• Reading Level 5
Geography | RE

Reboot Santa! Christmas rebels call for change

Is it time to rethink Christmas? The festival evolves gradually every year as new traditions are adopted – and now some argue it has changed so much that it needs to be reinvented. Tomorrow, the countdown begins. Trees and lights may already be up in the High Street, the supermarkets restocked with tinsel and wrapping paper – but it is not until the first window opens on the advent calendar that the festivities of Christmas really begin. It is one of the most popular holidays in the world, with millions taking part, but not everyone knows where all the traditions come from. Here are the stories behind six of the most important. Snow. The perfect Christmas is a white Christmas. But according to historian Judith Flanders, we can be almost certain there was no snow on the first Christmas Day. The Bible does not say what time of year Jesus was born, but it does mention the shepherds watching their flocks by night – something they would not be doing in the middle of winter. However, there were many pagan midwinter feasts in the Roman Empire, including a festival of the sun on 25 December and the Saturnalia in the days leading up to it. When Pope Julius I fixed Christmas Day in the 4th Century, he may have hoped to convert pagans already celebrating on that day. The Christmas tree. Many traditions developed out of the pagan festival of yule, associated with the Norse god Odin. One custom involved an evergreen tree, brought into the home during the winter solstice. However, historians do not agree on whether the yule tree is actually related to the tradition of the Christmas tree. The plum pudding. The festive dessert began as a kind of medieval sausage, preserved with fruits and spices, designed to last the winter. Over the centuries, the meat was gradually replaced with preserved fruits, sugar and alcohol – creating a dessert fit for a king. The turkey. No Christmas dinner in the UK would be complete without it, but for centuries, many Christians around Europe preferred the humble goose to the exotic and expensive turkey. That all changed when Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. Scrooge gave the Cratchits an enormous turkey, establishing its reputation as an English Christmas dish. Santa Claus. Father Christmas comes from Turkey, not the North Pole. The 4th-century Saint Nicholas was known for his acts of kindness and became the patron saint of children. His legend spread across Europe, with many variations. The Dutch version, Sinterklaas, came to America in the 17th Century and – with a little help from Coca-Cola –became the Santa Claus we recognise today. The Christmas stocking. According to legend, Saint Nicholas wanted to help a poor man and his three daughters. One night, he threw a bag of gold through their window and it landed in a stocking drying by the fire. It was an act of charity, like Scrooge’s turkey, or the gifts traditionally given out on Boxing Day. But some think that spirit of Christmas has been lost, replaced by consumerism, greed and gluttony. Research shows the British will give and receive over one billion unwanted gifts this year. They will destroy two million turkeys and five million puddings – all unsold. Critics say Christmas is bad for the economy and even makes us unhappy. So is it time to rethink Christmas? Clean sheet Yes, say some, let’s reboot Santa. Christmas has become too much about marketing, designed by advertising companies to make us spend money on things we don’t need. Too much about it is false: we are expected to feel jolly when we feel miserable, be grateful for presents we don’t want and spend time with people we’d rather avoid. Relax, say others. It is what it is. Anyone should be able to enjoy a few days of extravagant fun. Throughout history and across the world, people come together at the bleakest time of the year to celebrate with food, family and friends. Its chaotic mix of religious and secular traditions makes it a midwinter festival that everyone can enjoy. KeywordsKing - Before South Africa was colonised by British and Dutch invaders, the Zulus were organised into one of the region's largest and most powerful political units, known as the 'Zulu kingdom' or 'Zulu empire'. Today the king has little political power, but still exerts influence among some Zulus.

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