December 8, 2013
Just a few musings about a wonderful season and its traditions
Some things go so very much without saying that we can’t even think they haven’t always been that way.
Of course we have always celebrated Christmas, haven’t we?
You all know the answer –in fact we have not.
And I don’t have to go back so far as the time before Jesus – whose birth we remember at Christmas – was actually born, which would, as most theologians agree about, have happened between 4 and 6 BC (Not long ago, pope emeritus Benedict XIV. caused an outcry because he stated exactly that. Read about it here.)
But for a long time nobody cared about it anyway. There was no interest whatsoever in Jesus’ Birth. The important events were his crucifixion and his resurection. These were the days that were celebrated. The first time we know of that Christmas was celebrated was in the 4th century in Rome. Howstuffworks.com provides a wonderful overview regarding that topic.
No, Christmas has definitely not been there forever.
But since then, we certainly always have had a christmas tree, right?
In fact, it should take more than thousand years untill Christmas was celebrated with a tree. It is said that first decorated trees were set up in Latvia in 1510, and it is widely known that Martin Luther, the great reformer, decorated a tree with candles for his children. But it should take quite a bit of time till decorated trees at Christmas were common. Germans brought the first trees to the US, to Pennsylvania in the early 19th century, and as for Britain, christmas trees came into fashion through Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert. You can read it for yourself in an interesting longreads.
Oh, of course. But all the time, since Christmas was invented, we’ve been going around, singing carols, yes?
Now, this is interesting. Going around and singing for neighbours seems to be a really old habit – only not for christmas. It was called “wassailing” and dates back to the middle ages, where people visited each other and wished each other a good fortune. The habit to do this at christmas time however only reaches back to Victorian times. Read about this interesting subject in a wonderfully informative TIME article and enjoy a little collection of traditional German christmas songs played on the organ by my talented friend Matthias Rascher:
But then surely we’ve written to each other all the time, haven’t we?
We have sent tidings of comfort and joy to our fellow christians and our families over all those centuries, for certain!
Yeah well – not exactly. Sending christmas cards is a British invention. In 1843, John Callcott Horsley, a painter and illustrator, designed the first card for his friend Sir Henly Cole, who, being involved in many events like the Great World Fair and the founding of the Victoria and Albert museum, just didn’t feel like writing dozens of personal letters to friends and family. This is the birthday of the commercial christmas card. But very soon it became a hit – people started to ask for and send away hundreds and thousands of neatly designed cards to their loved ones. The guys over at Mental Floss tell you all about it.
Christmas hasn’t been here forever. And still it is the one and only time in the year almost nobody can resist. We think about each other, we sing songs, we cherish our families and friends and share many much loved traditions, even if they don’t date back to ancient times. I love this time. I hope you do to. Come on. Let’s do Christmas!
A wonderful, inspiring Christmas time and Merry Christmas to all of you.
Enjoy a little gift I’ve prepared for your pleasure and watch a slideshow featuring beautiful historical Christmas cards:
And, at last, listen to the universal Christmas wish, courtesy of Matthias Rascher:
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Many thanks to my dear friend Matthias Rascher for allowing me to use his uploads on YouTube. Please visit his YouTube Channel for more wonderful organ music and have a look at his fantastically curated Twitter Stream.