The History of Christmas – by Rebekah Mussett & Amy Benton

Staff from the Grimsby Institute celebrating Christmas Jumper Day recently

You’ve all heard the mountains of Christmas songs that there is, from “Jingle Bells” to “Silent Night”, but do you know where Christmas began?

It was said that the Roman pagans first introduced Christmas, although it was called another name, “Saturnalia”; a nine day event that saw Roman courts closed and the law dictated that no one could get punished for committing crimes in this time. It wasn’t until the 4th century that Christianity imported this holiday into their own terms hoping to convert many people to their religion. It was then that one of the leaders of this Christian group named December 25th to be Jesus’s birthday.

The pagans were also the people who introduced decorating Christmas trees, as they had always worshipped the trees of the forest, and on this holiday they would cut one down, take it into their home and decorate it as a sign of admiration.

Most people would probably argue that it isn’t Christmas without ‘Jolly Old Saint Nick’, AKA Santa Claus. Nicholas was born in Turkey in 270 CE, and he became the Bishop of Myra before dying in 345 CE. It was only in the 19th century that he was named as a saint, thus becoming Saint Nicholas. The pagans adopted the cult of Saint Nicholas and said that as he did (and they would) distribute gifts on 25th December every year. Christmas presents became a custom in pre-Christian Rome when the emperors made people bring offerings and gifts to him. It was later remodelled and then named as the “gift-giving of Saint Nicholas”.

Christmas time is upon us and more of its history known. We can celebrate this holiday with more knowledge of this jolly holiday!


Written by learners Rebekah Mussett & Amy Benton