Christmas Traditions and Their Origins

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“When you gather around the Christmas tree or stuff goodies into a stocking, you’re taking part in traditions that stretch back thousands of years — long before Christianity entered the mix,” according to livescience.com.

Mistletoe

  • It was used by the Druids and was revered as a sacred plant by the Native Americans, the Celts, the Norse, and by the Northern Americans.
  • The Druids believed that mistletoe would protect them from thunder and lightning. It was also recognized as a Druidic symbol of peace and joy.

Laurel Wreaths

  • “Laurel or bay leaves were popular with the pagan Romans because the leaves were sacred to Apollo, the sun god,” according to holidappy.com.
  • Ancient Romans used decorated laurel wreaths as a sign of victory.

Candles

  • “The first use of candles in December was during the Roman Saturnalia festival, where tall tapers of wax were offered to Saturn as a symbol of his light and also given as a gift to guests,” according to holidappy.com.
  • The Pagans also used candles at their Yule festivals, welcoming the nights that were getting lighter.
  • As Christianity became more widespread, Christians put candles in the front window of their house to guide Jesus as he went from house to house.

Winter Solstice

  • In December the sun rises on the same point of the horizon for three days beginning the 22 through the 25 of December.
  • In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated by the feast of Saturnalia, to honor Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty.
  • ¨In Pre-Christian Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasted for 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log,¨ according to huffingtonpost.com.
  • No one really knew when Jesus was born, so the Christians altered the pagan holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ.