Mildenhall Anglican Church

As we begin Advent this year we are also launching a year of

celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of the present church



800 years of Christmas services and celebrations. The medieval music

evening will help link the past and present of Christmas across the years.

The church has stood as different celebrations have evolved. -Christmas

Trees with decorations are traditions from Victorian times, while some of

the carols we sing are relatively modern, written in the 19th and 20th


I thought it may be of interest to fill in some background to Christmas-

(summarised from the internet):

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December

25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine

(he was the first Christian Roman Emperor).  However, there are many

different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on

December 25th.

Although most Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday

of Jesus Christ, few in the first two Christian centuries claimed any

knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born.

A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that

she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was

on March 25th - and it's still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine

months after the 25th March is the 25th December! 

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of

Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided

to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Pope Julius I chose Decembr

25.  It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to

adopt and absorb the traditions of the winter solstice and pagan

Saturnalia festival which took place around this date. It was a time when

people already celebrated, as the days would begin to lengthen and

hours of sunlight begin to extend. The earlier term Yule may have derived

from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the

feast of the winter solstice. The English term Christmas (“mass on

Christ's day”) is of fairly recent origin. 

It was first called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by

432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the

eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to

Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches,

Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to

as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the

three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way

Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his

Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of

decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular

demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the

return of the popular holiday. And so it is today.

As we celebrate, may we be amazed again and again at God’s grace and

favour shown to us in sending us His Son. The 25th of December is the

day on which we celebrate His birth, but the life and light He brings is for

every day. Whatever you are doing this Christmas I hope it is a time

when you draw closer to the God of love who sent is only Son into the

world to demonstrate His love and His care for us His people. May we

share the blessings of Christmas with others around us, in words and

actions, as for another year this church and community honours Christ’s

birth with gratitude.