Christian Cyclopedia

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Earliest certain mention of celebration on December 25 is in the Philocalian Calendar of 354, which gives the Roman practice in 336. Commemoration of the Nativity on January 6 originated in the E and was combined (e.g., in Jerusalem) with commemoration of Jesus' baptism. By the 5th c. most E chs. accepted the Roman date, though Jerusalem celebrated the Nativity January 6 till 549 or later.

Most customs connected with Christmas are borrowed from pagan sources. The Roman Saturnalia, marking return of the sun with the practice of giving and receiving presents, as well as Yuletide customs of people of N Eur., left their mark on the outward observance of Christmas. Possibly the use of evergreens, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and rosemary was suggested by non-Christian customs, though they soon received Christian significance. Burning the Yule log was an important part of Christmas festivities in Eng. The domestic Christmas tree first appeared in Ger. in the 16th c. From Ger. the custom carne to Eng. and Am. Festivities connected with Santa* Claus derived from Christian and pagan sources. The use of lights and bells accords well with the spirit of the festival. See also Church Year, 1, 16 B; Schwan, Heinrich Christian.

H. K. Usener, Das Weihnachtsfest (Bonn, 1911); F. X. Weiser, The Christmas Book (New York, 1952); L. Fendt, “Der heutige Stand der Forschung über das Geburtsfest Jesu a.m. 25. XII. und über Epiphanias,” Theologische Literaturzeitung, LXXVIII (January 1953), columns 1–10; Celebrating Christmas Around the World, ed. H. H. Wernecke (Philadelphia, 1962); Christmas: An American Annual of Christmas Literature and Art, ed. R. E. Haugan (Minneapolis, 1931– ); W. G. Polack, “The First Christmas Tree in an American Church Service,” CHIQ, XVII, No. 1 (April 1944), 4–6.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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