Queen's University

Christmas: Traditions and religion


The roots of Christmas traditions

Queen’s adjunct professor of English literature Heather Evans is available to speak about the history of festive traditions and Christmas culinary delights, the reassurance we derive from our seasonal return to the past, and the significance of holiday feasting and food rituals.

“Rushing through our hectic twenty-first-century lives, armed with i-gadgets and frantically maintaining relationships with people we hardly know through social networking, we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of modernity,” says Professor Evans. “Yet our most cherished holiday customs are firmly rooted in centuries past. We owe a particular debt to the Victorians, popularly perceived as the antithesis of modern culture, for traditions such as the giving of greeting cards, the decorating of trees, the snapping of crackers, and the enjoyment of a day of rest on Boxing Day. Our indebtedness to the past is especially apparent in holiday foods and feasting.”

Dr. Evans’ research interests include nineteenth-century literature and food and culinary history.

The role of Christmas in Christianity

School of Religion assistant professor John Young is available to discuss the religious significance and history of Christmas.

“Christmas and Easter are the two most significant holy days for Christians. Easter was a holy day or festival that Christians celebrated virtually from the beginning of Christianity as a religious movement, but the recognition of Christmas, as a special day, came later,” says Professor Young. “The Bible does not give specific dates for events in Jesus’ life, and the first several generations of Christians did not show a particular interest in the timing of specific events of Jesus’ life, such as his birth. At some point in the second century of the Common Era, January 6, a day Christians call Epiphany, began to become a special day for Christians to celebrate Jesus’ birth, his baptism, and the beginning of his ministry. In the fourth century, December 25 began to be associated with Jesus’ birth; January 6 then began to be linked to Jesus’ baptism among Christians in the East and to the visit of the magi (or the wise men) among Western Christians.”

Professor Young’s research interests include the history of Christianity and the church in Canada.

To arrange an interview, please contact Kristyn Wallace at (613)533-6000 ext 79173 or (613)331-0939 kristyn.wallace@queensu.ca or Michael Onesi at (613)533-6000 ext 77513 michael.onesi@queensu.ca, News and Media Services, Queen’s University.

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