The Christmas season we all celebrate seems ancient, a timeless amalgam of snow sleighs, Christmas carols, beautiful cards, and bell-ringing Santas, and so much more that Christmas has come to mean. Christmas is many things to many people, and while it is rooted in Christian belief and tradition, it has a universal following. It is a time of goodwill and sharing by people of all – or no – faith. And yet, Christmas, as we know it today, has only been around since the mid-1800s.
Many of our Christmas traditions started in Europe. Puritans tended to ignore Christmas, but others celebrated with feasts and gatherings. German immigrants brought over Christmas trees. Christmas carols grew out of pagan winter festivals and during the Victorian era, were written with Christian themes. America, being the great melting pot, merged many of these things into Christmas. Celebrating Christmas became a national pastime.
Some historians say, It began with the dawn of the industrial age. People began moving from villages and farms into the cities, and began working in factories instead of fields. It was a tremendous change in how people worked and how they lived. People lost their sense of identity, and the bucolic image of life how it once was, but never will be again, haunted them. Farm life looked much different from the factory floor and our forefathers in the cities missed it.
So the creation of a Christmas season was in response to these pressures. Added to it, there was this sectional conflict that went on for decades and only ended with the civil war. It was a horrible time. The customs that arose – the pastoral peace of the manger, the gifts of the Magi, the giving, loving spirit of Christmas – all gave purpose and meaning and helped the nation to make sense of their time. During the war it gave the soldiers the comfort of home. Afterward, these customs gave the country a soothing sense of unity.
It sounds to me like something we still need today.
I’m Len Wilcox and this is the Western View, wishing you a merry Christmas from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine. Visit us on the web at citrus industry dot net.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.