How do you determine the origins of something, especially a religious holiday that is celebrated worldwide, and that has been celebrated for centuries? How can you tame all of that data and information, and determine what is “true” and “not true” in terms of the holiday’s origins in the mists of time?
In the documentary below, Christmas Unwrapped, The History Channel attempts to explain the origin of Christmas customs. (Not Christmas itself — Christmas customs.) Some customs began in pre-Christian pagan Europe, while others are more contemporary. I have posted the full documentary in five sections below.
People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting tour through the history of this beloved holiday and trace the origins of its enduring traditions. Journey back to the earliest celebrations when the infant religion embraced pagan solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and turned them into a commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world in 1841, and discover how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into jolly old St. Nick.
This documentary explores the origin of Christmas and how it came to be the way we know it today. The documentary also incites the thought as to how Christmas is on one hand a result of social, cultural, and political influences (hence somewhat obscuring the apparent purpose of the festival: Christ’s Mass), and on the other hand a influence over people’s lives (particularly consumerism).
I hope you enjoy watching this entertaining documentary.
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 of 5
Part 3 of 5
Part 4 of 5
Part 5 of 5
I was fascinated to learn that some of our holiday “traditions” are less than 200 years old. And that Christmas in England was more Bacchanal than religious until the Puritans and the Victorians got ahold of the holiday! My take away is that the one common theme over the past several hundred years of celebration is that it is a holiday about decadence of some kind or another that revolves around the birth of a child. In the past it was about everyday people celebrating, in the present it is the churches and corporations reveling as much as the people. I thought one commentator’s point that the secular celebration is the “cultural material that holds the religion in place” was well spoken.
What do you think of this documentary? Do you agree or disagree with the information presented?