A bus load of tourists arrives at Runnymede and they gather around Robin, the guide, who explains, “This is the spot where the barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta.” A fellow at the front of the group asks, “When did that happen?” “1215,” answers Robin the guide. The man looks at his watch and says, “Hey everybody – we just missed it by half an hour.”
Christians today bemoan the modern observance of Christmas and often pine for the “good old” days; however, be careful for what you wish – December 25th in merry-old England was so bad that women and children were afraid to go outside of their homes, as up until the 1800s the day recognized as Christ’s birthday was basically a winter-solstice pagan celebration with grotesque costumes, bawdy songs, rum drinking, public indecency and street riots. A modern-day Mardi Gras with British mummers leading the way. Both churches and believers wanted nothing to do with it.
For instance, in the well-known carol, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, there is a line that goes as follows:
“Oh, bring us some figgy pudding. Oh, bring us some figgy pudding. Oh, bring us some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer. We won’t go until we get some. We won’t go until we get some. We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here.”
Finally, when the Puritans came to power in the early 1600s, as an attempt to counter the debauchery, they outlawed the celebration of Christmas altogether; with anyone found making merry on December 25th being fined and hauled off to jail. The day of Christ’s birth was to be considered like any other, with perhaps some private evening reflection at home. But when Cromwell died, the people welcomed the ousted king, Charles II, back to the throne as he promised restoration of the holiday and the palace even provided the rum. Shortly thereafter, the Pilgrims left for America and one of the first laws they instituted was no Christmas celebration (a ban that continued for 150 years). As a matter of fact, when America achieved its independence in 1776, Congress met on Christmas Day for the next 75 years with no mention of Jesus Christ and His birth at all. But eventually immigrants would outnumber the pilgrims and the depraved partying returned. Many cities even had special Christmas Day police units to protect life and property from unruly holiday revelers.
Then it all began to change. Germany started to treat December 25th as more than just a time to party and when England’s Queen Victoria married Germany’s Prince Albert, the tide began to turn in England as well. However, it was The Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas that really made Christmas into what we know it as today. Ironic isn’t it – we have both Scrooge and Santa to thank for making Christ’s birthday into what is today the most wonderful time of the year.