia was celebrated with the spirit of goodwill and sharing. People used to exchange gifts and paid visit to their family and friends. Items such as candles and clay dolls, dates, figs, honey and money used to be some of the most popular gifts. People adorned their homes with laurel branches.
Aforementioned is a detailed account of ancient Christian celebrations. Go through the above lines and learn how the ancients used to celebrate their Christmas.