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Looking at this question I see the tradition of Christmas presents, but where did the tradition of Christmas itself come from? Also, what's with the Christmas tree and Santa (or Kris Kringle)?

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Please comment when you vote down. What is wrong with the question? –  Nathan Cooper Dec 23 '12 at 17:13
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Possibly because it's too trivial? Wiki has plenty of info. I wasn't the one DVing so not certain. –  DVK Dec 23 '12 at 22:45
    
You might be interrested by a theory linking Christmas as the 25th of December and the cult of sol invictus, Constantine's god, but even before him, Elagabalus' god. From sol invictus, you can go back to Harpocrates (Horus the younger). See especially how the date of the 25th of December was selected. More generally, you can have a look at the book "Christ in Egypt, the Horus-Jesus connection"; controversial but interresting. –  Alain Pannetier Dec 24 '12 at 1:25
    
@DVK. Fair enough. I just think the DVer should always say. –  Nathan Cooper Dec 24 '12 at 11:11
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@NathanCooper - welcome to "Anonymous Downvoters haters" club. –  DVK Dec 24 '12 at 11:45
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

While Christmas has roots far in the past, many of our traditions in the English world were introduced by the Victorians. This was the period that moulded Christmas into important celebration is it today, deciding on the themes we recognise (charity, goodwill, gift giving etc), the traditions (many drawn from Germanic ones) and even the commercialism (cards, Christmas crackers etc) This BBC link should be useful.

As for the pre-Christian background: check out the wikipedia page for Christmas. "Modern Christmas customs include: gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; and Yule logs and various foods from Germanic feasts". Actually, read all of that section.

This Britannica article goes into some other detail. It also mentions Mithras.

(There is lots of info online, but I hesitate to link to non-wikipedia or encyclopaedia articles on such a touchy issue). This is decent where it provides references but has a massive agenda.

Bonus: If you think Christmas is mostly about the food (who can blame you) you'll find this answers everything.

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Perhaps in England it is mostly about the food. In the USA we have Thanksgiving for that, and Christmas is much more about family gift-giving (don't worry though, the food is there too...) –  T.E.D. Dec 26 '12 at 16:34
    
For an interesting perspective on how much more ...er... crass a USA Christmas is and our view of other country's Christmas ho-ha, try watching these David Sedaris videos: americablog.com/2012/12/… . "Its nothing I'd want for myself, but I suppose its fine for those who prefer food and family to things of real value." –  T.E.D. Dec 27 '12 at 0:32
    
Nice. Good video, very dry. –  Nathan Cooper Dec 29 '12 at 22:18
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Christmas was originally a pagan tradition in northern Europe where they were celebrating that the sun had started to rise again. Winters were difficult to survive in those days with no lights, bad clothing, worse housing and heating and sometimes not even enough food etc. So winter and its end was a much bigger deal back then than it is today.

Then when Christianity came to northern Europe it was adapted to the already existing traditions to ease the conversion, which included Christmas, or Jul as it was called.

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