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Published on Dec 24, 2013 in Europe, Featured Articles, News, North America

The Origin of Christmas

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Although some may believe that Christmas has its origin in Christianity, that assumption would be false. As it turns out, the origin of Christmas pre-dates Christianity and began as a pagan celebration. In fact, December 25th is a date on which a number of pagan gods were supposedly born and there were, therefore, a number of pagan celebrations held on that date.

One festival held on December 25th recognized a heroic supernatural figure that visits an evergreen tree and leaves gifts on December 25th. In addition, in ancient Babylon, December 25th was a date that celebrated the rebirth of the sun god. In fact, in the ancient world almost every pagan culture celebrated the sun god, and he therefore had many different names in these various cultures.

Another celebration held on December 25th involved the winter solstice, which occurred a few days before.The winter solstice was that time of the year when daylight was the shortest. December 25th was therefore looked upon as a day of happiness when days would start to become noticeably longer. It was considered the “rebirth” of the sun.

Realizing that December 25th was first a pagan holiday, how did it come to be associated with the celebration of the birth of Christ? According to Mysteries of the World, this journey first begins with the festival of Saturnalia, a Roman festival that commemorated the Roman god Saturn. During this festival there would be gift-giving and feasting. However, with so many festivals on December 25th commemorating gods, the Romans gradually consolidated all their December 25th “sun god” birthdays into one festival. Once consolidated, Christianity appropriated this date. In 350 AD Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would now be celebrated on December 25th, therefore making it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity. As a result, after 350 AD, December 25th became a Christian holiday which was then associated with the birth of Christ.

As long as we’re on the origin of Christmas, we should probably touch on the origin of the Christmas tree. In ancient Babylon, there was a tradition that told of the goddess Semiramis’ (also known as Ishtar, Isis, Easter in other pagan religions) husband, Nimrod, having an untimely death. Sometime after his death a full grown evergreen tree grew out of a dead tree stump. Semiramis claimed that this symbolized a new life for Nimrod. In addition, she also claimed that Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts for her on the anniversary of his birth. This date was December 25th. This is the origin of the Christmas tree.

The exact origin of the Christmas wreath is not known. The wreath was thought to have originated in Roman times and was used as a symbol of pride and victory.  Wreaths were worn on the heads of military heroes as well as the emperor. They were also worn at weddings and on other special occasions, as well as on the heads of women belonging to the elite class of Roman society. The Catholic Church first adopted the use of an evergreen wreath for use during Advent, when four candles were placed in the circle of the wreath, with one large candle in the middle. The evergreen leaves symbolized the permanence of life, with the circle symbolizing that there is no beginning or end and that God is eternal.

The word “yule”, which we associate with the Christmas season, means “infant” or “little child” in Babylonian. Therefore, a “Yule-day” or “yuletide” greeting was actually an acknowledgement of Nimrod’s birthday. The word “Christmas” is not found in the Bible, but it came about in 1038 as a derivate of an Old English word “Cristes Maesse” or Mass of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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