As we have been steadily approaching Christmas my mind keeps searching for the why? What is the purpose behind it all? As part of the Thought Tribe I am certain you too wonder, what is this festive season really all about? If you have been curious look no further, I’ve done the research and have a number of important ideas to share with you.
For the first 10 years of my life I was part of a religion and our family did not celebrate Christmas, or birthdays for that matter. I always longed to be like the other children not really understanding why or how it was ‘pagan’ to have a Christmas tree or presents.
I always felt like I was missing out during those early years of childhood until my mum stepped away from the religion and we began to add more ‘pagan’ celebrations to our winter break. Oooh the presents! It took us years to have a Christmas tree or decorations, and in all fairness my mum still felt uneasy about it. But as we grew my sisters and I were curious to see what all the fuss was about. Years later, we finally had it our way, yay Christmas tree! The first year it was pretty darn magical! I’ll have to admit, the tree was mesmerising. And I enjoyed the family togetherness that putting the tree up gave us.
Fast forward a few years and here I am now discovering a more spiritual way of life through metaphysics, not really knowing the purpose of Christmas or why I should entertain it. It feels like such an over production and I am not one to do over the top, I like a simple life these days. The pressure to buy presents and outdo one another takes away from the pleasure of giving to give, instead replacing it with giving to be seen giving, or giving only to receive. End of year Christmas parties are only focused on who can get the most drunk, and complaints about what was received as part of a secret Santa. It all seems a little juvenile to me. I like to act with purpose. I like to go a little deeper than what is on the surface. I like to understand the why.
After a little search around the internet it wasn’t difficult to discover the reasons behind the traditions of Christmas. In fact it had me rethinking future festivities! I might just be down for celebrating Saturnalia next year. Let me know if you’re in, we can revive it and join forces!
The 25th December
Let's begin with the date, the 25th December is commonly known as the date we celebrate the birth of Jesus, however there is no reference to his date of birth in the bible and this is said to be the wrong timing as Jesus was born during a warmer time of year. The religion I was brought up in believed the date was wrong hence their lack of festivities over the holidays.
This date does however coincide with a popular Pagan god called Mithra, whose birthday was celebrated towards the end of December.
“Mithra was the light and power behind the sun. In Babylon, Mithra was identified with Shamash, the sun god, and he is also Bel, the Mesopotamian and Canaanite/ Phoenician solar deity, who is likewise Marduk, the Babylonian god who represented both the planet Jupiter and the sun.”
Sir Arthur Weigall says:
“December 25th was really the date, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithra. Horus, son of Isis, however, was in very early times identified with Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and hence with Mithra…
Mithra’s birthday on December 25th has been so widely claimed that the Catholic Encyclopedia (“Mithraism”) remarks: “The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season.”
Yet this contention of Mithra’s birthday on December 25th or the winter solstice is disputed because there is no hard archaeological or literary evidence of the Roman Mithras specifically being named as having been born at that time.”
Christmas Traditions or Saturnalia?
Most of our Christmas traditions stem from the Pagan festival Saturnalia, which started a week before Christmas. The festivities were to honour Saturn, the Roman God of Agriculture. Around the time of the winter solstice each year, they celebrated the festival and this week-long party typically began around December 17th, so that it would end right around the day of the solstice.
“The fact that Christmas was celebrated on the birthday of the unconquered sun (dies solis invicti nati) gave the season a solar background, connected with the kalends of January (January 1, the Roman New Year) when houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and presents were given to children and the poor.”
The influence of the Saturnalia upon the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year appears to still be in force today with:
Mark S. Watson shares in his article:
“ . . . Some of the early church fathers have commented on the exchanging of gifts at Christmas time as being an observance of Saturnalia, a pagan winter festival. The Babylonians had an old fable of an evergreen tree that sprang out of a dead tree stump symbolizing Nimrod, later known among the mystery schools as Tammuz. The Bible makes some reference of these pagan customs and holidays (Jer 10:3-4; Ezek 8:13-14; 1King 14:23). These all occurred during the winter solstice, that is, the time the 'Church' celebrates Christmas.”
I was tempted not to bother researching this one but I decided the post would be incomplete without a reference to Father Christmas and how the tradition started. I am so pleased I did because it really is a heart-warming story.
“The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to put presents in first started! It goes like this:
There was a poor man who had three daughters. The man was so poor that he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't get married. (A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the bride's parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today.) One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.”
“In the 16th Century in northern Europe, after the reformation, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became unpopular. But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, particularly in England, he became 'Father Christmas' or 'Old Man Christmas', an old character from stories plays during the middle ages in the UK and parts of northern Europe.”
Source: Why Christmas
To me it seems apparent that the majority of our festivities stem from Pagan traditions and were included into Christianity in order to convert Pagan followers to one religion. With that being said any traditions that are in alignment with the celebration of Astrology or saluting nature interests me so I do feel slightly more excited about future possibilities of where my Winter Solstice traditions will take me for future years. This is of course such an expansive subject and one I intend on delving into much deeper in the coming months.
I would be curious to hear your thoughts on Christmas.
Do you celebrate it?
Does any of my research make you feel differently about these long celebrated traditions?
Comment below and let me know...
Wishing you joy and happiness this festive season and always!
With love & gratitude,