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Christmas has been through a lot of changes and revamps, and the modern Christmas is very much different from what was celebrated in Georgian Era (1714 to 1820) or before.

Prior to 1714 A.D., it used to be a 12-day long feast celebrated with huge enthusiasm. People started preparing for the celebration in months: they preserved food, made decorations, and bought fabrics to sue the fancy dresses to wear on holidays. Back then, people did not have fridges or a bounty of food available all year round, neither did they have shops with ready-made clothes.

History of Christmas dates back to as long as the calendar exists. However, our way of celebrating it today has formed quite recently. In olden times, people did not celebrate the festival like we do today. The foods that were eaten during Christmas season mostly included cheese, nuts and grains, soups, the meat of duck or turkey and dishes containing sugar, which could stand the test of time and could remain well in cold weather.


Where did Christmas come from?

The origin of Christmas starts from a pagan festival, originated in Roman cities popular by the name ‘Saturnalia’ and it was a week-long celebration starting from December 17 and lasting till December 25. The festival that was celebrated at that time was not as beautiful and fancy as it is today. It was a festival containing murder, rape, brutality, and darkness, including human sacrifice. People would bake human-shaped biscuits, which are still consumed today in some parts of Europe and England.

In 4th century C.E., Christian missionaries took over Pagans, telling them that they would be allowed to celebrate Saturnalia under the new name of Christmas. They named the ending day of Saturnalia, i.e. 25th of December as the birth of Lord Jesus Christ, and soon with conversions and change, the bad habits of Saturnalia faded, and Christmas came into being.

Image Courtesy: Flickr


The Tradition of Decorating Christmas Tree

It is believed that wife of George-III brought home the first ever tree for the festival and it was a replicated version of the present-day Christmas tree. The tradition of exchanging gifts also became popular only during the eighteenth century, when people would socialize and celebrate feasts among each other. Homes of people were decorated with mistletoe, ivy and holly and stockings full of treats and presents were hung on the fireplace. But the history of the tree again dates back, to the time Pagans were in high numbers. They were tree worshipers and would also bring home a lot of trees from forests to pray around.

There are many versions of the true story of Christmas, but the reality remains controversial till date because there has been no guarantee or written evidence about which events exactly took place at what date and time. The reality remains blurred and unknown to many, and what we know today is a popularly accepted and adapted version of the story of Christmas. Christian Christmas alone has been through, some transformations and changes, and what we today know, as the modern-day celebration, is invented and adopted by people of twentieth century at large, and subsequently, it shifted to the twenty-first century with even more changes and enhancements.


Christmas in the 17th Century

In 17th Century, it majorly became a festival to donate money and eatables to the poor and needy. People who were destitute and needed money for their survival, especially in harsh winters of UK, particularly London. Christmas box, also called ‘money box’ was originated and it was gifted to servants and tradesmen, to make their festival more beautiful. The noblemen of that time believed in donations and charity, which is why the tradition of giving away used clothes, food, and money started in old London.

17th century the holiday was also majorly divided between people of various social strata, as during that time, the difference in the rich and poor was vast, and the society was greatly divided by racial and communal differences. People were treated in a sub-human manner, and respect was not given to the person, until and unless he belonged to a certain community or financial class. Because of this huge gap, there existed a great disparity in the way it was celebrated among noblemen and among working-class people.


The Changes in 18th and 19th century Christmas

Winter holidays has been through major modifications from 18th to 19th century. Namely, appeared a new tradition of the celebration of the twelfth night. Game was played among group and communities, in which the person who found the dried bean in the slice of cake, would be considered as the ‘Lord of Misrule’, and would be made in-charge of the festivities. The concept of ‘Lord of Misrule’ comes from the traditional and historical Pagan celebrations, where they would allegedly sacrifice the person who would be the ‘Lord of Misrule’, but here, instead of a human sacrifice, the human would be loaded up with responsibilities of handling and conducting festive celebrations.  

The twelfth night cake, later on was known as ‘Christmas Cake’, and the trick is said to be performed by the Victorians, who were notoriously famous for doing and modifying things their way. In the early 1800s, the birth of big department stores, patisseries, cake shops and dessert corners around the world gave rise to a new phenomenon, and later, the Christmas cakes were transformed into various kinds of cakes, ranging from cream cakes to plum cakes to resin and dry nut cakes. Now, during holiday season, all across the globe, there are wide ranges of cakes available for people to choose from.

Largely, the famous author of English history, Charles Dickens, is held responsible for modifying the pre-historic and medieval time Christmas, into the modern-day festival that we know and celebrate. His books described a lot of things which were not popularly conducted or celebrated at that time, but after reading his work, people started adapting that kind of celebration and started including the mentioned foods and drinks in their celebrations. He revolutionized and changed the festival into what we know today.


The Changes occurred in Christmas, and meaning of the modern-day Festival

The kinds of food we cook on Christmas today did not even exist back in history, only because they were largely not available and secondly, they were not easy to preserve and store. The citrus fruits like oranges, limes, and lemons that we immensely use on Christmas now were scarce in historic times, as they were relished and rarely available fruits. The pineapples used to decorate doors and entrances of homes on Christmas, used to be preserved for special occasions, and not for decorative purposes.

Christmas traditions back in time, were not what they are now. People nowadays overspend, and over-eat. They shop like crazy in the holiday season, and taking advantage of this shopping spree of people, big brands, malls and shops offer lucrative discounts so that people can spend even more.

Christmas was essentially meant to be celebrated at home, with your friends and family, by exchanging gifts and blessing the people around you for a long and healthy life, but now, majorly because of societal pressure and social stigma, Christmas has become a burden for many out there. People who do not have much also, have to spend on gifts for family and friends, only because of the rituals that now are being imposed on everyone, in the name of tradition and festival.

The meaning and true essence of the festival is to exchange happiness, spend a good time together and make a lot of memories, but by giving someone pressure and burden, people tend to destroy someone’s Christmas, as well as the person’s financial budget too.


Image Courtesy: Flickr


Author Bio: Joshua Robinson


Joshua Robinson is a celebrated writer at, and he has contributed immensely to this platform with his insightful and valuable inputs. Joshua is an expert in history, and his write-ups always invoke thought process in the minds of readers, something that not every writer is capable of producing. His work is popular and liked by many and he been writing at this platform for over six years now.