Friday, 24 December 2010

December - Christmas celebrations

Radical Protestant groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention with all the trappings of 'Popery'. The Catholic church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. Puritans thought that Christmas was also too strongly linked to the Pagan Roman festival and were opposed to all celebration of it, particularly the lively, boozy celebrations inherited from Saturnalia.

Under Cromwel's leadership, the celebration of Christmas was banned. The Restoration of Charles II, in 1660, saw the end of the ban but many clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration. In the Puritan state of New England, there remained a radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681 when the ban was revoked. However it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region

Christmas fell out of favour across the United States after the Revolution - it was considered an English custom. By the 1820s, there were fears that Christmas was 'dying out' and efforts were made to revive the festival. lt returned with a bang in the Victorian Era. The Victorian Christmas was based on nostalgia for Christmases past. Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) inspired ideals of what Christmas should be, capturing the imagination of the British and American middle classes. This group had money to spend and made Christmas a special time for the family. Despite this, the late Victorians were just as worried that the true spirit of Christmas had been lost amid rampant consumerism as we are today.

Today, only around 60% of people in the UK are Christian but Christmas remains the biggest holiday in the calendar. It is mainly a secular holiday, with the main element the exchange of gifts on Christmas day. In previous centuries the Church worried about Pagan influence on the Christian festival, but today ethical considerations are focused on the over-commercialism of the 'holy day', with the average person in the UK spending hundreds of pounds on Christmas-related purchases.

Protests against consumerism have been made by Christians and non-Christians alike, encouraging people to spend time with their families instead of spending money on them.