The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

The Evolution of Christmas

Each year millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas in a myriad of ways. There’s no denying this holiday and its significance to so many people, and for us, this is one of many times a year where we make more of an effort to appreciate others and remember to be more open-hearted.

To celebrate the holidays this year, we’ve hand-picked special collection of stories and articles on Christmas from the Wiley Blackwell collection and elsewhere. Test your knowledge by taking our quiz, read about the history of the holiday, and explore how the phenomenon of Christmas has spread around the world in the most interesting ways.

Please enjoy, and whatever you may believe, happy holidays to you and yours!


Take Our Christmas Quiz!

Christmas Quiz


Fun Facts about Christmas

History of Christmas – History.com

Ten Ages of Christmas – BBC

How Christmas Went Commercial: A Brief History – Fast Company


Enjoy our special collection freely through January 31.

Evolution of Christmas

Christmas: A Candid History – by Bruce David Forbes

The Historian | Richard Chapman

“Arguing that Christmas has ever been a blend of beliefs, practices, and purposes, Forbes likens it to a snowball that collected and discarded items pell-mell as it rolled along.”

A Child’s Christmas in America: Santa Claus as Deity, Consumption as Religion

The Journal of American Culture | Russell W. Belk

“Although  various  treatments have attempted to trace the Santa Claus myth to  the  4th  century  Lycian  Bishop  of  Myra,  Saint Nicholas’, as well as to European mythical figures including the Dutch Sinterklaas, French Pere Noel, Swedish  Santa  Lucia  and  Jultomten,  Russian Babushka,  German  Christkindlein  and  Knecht Ruprecht, Spanish Three Kings, Italian Befana, and the  earlier  Roman  god  Saturn,  the  modern American  Santa Claus  bears  little resemblance  to any  of  these  older  myths  and  legends.”

The Strange Birth of Santa Claus: From Artemis the Goddess and Nicholas the Saint

The Journal of American Culture | Bruce Curtis

“Long ago and far away, so say the legends, there lived a Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, a bearded Father of the Catholic Church named Nicholas. This Patriarch  won  his  way  into the hearts of the people, recently converted from idolatry  to  Christianity, by destroying  the temple  of  Artemis, a many-breasted goddess of  the sea and of grain, a pagan Earth Mother who had a long and distinguished career as a midwife and protector of women.”

Leisure and Recreation

History | Douglas Reid

“Despite some serious resistance and much non-compliance with the Puritan regime, it seemed to late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth-century writers that Christmas observance and festivities had received a damaging blow: the talk was of decline and decay.”

Philosophy

Female Spirituality and the Infant Jesus in Late Medieval Dominican Convents

Gender & History | Ulinka Rublack

“Dominican Christmas  sermons,  however,  encouraged  their  audiences  to become ‘mother of Christ’ and to let their souls give spiritual birth to Christ.”

What’s in a(n Empty) Name?

Pacific Philosophical Quaterly | Fred Adams & Laura A. Dietrich

“The names ‘Santa’ and ‘Father Xmas’ share similar causal histories. They both come out of the same Western cultural tradition. They are both associated with the same lore – the same set of descriptions.”

Existential Scrooge: A Kierkegaardian Reading of A Christmas Carol

Literature Compass | Shale Preston

“A Christmas Carol is indeed historically important, so much so that it may have influenced or even inspired Søren Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety (1844).”

Chapter 19: Common Claus

Christmas—Philosophy For Everyone | Cindy Scheopner

“In a state with no racial or ethnic majority, religious views also demonstrate a variety uncommon on the mainland US. at a time when they seem most acute.”

Religion

The Circumstantial Evidence of the Virgin Birth

The Muslim World | Albertus Pieters

“To my mind, so far from the Virgin Birth being a byproduct of Christian imagination, or a thing that while true, was unnecessary and uninfluential in the origin of the Christian religion, it underlies the entire development.”

Are Angels Just a Matter of Faith?

The New Blackfriars | Dominic White OP

“I argue that a philosophically viable Catholic angelology would not only help many people within and outside the Church to make sense of their religious experience, but would offer a much richer conception of creation and God’s saving work.”

The Star of Christ in the Light of Astronomy

Zygon | Aaron Adair

“Although there were centuries of astrological speculation, this overview shows that naturalistic theories of the Star are a late innovation that began with apologetic attempts in the nineteenth century and not long after left the mainstream of biblical scholarship, leaving mostly astronomers to give credibility to this tale.”

Migration

 

The Christmas Cake: A Japanese Tradition of American Prosperity

The Journal of Popular Culture | Hideyo Konagaya

“For Japanese, Christmas continues to provide an arena to rehearse American values.”

 

Translation Acts: Afro-Peruvian Music in the United States

Journal of Popular Music Studies | Heidi Carolyn Feldman

“…the track “Panalivio” is based on the music of black Christmas. This Catholic festival, the legacy of slavery and Christianization, takes place in rural Chincha, Peru, a town mythologized during the revival as the cradle of black Peruvian music.”

 

New Ways to Write the History of Western Europe and the United States: The Concept of Intercultural Transfer

History Compass | Thomas Adam

“The trimming of Christmas evergreens emerged as part of the modern form of Christmas celebration among wealthy families in Germany during the Romantic period. From here it quickly spread across Europe and even to the New England states in the 1830s and 1840s.”

Literary Criticism

Herrick’s “Christmas Carol”: A New Poem, and Its Implications for Patronage

English Literary Renaissance | Tom Cain

“The religious and secular celebration of Christmas had been under increasing political thread in England and Wales since the Solemn League and Covenent was made with the Presbyterian Scots in September 1643.”

Milton’s On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity: The Virgilian and Biblical Matrices

Milton Quarterly | Donald Swanson & John Mulryan

“This wedding of the Virgilian and biblical matrices reminds us once again that  Milton  was  the  most learned poet of his time, even at the early age of twenty-one,  when he composed this astonishingly  precocious  poem.”

Creative Writing – Enjoy these original works of Christmas fiction from our journals

The Christmas morning Swim

Critical Quarterly | Robert Cremins

Christmas with Aunt Ama

Critical Quarterly | Yaba Badoe

The Kindness of Strangers

The Yale Review | Sheila Kohler

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