We’ve all heard the Biblical origin of Christmas, but societies have been celebrating life and birth in the darkest day in winter centuries before Jesus walked the earth.
In the north country, this winter celebration was known as Yule. Around December 21st, the winter solstice, fathers and sons dragged evergreens indoors as reminders of life and set logs on fire as promise of a good fortune.
Ancient Rome had its own December festivals. One week before the winter solstice, Romans begins celebrating Saturnalia, an orgy of food and drink in honor of Saturn, the God of agriculture.
Some Romans particularly soldiers and government officials also worshiped Mithra, the sun god. It is believed that to this small but powerful sect, the birthday of Mithra,December 25th was the holiest day of the year.
By the first century AD, pagan traditions were being challenged as Christianity took whole through the empire. But Christ’s birthday remained the mystery since the Bible doesn’t mention exactly when he was born.
Since pagan Rome already celebrated the birth of Mithraon December 25th, it is theorized that the church adopt the date as the birth of the Christ child. In the fourth century, the church made it official declaring the December 25th as the feast day of the utility.
The church knew it cannot outlaw the pagan traditions of Christmas, so it came to accept them. The evergreens traditionally brought indoors were decorated with apples symbolizing the Garden of Eden. These apples would eventually become Christmas ornaments.
The story of Santa Claus also begins in the 4thcentury with the death of Nicholas, a beloved Turkish bishop. The anniversary of his death became known as Saint Nicholas Day. On December 6th, good children woke to gifts from the kindly saint, bad children sobbed away with nothing. In Holland he was known as Santa Claus.
Santa Claus(圣诞老人)的故事同样可以追溯至公元4世纪，它与一个备受敬爱的名为尼古拉斯的土耳其主教的死有关。每年这位主教去世的日子被称为“圣人尼古拉斯节”。在12月6日，乖孩子醒来会看到这位好心的圣人给他们的礼物，而坏孩子则会两手空空，哭泣地走开。在荷兰，这位圣人被叫做Santa Claus。
1500 years later in America, a seminary professor named Clement Clarke Moore reimagined the legend of Saint Nicholas.
In 1822, Moore wrote a poem called Night Before Chiristmas about a good-natured saint named Santa Claus who was pulled by group of reindeer and came down the chimney on Christmas eve. Like Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus bred good cheer and gave gifts to children. Less clear was exactly what did Santa Claus look like.
1822年，摩尔写了一首名为《圣诞前夜》的诗，这首诗讲述了一个心地善良的名叫Santa Claus的圣人的故事，它坐着由驯鹿拉的车，在圣诞节前的夜里爬下烟囱。和尼古拉斯圣人一样，Santa Claus带来欢笑和礼物给孩子。只是这首诗并没有讲清楚他的样貌。
Then in 1863, Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly, settled the matter once and for all with his version of the Christmas saint. Nast’s Santa was rotund and jolly with full white bear and a sackfull of toys. An American icon was born.
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