As Christmas approaches and we get into the festive spirit I wanted to use the final spotlight of the year to explore the history behind Christmas and where it comes from.
Before the rise of Christianity the winter solace was celebrated by many cultures.
The Norse Men of Scandinavia celebrate Yule from mid December to January. The return of the sun was the main focus of celebration. A large log would be brought home and put on the fire to burn. Feasting would last as long as the log took to burn out. This could sometimes take as long as 12 days!
In the Germanic tribes Oden was celebrated during the winter periods.
During the Roman Empire December was marked by Saturnalia. The Roman god of agriculture Saturn was celebrated. This happened the week before the winter solstice and continued for a month after. It was a period of feasts, drinking and generally having a good time.
The Romans also celebrated the god Mithra on 25th December. The god of the unconquerable sun and a child born of rock. This was a very sacred day to the Romans.
Even when Christianity started to spread and became the official Roman religion Christmas wasn’t celebrated. Easter was the most important religious holiday. Then Pope Julias I decided that 25th December was the birth day of Jesus. This is despite the date not being mentioned in the Bible and spring being a more plausible time.
The day was called the Feast of the Nativity. It spread to Egypt in the fifth century, Britain in the sixth century and Scandinavia by the eighth century.
The celebration of the birth of Christ had now replaced the previous pagan celebrations at this time of year.
In the following centuries traditions of decorating the house with fir trees, wreaths and gift giving became firm elements of celebrating Christmas. The first advent calendar was supposedly created by a Munich housewife in the nineteenth century who was tired of hearing “how long until Christmas”!
Now, every family celebrates Christmas in their own unique way. With the central theme of family celebration and gift giving. Not to mention the Christmas dinner!
What are your Christmas family traditions? Let me know below!