How the Christmas Holiday appears in each Epoch of World History
In brief: The Christmas holiday has changed with the civilizations. In Roman times, it was a festival honoring Saturn or Mithras. Christians celebrate it as the birthday of Jesus. Christmas has subsequently been tied to holiday gift-giving and shopping and to seasonal music or television programming.
In Civilization I:
The first epoch of civilization was an age of civic worship - worship of the deified state.
The Roman holiday of Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for several days. This was a festival honoring the god Saturn who had civilized the Italian people.
The worshipers of Mithras, a Persian savior god popular with soldiers, celebrated this god's birthday on December 25. Gift-giving was a part of its tradition.
In Civilization II:
Christians know the Christmas holiday as a time to celebrate the birthday of Jesus with readings from the Gospel of Matthew, exhibits of the nativity scene, and so on. The Virgin Mary would be a large part of this celebration.
In 440 A.D., the Christian church decided to celebrate the feast of the Nativity at the time of the Saturnalia holiday.
In Civilization III:
The third epoch of civilization was an age dominated by commerce and education.
With respect to commerce, many know Christmas as the year's principal shopping season. Some merchants estimate that sales at Christmas generate between half and three fourths of their annual profits. Commercial advertising tries to make people feel guilty when they are not spending enough money for holiday gift-giving.
With respect to education, Christmas is a time when students go on vacation.
However, Charles Dickens has given this holiday a new twist. His novel, A Christmas Carol, tells how a tightfisted employer, Ebeneezer Scrooge, refused to give his employee, Bob Crachitt, time off from work to celebrate Christmas with his family.
Today's commercial culture prefers to think of a Scrooge as someone who is too cheap to buy Christmas gifts.
In Civilization IV:
The fourth epoch of civilization is an age of entertainment. This civilization, too, has embraced the Christmas holiday.
Traditional Christmas carols have given way to such classics of pop culture as "Jingle Bells" and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", which was the all-time best-selling record for five decades.
For a week or so before Christmas, the radio is filled with holiday music, old and new. Family-type Christmas shows featuring well-known entertainers are prevalent on television. "The Bob Hope Christmas Special" would be an example.
In Civilization V:
It may be too soon to tell how Christmas is celebrated in the computer age.
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