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A Fascinating History of Christmas

By Jon Sievert

Did you know that Christmas was once against the law in America? Or that the date we celebrate Christmas was chosen by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354 CE? At this week’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Service, I’ll tell he fascinating story of how the Christmas holiday and traditions were established.

UU Service, December 25
“A Fascinating History of Christmas”
By Jon Sievert
Sun, Dec 25, 10:30am
La Posada de la Aldea

Everyone has his or her own personal experiences with Christmas, but much of the Christian world observes the holidays with many of the same traditions—the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas trees, gifts, Christmas carols, Santa Claus, Christmas cards, special cookies and baked goods, parties, and decorations. I will relate the origins of those traditions and how they came to be ritualized throughout the world.

Though most Christians likely believe that Christmas began as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the roots stretch back thousands of years before that event. In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mentioned it. Most ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb once more in the sky.

For such an historically small-in-numbers faith, Unitarian Universalists have had an impact on the practice of Christmas. Universalists were among the first to embrace Christmas as a religious holiday, holding a Christmas service in Boston in 1789. The Unitarians were calling for public Christmas observances by 1800, hoping to temper the general rowdiness of the season.

Unitarian Charles Follen introduced the first Christmas tree in the United States. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women sacrificed their own Christmas presents for impoverished neighbor children. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol celebrates the virtues of hearth, generosity, and merrymaking. “Jingle Bells,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” were all composed by Unitarians.

Special music for the day will be provided by Yoremem Jocobi, who will lead the congregation in Mexican Christmas songs.

The UU Fellowship meets every Sunday at 10:30am at La Posada de la Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15 and welcomes people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Visitors are invited to attend the service and then join the UUs for hospitality and discussion afterwards. Wheelchair accessible. For additional information, visit www.uufsma.org.

Jon Sievert is a long-time San Miguel resident and a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Miguel de Allende.

 

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