Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas
But why this fixation on partying in midwinter, anyway? According to historians, it’s a natural time for a feast. In an agricultural society, the harvest work is done for the year, and there’s nothing left to be done in the fields.
“It’s a time when you have some time to devote to your religious life,” said Shaw. “But also it’s a period when, frankly, everyone needs cheering up.”
The dark days that culminate with the shortest day of the year — the winter solstice — could be lightened with feasts and decorations, Hutton said.
“If you happen to live in a region in which midwinter brings striking darkness and cold and hunger, then the urge to have a celebration at the very heart of it to avoid going mad or falling into deep depression is very, very strong,” he said.
Stephen Nissenbaum, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Battle for Christmas” (Vintage, 1997), agreed.
“Even now when solstice means not all that much because you can get rid of the darkness with the flick of an electric light switch, even now, it’s a very powerful season,” he told LIveScience.