Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Pagan Roots of Christmas

Most of the characteristics of modern Christmas celebrations had their roots in pagan religions that preceded Christianity.
  1. The Date: In the 4th century AD, the winter solstice fell on December 25. That was the birth date of the Persian Sun God, Mithra. By the 4th century the Mithraic Cult was popular throughout the Roman Empire and was in direct competition with Christianity. The assignment of Christ's Mass Day to December 25 was part of the effort to ease the transition when paganism was outlawed and Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire (AD391).
  2. Mistletoe, Holly, and Gift Giving: Mistletoe is a parasite that appears in the tops of otherwise bare trees in the winter and fruits around the time of the winter solstice. This miracle made it a sacred plant to the Druids and an important part of their solstice festivals. Holly was a tradition of the Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of the solstice. Gift giving is also a Saturnalia tradition.
  3. Christmas Tree: Many cultures developed similar winter solstice traditions of cutting branches or whole trees and bringing them into the home. Whether the origin of the Christmas Tree is Germanic or Roman is in dispute. That it is a pagan symbol of seasonal rebirth is undisputed.
  4. Yule and Santa: Even this synonym for Christmas is a pagan celebration. The word is Old Nordic meaning "wheel" and was the name of a Norse winter solstice festival. Santa's reindeer and elves are also of pagan Nordic origin.
The Puritans despised the pagan and popish Christmas celebrations as do some fundamentalist Christian sects even today.

As for me, I like the friendship, family, and celebrations of the season. And, I really love the call for Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards All Men message. Take that, Bill O'Reilly.

1 comment:

Skeeter Sanders said...

It is indeed true that our modern celebration of Christmas is actually a relatively recent adaptation by Christians of a very ancient Pagan holiday that has been celebrated on the 25th of December for tens of thousands of years before Jesus was born.

As a modern Pagan myself, for the past four years, I've posted to my blog site an annual retelling of the holiday's Pagan origins, including an update on the current controversy raised by Christian conservatives who object strenously to what they see is the "de-Christianization of Christmas" - yet failing or unwilling to acknowledge the holiday's Pagan origins.

You can read my article here:

A Blessed Yule to you all - and a Happy New Year.