The history of Christmas dates back over 4000 years as the various custom and tradition associated with the festival of Christmas were celebrated centuries before the birth of Christ. The exact day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas.
The History Of Christmas can be traced to some of the popular festival celebrated by early civilization that gave way to Christmas.Mesopotamian: New Years
Many of these traditions began with the Mesopotamian celebration of New Years. The Mesopotamians believed in many gods, and as their chief god - Marduk. Each year as winter arrived it was believed that Marduk would do battle with the monsters of chaos. To assist Marduk in his struggle the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's festival that lasted for 12 days.Persians and Babylonians: Sacaea
The Persians and the Babylonians celebrated a similar festival called the Sacaea. Part of that celebration included the exchanging of places, the slaves would become the masters and the masters were to obey.Europeans: Winter Solstice
Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and trolls. As the Winter Solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun.Scandinavia: Yuletide
In Scandinavia, during the winter months the sun would disappear for many days. After thirty-five days scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to look for the return of the sun. When the first light was seen the scouts would return with the good news. A great festival would be held, called the Yuletide, and a special feast would be served around a fire burning with the Yule log. Great bonfires would also be lit to celebrate the return of the sun. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.Roman: Saturnalia
The Roman's celebrated their god Saturn. Their festival was called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. The celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae.
The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity's main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturanilia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.