How it Became Christmas
In the last three weeks we discussed three specific pagan religions and their Yule traditions. Today, we're going to explain why these three and what they have done to create the Christmas of current times.
The first sect we showcased was the Old Germanic/Norse Traditions. This one has had the MOST pull in what shaped Christmas. From the tree, to the decor, to even the foods, they were beyond the true main source of the celebration. The giant Yule log that was once burned for 12 consecutive days has become a common french cake. The lore of gift giving evolved from the gnomes and Great Hunt with obvious sights into the reindeer who carry Santa, the horse Sleipnir who Odin rode on and the number 9 being a very religious number to even the Norse. (8 reindeer and 1 Santa). We also know that Odin bestowed gifts according to some accounts, but only to those who deserved it. (Nice and naughty list). The gnomes, Tomte, were originally the gift receivers and pranksters of poorly behaved children and adults (the new elf on the shelf), and later were described as gnomes who would go door to door giving gifts. The wreaths and garland... the list is nearly boundless.
In the post about the Holly King. I briefly described as being the image of Santa. Before Coca-cola turned Santa in the jolly man in a red suit, he actually looked almost exactly as the Holly King of lore. He was usually depicted as wearing a long thick robe in the colors of blue of green and always wore a crown of holly. They also made the gathering of holly a tradition though the ages. We can even go as far as to thank the early Celts for the very day the Christian's use for the birth of Jesus because the Oak King (the Sun King) was born on Yule.
Saturnalia has other very deep connections to the current holiday. They celebrated it joyously, while the other two saw it as a time to be solemn and look back at the year. The Romans instead partied and caroled happily as they feasted welcoming in the new year. The act of gift-giving is mostly associated with this sect and we can also thank them for our vast and varying amount of advent calendars.
What does it mean for Pagans?
So why are we talking about this? We should all understand and give thanks to these Pagan traditions that have been allowed to survive the ages and overrule of Christianity. What you may not know is how controversial all of this was the Christians in the beginning and how even their own churches and sect rebelled against the entire celebration because its not only mentioned in the Bible to NOT practice these very traditions, like a setting up and decorating a tree, but the birth of Jesus was NOT ever recorded. We can see and understand both their fallacy in attempting to warp these pagan holidays while condemning them in the same breath and understand that their desperation to overcome these "barbaric" peoples by bending to their celebrations and incorporating them to make the transition into the Abrahamic religions easier. However, it is through these common day practices that our ancestors and Gods have survived and have allowed such a powerful resurgence of the old ways. We can still honor them, just as the Christians do today.