Edward O’Donnell, History Professor at Holy Cross College (and a favorite with One Day University fans) presented a fascinating talk last year titled “Christmas in America.” Our first four video clips are from that talk.
How Did Christmas Become Such a Big Holiday?
Nearly 2,400 years ago, Saturnalia was the most popular holiday on the ancient Roman calendar. It was derived from rituals of midwinter and the winter solstice–especially the practice of offering gifts or sacrifices to the gods during the sowing season. Christmas was a brand-new holiday introduced by a brand-new religion: Christianity. One reason it grew so quickly was to compete with end-of-year celebrations.
He Wasn’t Into Fun
In the 1700’s, English settlers came to America, bringing the concept of Christmas celebrations. But their religious leader, Cotton Mather, was really not a fan of excessive celebrations, and tried hard to shut it down.
How Did That Tradition Start?
Where did the tradition of a Christmas wreath come from? While no one is entirely sure, most historians agree it stems from a pre-Christian tradition — perhaps from the Celtics or the Druids.
After hundreds and hundreds of Christmas specials on every TV network, the first one with an LGBTQ theme debuted just last year. And new traditions, like “The Elf on the Shelf,” keep evolving.
Christmas Movies: And the Winner Is…
Out of all the Christmas movies ever made — and there have been plenty of them — Yale film Professor, Marc Lapadula, always especially loved this one: It’s a Wonderful Life.
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