Hamblin & Peterson: Charles Dickens and the invention of Christmas

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  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 16, 2013 3:15 p.m.

    "....It’s very largely thanks to Charles Dickens and his England that, despite the historical origins of Christmas — probably in the spring and certainly in a Mediterranean climate — modern Americans tend to celebrate Jesus Christ’s Nativity as an idealized early Victorian mid-winter family feast...."

    December 25 as the date for celebrating the birth of Jesus goes back to the 4th century, 1500 years before Dickens creations of popular Christmas images.

    There is no historical evidence nor even ancient traditions I'm aware of that suggest what season of the year the birth of Jesus occurred.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Dec. 15, 2013 6:53 a.m.

    Loved the article. Our holiday as celebrated today owes also something to other non Anglo cultures as well. The Dutch settled in droves in the Northeastern US from the 1600's to the 1800's and brought traditions of gifts for children from Sinterklaas (the name origin of Santa Claus) and many other traditions influencing celebrations and decorations in use today. The most influential early stories of Christmas were written by Dutch influenced New York area authors e.g. Clement Moore (Visit from St. Nicholas) and Washington Irving.

    Add the Christmas Tree from German immigrants populating the Midwest who brought also their Christmas Carols (e.g. "O Come All Ye Faithful", "O Christmas Tree", and from Austria "Still, Still Still" and the king of all carols - Silent Night, coming from a small village on the border with Germany. Add the French carols of "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "O Holy Night" and many others - most of our Christmas music and tradition of singing at Christmas come from outside the US. Also the idea of Advent and anticipation started long before "Only 30 shopping days before Christmas".

    ...So many great traditions and surprising and poignant ways of celebrating the Savior's birth.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Dec. 14, 2013 11:40 a.m.

    I expect Dickens knew about Christmas in his own day and portrayed it well. There seems to have been quite an emphasis on the reason for the season and the singing of carols by children, and by seamen and coal miners as I recall, the short story suggesting that the "religious" aspect was fairly prominent.

    The jollity seemed to focus on a national holiday, a day off with pay, a special Christmas dinner - with "good will to all men" expressed in the toasts (including a good-natured toast to Scrooge), in party games, dancing and even budding romance. There was clearly some emphasis given to charitable giving, acts of kindness and benevolence; an abundance of the spirit of Christ.

    It would seem likely that this was the case throughout the Anglosphere and beyond, for details of which we can consult living ancestors and old journals and magazines etc.

    Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one!

  • Casey See FLOWER MOUND, TX
    Dec. 14, 2013 8:20 a.m.

    First. I consider myself an active member of the LDS church. Next, while I understand why many in the church believe that Christ was born in the Spring, a couple of points show how this "could" be wrong.

    1st 3 Nephi 1:1-12 clearly states that Christ was born 600 not 599 or 601 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

    2nd, 3 Nephi 8:2 says that the sign of Christ death occurred exactly 33 years and 4 days after the sign was given of Christ's birth.

    3rd, Luke states that Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn due to the census and not the Passover

    4th. King Zedekiah became King in 597/598 BC

    5th. Hared the Great died in 4 BC, Christ was born before he died

    Unless the Bible is wrong about Hared the Great killing the babies in Bethlehem and the astronomical signs recorded in Babylon regarding King Zedekiah's coronation, or the Book of Mormon wrong about the 600 years, a BOM year cannot be the same length as our year.

    However Egyptians and Mayans had a 360 calendar that works for exactly 600 years, which when added to Christ's death pinpoints a late Autumn birth.