once a moveable feast celebrated many different times during the year.
The choice of December 25 was made
by the Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the
Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.
In 1752, 11
days were dropped from the year when the switch was from the Julian calendar
to the Gregorian calendar. The
December 25 date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still
celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously Dec. 25 of the Julian calendar.)
Many of the
traditions associated with Christmas (giving gifts, lighting a Yule log,
singing carols, decorating an evergreen) hark
back to older religions.
Some traditions described here are reminiscent of modern day customs, and others, like the Festival of the Radishes in Mexico, are bizarre and fascinating.