Twisted Christmas: The Origins of Christmas

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Holidays
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas, to say the least, so my vision of Christmas is a little bit twisted, hence the title of my first Christmas post.  I thought like I did for Halloween it my be interesting to take a look at the origins of Christmas, so here goes.

So much like Halloween, the holiday of Christmas has its origins in the pagan religion.  I know, I know, Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, except for one thing, no one believes that Jesus of Nazareth was born in December.  The link below provides a long and thorough accounting of the likely date of Jesus’ birth based off of the writings in the bible:

http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/568/When-Was-Jesus-Born.htm

The conclusion that this author and many others have made is that Jesus was almost certainly born sometime in the fall.  So if December 25th isn’t Jesus’ birthday why do we celebrate Christmas in December?

Well first we have to recognize that several pagan festivals were celebrated either on the winter solstice or in the case of the Feast of the Son of Isis, celebrated on December 25th.  The entire holiday season for the Romans covering December and January was called the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.   Given this, in 350AD Pope Julius I decreed that Christ’s birthday would be celebrated on December 25th.  He did this for political reasons; the Pope knew that the majority of Romans, who were not Christians at the time, would more easily convert to Christianity if they could still have their rituals and feasts.  Christmas or the Christ Mass seems to have its earliest origins in the 1500’s in Germany.

The most identifiable icon of Christmas, the Christmas tree has its origins as well with the Pagans of Northern Europe as the evergreen tree was symbolic in all of their winter festivals, as well, the wreath was often used as a celebratory symbol in solstice celebrations and at weddings as a sign of fertility.  The solstice holiday was called Yule and huge fires were burnt in honor of the sun-god on this holiday.  Hence our tradition of burning a Yule log, although I can’t imagine what the Pagans would think of today’s televised Yule log.  Finally, the Druids considered Mistletoe a sacred plant and kissing under the Mistletoe was a fertility ritual.  Given all of the fertility symbolism tied to Christmas, it’s amazing their aren’t a lot more birthdays in September.

So very much like Halloween, Christmas is a Christian holiday stacked on top of old Pagan holidays and traditions.  Also like Halloween, the reasons and ways we celebrate the holiday are very different, even from the holiday as it was celebrated even fifty years ago.

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