Christmas Around the World
Christmas in America is very strange when looked at from an outsider’s perspective. Every year, children go sit on the lap of a strange man and give him a list of demands. If they’re good, the man promises to break into their house and leave their ransom, take some food, then disappear on his impractical magic sled.
Adults drink odd custard-like beverages, eat cake that no one likes and have to kiss if they accidently stand too close to someone under a weed that has been hung on the ceiling. They bring a giant tree in the house to decorate, and put lights and tacky lawn ornaments up in their yards.
Everyone pretends it’s going to snow despite the fact that half of America isn’t in an appropriate climate, and all of this somehow celebrates the birth of Christ, despite the fact that Christ was probably born in the spring.
The reason for this strangeness is because the Catholics took the pagan holiday already existing at midwinter and adopted it into their religious canon of holy days. Yule was celebrated in England and other northern countries long before the Christians arrived. The clash of cultures that that ensued combined the holidays to form the odd conglomeration of traditions that is celebrated now. Yule was celebrated differently in different parts of Europe, and the Catholic Church had control of all Europe when they decided to take Yule. So the mixing of Catholic worship with local traditions has created quite a few variations on the theme of Christmas.
It is interesting to see what stays the same and what is different in each celebration of the holiday. Just based on geography, it appears that midwinter was more important to celebrate in the most northern countries, whereas southern countries like Continental Europe and South America are almost completely lacking the pagan influence on anything but the actual date of the holiday.