Thursday, December 16, 2010

ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas maybe the most influenced Christian Holiday by ancient religions and mythology  and yet is considered the most sacred after Easter of coarse. You will not hear from Christianity about the dark secretes behind the traditions which are practiced every year at home for this holiday. Nor how it has evolved into the most anticipated Holiday of the year by those who celebrate it and the retailers. The retail industry literally can salvage their entire year because of Christmas. The following is a glimpse of the history behind those traditions:

An Ancient Holiday

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many people rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.


In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside during the 12 days of Yule.

                              Odin and his eight legged horse called Sleipnir

Today they did away with the eight legged horse and made eight reindeer while Rudolph came much later.

Children would place their boots, filled with straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat.

Does this sound familiar to you with hanging stockings near the fire place with a plate of cookies for Santa instead of straw for the reindeer. The difference being that Santa gets to eat, not the Reindeer.

SATURNALIA
 
In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun. Also In Europe Christmas was a time of wine and merriment but the parties were nothing about spirituality. This has its roots in Scandinavia when the winter solstice was a day of celebration since it was the shortest day of the year and was celebrated for 12 days with burning Yule logs, beacon the sun to return. In the 17th century when the Christian church was undergoing a reform they actually banned the celebration of Christmas in England. Christians were just too gluten and vulgar.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithras's birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

MODERN DAY CHRISTMAS

We can attribute much of how Christmas is celebrated today from Clement Moore's Poem. There has been controversy as to who wrote the poem, some say that it was Major Henry Livingston, others say it was an anonymous writer. This poem was also known as "A visit from Saint Nicholas". The inspired much of what is done today at Christmas.

Twas the Night before Christmas Poem
By Clement Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Twas the Night before Christmas Poem
By Clement Moore


SANTA CLAUS AND HOME TRADITIONS


Thomas Nash portrayal of Santa Claus and Christmas at home has greatly influenced the way Christians celebrate today. Note that  none of these traditions have anything to do with the birth of Jesus.  





 Please view the video below for a very interesting interpretation of      Christmas in Norway 










                It was actually Coca Cola who greatly influenced today's image of Santa Claus
 

An image of Queen Victoria's Christmas tree which was a tremendous inspiration for families all over the world to decorate evergreen trees in their home as part of the Christmas tradition .





So~~ while Christmas is suppose to be the celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus, the retail world will have you believe that celebrating Christmas is more like how the ancient mythology did it.  Greeting card companies, retail stores all love the modern day Odin, ~~ Santa Claus with his modern day eight legged horse, ~~ the reindeer and all from the poems and  images as they make much more money than celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child. Oh yes, Christmas seems more magical in the world of Mythology. 

                                    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS

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