Article about Christmas origins, mistletoe, holly etc...

by truthseeker 3 Replies latest jw friends

  • truthseeker

    Interesting article about Christmas traditions and their origins...

    What does it all mean?
    Marchelle Hermanus
    Mon, 28 Nov 2005

    Somewhere between all the giving and receiving, massive Christmas turkeys and festivities, the traditions of Christmas have been forgotten and sometimes lost.

    While the "true meaning of Christmas" is different for each person, popular symbols like Father Christmas, the holly and mistletoe lie more rooted in pagan belief than anything else.

    Where's Father Christmas?

    Take the origins of Santa Claus or Father Christmas for starters. The legend of Father Christmas has been passed on through the ages, with the interpretation changing from culture to country.

    But according to most religious historians and experts on folklore, St Nicholas, as he was originally named, was actually a pagan god. In fact, his legend seems to have been mainly created out of myths attributed to the Greek god Poseidon, the Roman god Neptune, and the Teutonic god Hold Nickar (hence the bushy white beard).

    Other historians claim the story of St Nick originated in Europe during the fourth-century when a bishop named St. Nicholas of Myra spread goodwill and generosity throughout the land. He was known to go about on a white horse handing out anonymous gifts at night.

    Stuffing our stockings

    And what about those Christmas stockings? Well, that one supposedly started in Holland in the 16th century, when children used to leave their clogs filled with hay next to the fireplace as a snack for Santa's reindeer. In exchange for leaving his reindeer some food for the long journey, he'd leave behind treats. Eventually, stockings replaced clogs at the fireplace.

    But there is another story: a poor Italian father who couldn’t afford the dowries needed to marry off his three daughters set out their stockings to dry at the fireplace. Santa saw the stockings through the window and tossed three bags filled with gold down the chimney and into the stockings.

    'By gosh, by golly, it's time for mistletoe and holly!'

    The legend of the mistletoe has its roots firmly in paganism. In ancient times, mistletoe was believed to possess mystical powers because it grew without roots and never touched the ground.

    Seen as a sacred tree, the mistletoe was also believed to encourage romance, bring happiness, deliver good luck and promote peace.

    However, the Church banned mistletoe around 1600 because if its pagan origins. It was only in the late 18th century that people in Britain started using mistletoe again, hanging it in doorways as a symbol of peace and good luck, and that all-important tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began.

    Going hot turkey

    No traditional Christmas dinner is complete without the turkey. But where does this custom come from? The most common story doing the rounds involves King George II from Britain. According to lore, he made the traditional dish famous in 1650 when he was said to keep about 3000 turkeys on his grounds to feed his friends at Christmas.

    Other traditions

    Holly: The Druids, the priestly class in ancient Celtic society, were the first civilisation to wear sprigs of holly and mistletoe. They believed that holly was able to remain green and vibrant throughout the year because it possessed magical properties. Holly also has its place in religious tradition, as for some Christians it represents the crown of thorns worn by Christ when he was crucified.

    Yule Log: The word "Yule" comes from the language of the Chaldeans, a Semitic people from Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey, who still exist as a Christian minority today. The word means "infant". The French and Italians have been practising the custom of placing a huge log on the hearth, sprinkled with salt, oil, and mulled wine, since the 1200s. It later became integrated into Christian practice, since it was believed to protect the house from the devil.

    Christmas crackers: This sparky tradition came about thanks to an English baker by the name of Tom Smith who at Christmas time decided on a new marketing trick. He wrapped up a sweet and added a strip of paper to it with a compound that would "crack" when opened. Eventually he replaced the sweet with a small novelty gift and lengthened the size of the wrapper, and so the first Christmas cracker was born.

    And what of the date? Christians celebrate the 25th of December as the day that Jesus was born. The earliest reference to celebrating Christmas on this date can be traced back to 354 AD, replacing an earlier date of January 6. In the Julian calendar, December 25 was recognised as the winter solstice and regarded as the nativity of the sun as the days began to lengthen after the long, dark winter. It was only in the 4th century AD that the date was adopted by the church as the birth date of Jesus, as Roman Emperor Constantine sought to encourage a common religious festival for both Christians and Pagans.

  • wanda

    What it means is there are two sides to every coin.

    For example December 25 the date of the first Jewish festival of Hannukah now varying because lunar based, so Roman Saturnalia may not be its only origin. Christ was at the Feast of Dedication, another name for Hannukah (Jn 10:22) which includes tree parts and so may also be another, possibly even more logical candidate for Christmas plants the mistletoe and wreath rather than non-Christians considering too that the earliest Christians were all Jews prior to Cornelius. Scholars now know the Christmas tree began as the tree of paradise from the story of Adam and Eve in Eden that was featured on church stages during the Middle Ages. NEW YEARS: God began the Jewish New Year's celebration Rosh Hashana at Lev 23. Without excess drinking it's biblically fine.

    Contrary to Jehovah's Witnesses and some other lesser known groups say, the December 25 date also has much written backing.

    Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) wrote Marcus Aurelius that Jesus was
    born at Bethlehem ''as you can ascertain also from the registers of
    the taxing" (Apologia I, 34). Tertullian (160-250) noted "the census
    of Augustus-that most faithful witness of the Lord's nativity, kept
    in the archives of Rome" (Against Marcion, Bk. 4, 7). Cyril of
    Jerusalem (348-386) asked Julius to assign Christ's birthdate "from
    census documents brought by Titus to Rome," after which Julius
    assigned December 25th. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) wrote that
    Christ's December 25 date of birth was supported by the tax or
    census records still existing even in his day but not now known to
    exist which showed their registration at Bethlehem.

  • heathen
    Scholars now know the Christmas tree began as the tree of paradise from the story of Adam and Eve in Eden that was featured on church stages during the Middle Ages.

    What scholars and what tree of paradise ? I remember there being any tree of paradise . There was the tree of life and the tree of knowledge . Both trees were fruit bearing trees and not pine tree . If you look at the feast of saturnalia there is an old fat bearded man tied to a tree .

  • Kenneson

    To those who object to the Christmas tree, I find it interesting that God's sanctuary in the Old Testament (Isaiah 60:13) was adorned with evergreens to beautify it--cypress, pine, and sycamore. Granted there were no ornaments, but nevertheless, there was no objection to the use of trees as being pagan.

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