Hohoho! Merry Christmas, everyone! Some may take the celebration of Christmas more seriously than others, and some would just go along with the flow. Regardless, the season is here and everyone is taking this opportunity to have a breather from the helter skelter of life.
While we all enjoy the festivities of the holiday (unless you’re a Grinch), let’s take time to read about some facts about Christmas you may not know about.
It might interest you to know that Christmas, as Catholics observe it, started out as a pagan holiday. That’s right, most of the celebrations within the pagan event called Saturnalia have been adapted to the way we celebrate Christmas. Saturnalia is an ancient Roman Festival in honor of the agricultural deity, Saturn. The merry making, the gift-giving, and even the date when we celebrate Christmas (December) bear similarities to the Saturnalia festivities.
It was once illegal to Celebrate
Given the pagan origins of Christmas, it was once illegal to celebrate it. From 1659 to 1681, people were fined for celebrating Christmas. It also wasn’t recognized as a holiday until the 18th century that nations observed it as a holiday season. Until then, people worked well unto the end of the year. Be grateful we live in modern times.
Speaking of inauspicious beginnings, Santa Claus as we now know him, came from the mind of Washington Irving—the same guy who gave us the Headless Horseman on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (where both Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow also appeared), Irving wrote about St. Nicholas riding in the sky in a weightless wagon.
Santa Claus himself first appeared in a green, white and blue outfit. His current red outfit became the standard after Coca-Cola came out with an ad showing St. Nick decked out in their company colors. Speaking of advertising gimmicks…
Rudolph and the Reindeers
Rudolph was conceived as a gimmick by a department store. Montgomery Ward came up with Rudolph to sell coloring books. He originally didn’t have a red nose. Montgomery Ward thought it would be funny to make him look like the reindeer was drunk. The rest of the reindeers were named after the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, name-checked them.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
This Christmas standard was written by songwriter James Gillespie at a time when he was broke, jobless and his brother having recently died. He was asked to write a Christmas song, and was somehow able to overcome his grief and remember the good times he had with his brother. That was the inspiration behind this song. Hug your loved ones.
Unless this part of Philippine history has also been revised, it’s no secret that the country was once colonized by the Spaniards. Much of the traditions we observe today hark back to the 17th century when we were still under the Spanish rule. This includes the Misa de Gallo and the observance of Noche Buena.
Celebrating Christmas with puto bumbong might have originated to coincide with the November harvest season of rice. All manner of rice desserts were made after the harvest, and most of these end up as wam and fuzzy snacks for us Filipinos during Christmas season.
Christmas trees became popular when Queen Victoria and Germany’s Prince Albert married in the 1840s. Eight years later, American newspapers ran a sketch of the royal couple in front of a Christmas tree. The fever caught on. Even back then, people were going gaga over Royalties.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone!