BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.
21
Christians, from the days of the first apostles, who survived our Lord's resurrection. As to the actual year of the birth of Christ, —as well as the period of the year at which it took place,—great uncertainty seems to exist, and many controversies have been maintained. One of the theories on the subject, held to be amongst the most probable, places that event upwards of five years earlier than the vulgar era ; which latter, however,—both as regards the year and season of the year,—was a tradition of the primitive church. In the first ages of that church, and up till the Council of Nice, the celebration of the Nativity, and that of the Epiphany, were united on the 25th of December, from a belief that the birth of Christ was simultaneous with the appearance of the star in the east which revealed it to the Gentiles. The time of the year at which the Nativity fell has been placed, by contending opinions, at the period of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, at that of the Passover, and again, at that of the Feast of the Expiation, whose date corresponds with the close of our September. Clemens Alex-andrinus informs us that it was kept by many Christians in April; and by others in the Egyptian month Pachon—which answers to our May. Amongst the arguments which have been produced against the theory that places its occurrence in the depth of win­ter, one has been gathered from that passage in the sacred history of the event which states that " there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." It is an argument, however, which does not seem very conclusive in a pastoral country, and eastern climate. Besides the employment which this question has afforded to the learned, it has, in times of religious excitement, been debated with much puritanical virulence and sectarian rancor. For the purposes of commemoration, how. ever, it is unimportant whether the celebration shall fall, or not, at the precise anniversary period of the event commemorated ; and the arrangement which assigns to it its place in our calendar, fixes it at a season when men have leisure for a lengthened fes­tivity, and when their minds are otherwise wholesomely acted upon by many touching thoughts and solemn considerations.
From the first introduction of Christianity into these islands, the period of the Nativity seems to have been kept as a season of festival, and its observance recognized as a matter of state.
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