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  • “'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was

  • stirring, not even a mouse…”

  • You probably know what happens next. But do you know who wrote this poem, and when?

  • Do you know where the tradition of the Christmas tree comes from? Lights on the Christmas tree?

  • Stockings? Even the idea of gift-giving?

  • No holiday has a richer and more varied tradition than Christmas. So let's look into its history

  • and see if we can uncover some of that richness and tradition. And if you don't celebrate

  • Christmaswell, at least you'll have a better appreciation of why so many people do.

  • Here's what everybody knows:

  • Christmas is when Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. That in itself is

  • a very big deal. Christianity, in all its many iterations, remains the most popular

  • religion in the world. Two billion people follow it.

  • Aside from its obvious religious significance, the first Christmas stands as the great divide

  • for the recording of human history. Until recently, history was divided between BC (Before

  • Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, which is Latin forYear of Our Lord”). Now you'll

  • often see BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era). No matter. The divide is

  • still Jesus's birth.

  • The great kings of the first millennium recognized the significance of the day and attached themselves

  • to it. Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and William the Conqueror, among many others,

  • were either baptized or coronated on December 25.

  • The idea of Christmas as a time of gift-giving also goes back to the earliest days of Christianity.

  • The story is told that a third-century church bishop, Nicholas, would anonymously throw

  • bags of gold coins into the windows of the poor. The coins supposedly landed in the shoes

  • or stockings that were drying by the fireplace. Thus, was the stocking stuffer born. After

  • Nicholas died and was declared a saint, his popularity and positive Christmas message

  • spread across Europe, each nation adding its own distinct contribution.

  • In Germany, the winter tradition of placing evergreens in their homes took on a new significance

  • in the 16th century when Protestant reformer Martin Luther put candles in the branches.

  • He told his children the lights were like the sky above Bethlehem on the night of Christ's

  • birth.

  • The idea that St. Nicholas would judge whether you've been good or bad during the year

  • stems from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, which depicts Christ returning

  • to Earth riding a white horse. In the Middle Ages, the legend sprang up that Saint Nicholas

  • had been chosen as the Savior's advance guard. He wouldn't come at the end of the

  • world, but every year to check things out and give a report.

  • When this notion arrived in Norway, it encountered a problem: there were no horses in Norway.

  • But they did have plenty of reindeer. And, of course, Norway abuts the Arctic Circle

  • and the North Pole, so St. Nick found himself with a new domicile.

  • All these various European traditions came together in the great melting pot of America.

  • In New York in 1823, a professor at the Protestant Episcopal Seminary, Clement Moore, wrote a

  • poem for his children, 'Twas the night before Christmas:

  • "…The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

  • In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…"

  • The poem caught on and became a Christmas staple every school child could recite.

  • The holiday got another push in 1843, when the great British writer, Charles Dickens,

  • published his short novel, A Christmas Carol. The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge perfectly

  • captured what we now refer to asthe Christmas spirit”: the idea that the holiday brings

  • out the best in all of us.

  • As the new century turned, Hollywood got into the act. Almost as soon as there were movies,

  • there were movies celebrating Christmas. To this day, a year doesn't go by without a

  • new one.

  • Madison Avenue saw a big opportunity, tooIn 1931, Coca-Cola hired artist Haddon Sundblom

  • to create a Christmas ad of Santa Claus (which is Dutch for St. Nicholas) drinking Coke.

  • The jolly white-bearded fellow in a bright red suit remains the personification of

  • Old St. Nick.

  • And, in perfect melting-pot fashion, Irving Berlin, the son of a rabbi, wrote the definitive

  • yuletide song, “White Christmas.”

  • Many complain today that the religious aspect of Christmas has been overwhelmed by commerce.

  • Retail sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas are now $1 trillion. This is not a new complaint.

  • The Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas because they thought it trivialized

  • the holiday's religious message.

  • But this remains the minority view. Most people love Christmas and all the thingsthe lights,

  • the tree, the songs, the movies, and, yes, the giftsthat come with it. And who can

  • deny that people tend to act a little nicer, a little happier, as the special day draws near?

  • In a world that feels so divided, Christmas still unites us. For that, we should all be grateful.

  • I'm William Federer, author of "There Really Is a Santa Claus," for Prager University.

“'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was

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圣诞节的历史

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    Amy.Lin 發佈於 2020 年 12 月 25 日
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