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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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The Origins of Christmas

The Origins of Christmas

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 The Origins of Christmas
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0001

In seeking for pagan feasts that underlie the Christmas in Britain, the issues are complex and the evidence difficult to assess. Nevertheless, there is sufficient to argue strongly for the existence of a major pre-Christian festival marking the opening of the new year, at the moment at which the sun had reached the winter solstice and its strength was being renewed. There is testimony to this in the Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Welsh components of the medieval British heritage. If so, this tradition would explain the pattern that set in after 1155, when the English Crown determined to revert to the presumed early system of Rome commencing the official year in March. The precise date selected was the twenty-fifth, the feast of Christianity, the Annunciation, and first English, and then British, years were reckoned from that until the calendar reform of 1752, when it was returned to January 1.

Keywords:   Christmas, Britain, new year, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, English Crown, Rome, Christianity, Annunciation

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