After a delicious Christmas lunch, Simon Partridge talked enthusiastically and entertainingly about Christmas.
Simon’s passion for Christmas shone through as he recounted its origins and traditions. The Romans gave us Christmas on 25 December when the pagan festival known as Saturnalia evolved into the celebration of the birth of Jesus, following the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century.
The legend of Father Christmas can also be traced back to the fourth century when a Christian bishop called Nicholas performed acts of kindness, such as when he gave three bags of gold to three poor girls so they could get married.
Amazingly, in the 1650s, the Puritans banned Christmas, making it illegal to eat a mince pie or sing carols.
Christmas did not become the festival we know until Victorian times, largely as a result of two publications: Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, published in 1823, called ‘A visit from St Nicholas’, in which St Nicholas was described for the first time, followed twenty years later by ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, who encouraged charity in a harsh world.
Although most of our traditions can be traced back to the Victorian era, Simon stated that some do relate to the birth of Christ, for example, the nativity scene, attributed to St Francis of Assisi, who re-enacted the scene in a cave in Italy on Christmas Eve, 1223.