I’m slacking on the blogging front: A combination of a new job, freelance work, holiday festivities (a.k.a. shopping and eating), enjoying Mr SS’s temporary habitation and chasing little Dora around the apartment (A Dora-update will come shortly!) has kept me from rambling to the www-universe. (Lucky you!!!)
I am super excited for the Christmas season — and am done with my Christmas shopping too, YIPPEE!! The holidays are my favorite time of year and I make the most of them by fully indulging in the season. So in honor of the festivities I wanted to share an article that popped up in my inbox this am. My uncle is fantastic at keeping us updated on fun and interesting things that pop up on the web. Straight from AOLNews.com:
(Nov. 28) — Christmas caroling has long been a favorite tradition of church groups, elderly choirs and children, but did you know that the first groups of carolers were nothing but a bunch of rowdy drunks?
That’s the tune from David McKillop, senior vice president of programming for the History Channel, who recently talked to AOL News about the network’s upcoming holiday special, “The Real Story of Christmas,” premiering Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET.
The TV special examines the surprising historical origins of our most bizarre Christmas customs, including why some of us go door to door singing holiday songs to any strangers who will listen.
McKillop said the origin of caroling dates back to the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, when Christmas was regarded as a festival of pure joy and drunken revelry. Oh, and prayer was involved somewhere in there too.
According to McKillop, groups of poor medieval carolers would go around to houses singing and begging for food and drinks, threatening to throw rocks through the windows of anyone who refused to give them a handout.
They literally “went medieval” on people.
“They would get very, very rowdy. Eventually, the drunken revelry got too out of hand, and Christmas was banned for years in America in the 16th and 17th centuries,” explained McKillop.
Sheesh. Sounds like an episode of “Carolers Gone Wild.” If you don’t open your door to singing strangers this year, no one will blame you.
“People would try to find the biggest log possible to burn in a fireplace, to keep the light and warmth going during the 12 days of the feast,” he said.
Another fun fact: Santa Claus wasn’t always so chummy and cheery. In fact, he was kind of a downer who ran with a bad crowd.
McKillop said the St. Nick of old European legend was said to be accompanied not by elves but by an impish little devil creature named “Krampus” who beat up and kidnapped naughty children.
“If kids were bad, Krampus would leave them bad gifts. I think that’s where the idea of giving people coal for Christmas first sprouted. That Krampus was mean,” said McKillop.
As for giving and receiving presents on Christmas, he said that particular custom’s origin varies around the world, depending on whom you ask.
“Some Catholics and Christians will trace it all the way back to the birth of Christ, when gifts were supposedly brought to the baby Jesus. Others link gift giving to the Romans’ winter celebrations, the only time of the year when the rich would give their slaves gifts of food and such.”
But what about other holiday traditions we practice, like putting a big, live, shedding tree in our living rooms each season and hanging stockings on the chimney with care?
McKillop said more modern practices like these can all be linked to a single “tipping point” in history that changed the course of Christmas forever.
“In that single poem, Moore gave us our modern-day version of Santa Claus, stockings and reindeer — all of the Christmas traditions we still live by and follow today. He changed it all,” explained McKillop. “From 1823 forward was when Christmas as we know it began. All of the traditions from different cultures — Jewish, Christian, Scandinavian celebrations — all came together at that point.”
Although variations of the Christmas tree had been around since the 16th century, McKillop said, dragging an evergreen into our homes became a modern mainstay in 1848 after a magazine in London published a photograph of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria posing in front of a decked-out fir.
“The British went crazy for the photo and started putting up Christmas trees in their homes. Later, an American magazine copied and altered the image of the royal family to look like an American family and circulated the trend around the United States,” he explained.
Lastly, the history buff revealed that the origins of Santa’s right-hand reindeer, Rudolph, go back to 1939, to a Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago. That’s when an employee by the name of Robert L. May created the lovable red-nosed sidekick in an effort to promote a Christmas coloring book sold by Montgomery Ward.
“Clement Moore hinted at reindeer in ‘Night Before Christmas,’ and May’s idea of Rudolph took it even further. Christmas traditions have a way of building on each other over the centuries,” explained McKillop. “Christmas is one of the most complex holidays we celebrate in terms of its roots, because it transcends so many cultures. It goes back in time 2,000-plus years.”
Now, off you go to hang those stockings, decorate that Christmas tree, buy overpriced presents, sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to strangers and wait for Santa. And drink and be merry, of course.
Anyone for some eggnog… and a carol or two?
FA LA LA LA LA… LA LA LA LA.