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Column | Positively Speaking

Toby Moore | Let it all go and start fresh

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Toby Moore

Toby Moore

I hope you finished your Christmas shopping on time! If you're like me, you'll be running around last minute wrapping gifts on the 23rd in a panic, realizing you have to find an open store early on Christmas Eve to buy some last-minute items.

The Christmas season has such a fascinating history. It's an ancient holiday season primarily celebrated in the northern hemisphere worldwide. 

Intriguingly, Christmas falls at the end of the winter solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, June 21 is the longest day in the year, and from June 21 to Dec. 21, the days become shorter and shorter, with Dec. 21 being the day with the least amount of sunlight.

Many ancient cultures celebrated with a story that the sun dies on Dec. 21, is dead for three days and is born again on Dec. 25. Each day after the 25th has a little more sunlight than the day before as the days become longer until we come full circle.

As Dec. 21 through the 24 are the longest nights of the year, many ancient cultures thought this was when evil defeated good.

The Slavic people told how an evil god killed their good god. They observed the season by lighting fires in the cemeteries and feasting to help keep their ancestors warm and well-fed. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, which was characterized by wild parties. The Norse honored the season for 12 days, which may have given rise to the 12 days of Christmas. In China, they marked the season with Dongzhi, which means "The Arrival of Winter," on the 22nd, and they eat dumplings and honor their ancestors. In India, they have Pongal, a three-day observance of the solstice. The indigenous people of North America celebrated in various ways with dancing and singing. The Germans stayed inside during this time; they believed their god Oden would fly above the towns and decide who lives and dies. Then there is Krampus, the Eastern European demon god that would visit naughty children, beat them with sticks and take them to hell!

The first recorded Christmas was in the year 336 CE which was probably around 300 years after the death of Jesus. The Romans made it an official holiday after Christianity swept through the Roman empire. It is thought the early church leaders set the date of Christmas during the solstice to increase the chances it would be popularly embraced.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, Christmas was celebrated by Christians going to church and then partying in a festival-like atmosphere similar to Mardi Gras.

Interestingly, even though Christmas has been celebrated for 1700 years, it wasn't celebrated in America for as many years as you’d think. Some thought it was too pagan. From 1659 to 1681, it was outlawed in Boston. Many in the early colonies did not celebrate.

In the early 1800s in New York City, some Christmas days were marked by Protestant gangs attacking Catholics during Christmas mass. The NYPD was initially formed as a response to the Christmas Riots.

Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until 1870, and Americans transformed the holiday into being a day of peace meant to honor Jesus Christ.

Santa Claus, who the Europeans called St. Nicholas, was the most popular saint in Europe and was based on an 1800-year-old legend of a monk in Turkey who was known for giving away his wealth to help the poor; through the years, the legend has morphed into our commercialized American version.

Some Historians credit the author Washington Irving for bringing about the modern idea of Christmas who, in 1819, wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent.

Irving wrote about Christmas being a peaceful, loving holiday that united people effortlessly regardless of wealth or social status.

I like his idea the best. May your Christmas Season be filled with joy and happiness, regardless of ethnicity, or social status. Get along and forget all the wrongs that happened to you in 2021, let it all go, give people a chance to start fresh as we move into the New Year!

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy - Nominated A Separate Peace, and CEO of CubeStream Inc. He may be reached at positivelyspeaking1@yahoo.com.

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