The Christmas season is far more than the commercial event it appears to be today. It is a gathering together both of people and tradition, with its roots deep within many a time and many a place.
The celebration of Christmas as a christian event came very early in the times of Christianity. The time of Christmas was recognized as early as the reign of Emperor Concordius in the 2nd century. This time, and the day, was commemorated by the first apostles who survived the resurrection of the Lord.
The time was connected between the birth of Christ in the celebration of the Nativity. This time came simultaneously, it was thought, with the appearance of the star in the East, when the shepherds watched over their flocks by night. The day of this Christmas nativity has been questioned, and may have been connected in some way as a comparison to the Jewish traditions. In the times of Clemens Alexandrianus the Christian celebration was at that time held in April.
Whatever the date it was clear in olden times that these darkened winter times were a time when the people had the leisure for a longer celebration, and a need for festivities. Many a tradition was added over time by the Anglo-Saxon kings, and each year the festivities increased in ceremonies. The ceremonies and celebrations passed on from royal observation, imitated by the wealthier nobles, then in a less stately way by the simple barons. The festivities took to the street, uniting districts under their barons, and while it was grand to celebrate in the streets under the banner of the baron they also celebrated at home.
Mistletoe was found over every man’s door. The wassail bowl, filled with hot spiced punch, gave fragrance and warmth to many a home as well. The flame of the Yule-log burned bright. “Old father Christmas” may ride his goat through the streets, taking time to dismount and sit for a moment at each man’s hearth while his son’s would visit the more remote farm houses. These gentlemen were accustom and trained in the more courtly ways, but found themselves as much at home, sometimes more so, in the company of the pauper.
What a joyous time they created. The land rang out in song, and good food abounded. Tables were filled with sirloins of beef, minced pies, and plum porridge. Capons, turkeys, and geese were commonly enjoyed at this time as well. As stated in an old-world ballad:
“All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined,
Come here is good news for to pleasure your mind,
Old Christmas is come for to keep open house,
He scorns to be guilty of starving a mouse:
Then come, boys, and welcome for diet the chief,
Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minced pies and roast beef.”
Christmas time, a time of celebration for all the classes. A time of joy and substantial anticipation.
“Then well may we welcome old Christmas to town,
Who brings us good cheer, and good liquor so brown;
To pass the cold winter away with delight,
We feast it all day, and we frolic all night.”
The celebration of the season carries on as the centuries go by. It is not just in our modern times that the seasonal celebration is long-lived and full of good food, cheer, and celebration. The Christmas season lives on in the hearts of man, as a time of unity and peace amongst all men.