Merry Christmas from the Gatlinburg Daily Post!

There is a certain chill in the air this time of year that makes us all nostalgic. We slow down and notice the people and situations around us with a more cheerful heart. There is a willingness to actually achieve peace on earth and good will toward all men. Christmas as we know it is a cherished and time honored tradition across the globe, particularly in the United States.

Celebrations around Christmas and the Winter Solstice have been happening for centuries. Many peoples celebrated because the worst of winter was supposedly behind them, and longer days and sunshine would be safely ahead. The end of December was a perfect time for these celebrations because cattle had to be slaughtered so farmers would not have to waste supplies feeding them. It was the only time of the year where fresh meat was in ample supply. Also, many pagan Europeans would honor their own gods during the winter season.

All of these celebrations would culminate into one of the most famous celebrations to take place in Rome. Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast to honor the children of Rome. It was celebrated toward the end of December, close to the Winter Solstice. This celebration would be used as a catalyst by the Church for their own Christmas holiday.

When the church started many were unsure, as we still are today, about the exact date of Jesus’ birth. In the early years of the church, Easter was the only major holiday that was widely celebrated. However, through perhaps a means of conversion, the church decided to celebrate Christmas around the time of the major pagan holidays. The holiday exploded in popularity, as did Christianity’s influence in the region. By the end of the 8th century, Christmas would be celebrated throughout all of Europe.

The tradition would continue until the middle ages, when Christmas celebrations began to have a reputation for getting out of hand with drunken debauchery and mischief. This would lead to a total ban of the Christmas celebrations by Puritan leaders. Puritans even went so far as to fine people five shillings if they celebrated Christmas under the ban. Luckily, the ban on Christmas soon ended, and the holiday would come back into favor.

The popularity of our more modern Christmas traditions can be traced back to the line of Prince Albert, who was married to Queen Victoria during the early 19th century. The royal family had their portrait made in front of a Christmas tree, and the rest is history.

Christmas trees and the holiday were soon in fashion in the United States, and we haven’t looked back since. Christmas has had a long standing tradition ever since. In fact, there are 21,000 Christmas tree farmers in the United States. That family Christmas tree that you pick up every year? It takes as long as 15 years to grow before being sold. Other fun facts include that the first eggnog in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smiths settlement in 1607, and the Poinsettia plant is actually named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the plant here from Mexico in 1828.

There you have it! Christmas has one of the most colorful histories, and it’s influence in shaping our culture cannot be overstated. Be safe and jolly, and, from all of us here at the Gatlinburg Daily Post, have a very merry Christmas!

Source: Elizabeth Lane, Gatlinburg Daily Post Staff Writer