Over the centuries in increasing parts of the world, the social, economic and environmental impact of Christmas has been escalating among both Christians and non-Christians. It is a crucial sales time for businesses from retailers and their suppliers to airlines, trains, and rental cars, and new movies. According to a new poll, it is more of a cultural holiday than a religious one.
The Pew Research Center survey of 2,001 adults across the U.S., released December 18, 2013, reported that 51 percent of the 92 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas consider it a religious holiday and 46 percent of those aged 18 to 29 plan to attend a Christmas religious service while 66 percent of the aged 65 and older will attend. 72 percent grew up in families who pretended Santa came to their homes, 69 percent with young children continue the tradition. 79 percent have Christmas trees, 65 percent send cards, and 16 percent will go caroling this year.
Retailers profit most from the Christmas gift purchases, Christmas cards, special groceries and alcoholic beverages for parties and dinners, Christmas trees and other decorations. In the United States, about one-fourth of personal spending occurs during the Christmas/holiday season.
Christmas has quite an evolving history. The early Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the festival marking the sun’s return in the winter solstice and honoring Saturn, the god of sowing. From December 17th through the 25th Roman law said no one could be punished for damaging property or people during the festival and closed their courts. Each town chose a victim to represent the “Lord of Misrule”. They forced indulgence in food and physical pleasure on that person until they murdered him or her on December 25th in the name of destroying the forces of darkness.
In Saturnalia, the Greek poet and historian Lucian describes the festival of his days as widespread drunkenness, singing naked from door to door, eating human-shaped cookies which are still sold in English and German bakeries at Christmas, promiscuity in rape and sexual activities, and the finale of human sacrifice.
Pope Julius I in the 4th century chose December 25th as Jesus’ birthday, calling it the Feast of the Nativity, although the actual month, day or year had not been recorded. It has been guessed at based on various Bible passages and historical records. It was written in DePascha Computus as March 28th; Bishop Clement of Alexandria guessed November 18; Fitzmyer estimated September 11, 3 BCE.
In 221, Sextus Julius Africanus suggested Jesus’ conception was on the Roman calendar’s spring equinox of March 25th implying a birth nine months later about December 25th. But in Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, New York
edition: “It was custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain,” which began in October. The Bible says the flocks were in the fields by night so it follows that Jesus was been born no later than September.
Between 1659 and 1681 observing Christmas in Massachusetts was against the law with law-breakers fined five shillings. The Puritans banned it because of the Saturnalia connection. In 1687, Puritan Reverend Increase Mather wrote “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”
In the U.S. Christmas was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant as a Federal holiday on June 26, 1870. Read the Simple to Remember website on the history of Christmas that explains how Bishop Nicholas evolved into St. Nicholas, then his Dutch name Santa Claus in writer Washington Irving’s 1809 Knickerbocker History as white bearded and flying-horse riding, and Dr. Clement Moore’s poem in 1822 with his eight reindeer and descending chimneys.
Christmas has now swallowed up the Thanksgiving and even Halloween holidays in the stores. Watch the video of people being shot and trampled to death on Black Friday looking for Christmas deals. Watch the attached video about the latest sequels being made to old Christmas movies, a common theme of Christmas being ruined if not for Rudolph’s nose, or not for fill in the blank. A November 2013 study tells how to counteract the effects on the body from Christmas excess overeating.
Read about the effects of Christmas lighting, Christmas trees, and Christmas shopping on the environment. In 2005, Australian Conservation Foundation’s Executive Director, Don Henry asked shoppers to consider the hidden environmental costs of Christmas. “If your bank account is straining under the pressure of Christmas shopping, spare a thought for our environment. It’s paying for our Christmas presents with water, land, air and resources. These costs are hidden in the products we buy.”
“We can all tread more lightly on the earth this Christmas by eating, drinking and giving gifts in moderation, and by giving gifts with a low environmental cost, such as vouchers for services, tickets to entertainment, memberships to gyms, museums or sports clubs, and donations to charities.”