Wild costumes and gambling at church?
By Teresa LeNeave
I love the big crowds in the stores, the traffic, all the beautiful lights, buying presents, giving and receiving gifts; Christmas plays and Christmas parties.
...But, was Christmas always this way?
History tells us there was a time when "those who attended church did so in wild costumes, and gambling was common during the service". (Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins).
Did you know that there was a period of history when Christmas was outlawed because the people were too wild in their celebrating? According to history, in 1643, people in England partied and celebrated at Christmas so much that the holiday became too rowdy to allow.
We often complain about the commercialization of Christmas and that it has "lost its meaning", but before we moan too much of its demise we might be encouraged to know Christmas has only been a "Christian holiday" for a little over 200 years. According to Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, in most of the world, especially in England and America, Christmas was not a time of worship, prayer, and reflection; rather, it was a day set aside to sing bawdy songs, drink rum, break into homes and riot in the streets. Collins described Christmas as a "combination holiday of Mardi Gras and Halloween".
Collins said, "Those who attended church did so in wild costumes, and gambling was common during the services."
Apparently, somewhere along the way Christians decided to recaptured the holiday and it became a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Our present day celebration in America is a combination of several customs and traditions that come from different European countries. (The World Book Encyclopedia gives an in-depth description of these.) Christians knew God was not against celebration, but He wanted celebration toward Him. As far back as history is recorded, festivals and celebrations were held. In the Old Testament, even God initiated days of feasting.
For example, Biblical celebrations such as the one in Esther 9:22 are approved by God. "As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
While Christmas was celebrated by being anything but holy, the Germans eventually evolved Christmas into their second most holy day of the year followed only by Easter. While the first "good" Christmas was not about Christ birth, it had some very wonderful and lasting points.
The first Christmas, as we know it today, was about family and not presents. Through the years the season has evolved into what we know as a day of giving and receiving gifts; a day to remind the world of Jesus' birth; and a day to spend with family and friends that often are only seen once a year. It has truly become a 'Christian Holiday' and thank God, the rest of the world gets to enjoy it, too.
To most people, Christmas is mostly about presents, but it's not all bad. It's still the most wonderful time of the year!