The history of Christmas: Where did the holiday traditions come from? – Manitoba

Christmas is a time of year many take time to be with friends and family, but the celebration means different things to different people. Everyone has their own unique traditions for the season.

When it comes to the history of Christmas, there’s no better source of information than Gerry Bowler, a history professor at the University of Manitoba who has literally written the book on Christmas.

In fact, he’s written three books on Christmas.

Bowler’s most recent is Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday. Although he admits New Year is a close second, Bowler stands by his assertion Christmas is the world’s most celebrated holiday.

“New Year’s is celebrated on different days according to different calendars, and it’s really a very brief celebration,” he told CBC Radio One’s Cross Country Checkup Sunday. “Whereas Christmas occupies us for at least a month out of the year — it’s celebrated much more intently.”

And the celebration of Christmas continues to grow around the world even in non-Christian majority countries, notes Bowler, who says the holiday’s malleability has contributed to its expanding popularity.

“Christmas absorbs all sorts of meanings as time goes on (and) these meanings shift,” he said. “In Asia right now, non-Christian cultures look at Christmas as something Western, and therefore associated with modernity and industrialization and new prosperity.”

The popularity of the holiday in Asia is causing some conflicts in China, says Bowler, where much of the things you’ll find under the tree this year are made.

“You’ll see people flocking into churches, largely for the novelty of it, but also at the same time the Chinese government trying to denounce Christmas as being a white, Western interloper against Chinese traditions,” he said. “So Communist Party officials and university students and so on are prohibited from taking part in Christmas.”

From St. Nicholas to…

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