The OFFICIALunOFFICIAL English Bulldog Mascot

History. It’s FUNDAMENTAL!

In Children's Literacy, Christmas, History, K-12 Education on December 27, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Christmas. A religious holiday. A worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular. Many People believe December 25th actually is Jesus’ birthday!

People celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25, Christmas Day, has only been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870!

But did you know many of these celebrations, traditions and beliefs evolved from cultural and secular or non-religious beginnings that have little or nothing at all to do with Jesus, his birth or even Christianity?

How did all this propaganda and paganism get wrapped up in this cultural, religious and commercial hysteria?

♫”I don’t care what your momma says
Christmas time is nee-ear!
I don’t care what your daddy says-
Christmas time is dee-ear!”

You down wit EBD? Well you know me!  I was curious. So, I did a little diggin’. Here is what I found out.

What is the meaning of the Yule log?
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. Rejoicing over the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs which they would set on fire. 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.

Why is Christmas in winter?
The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. 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.

Santa used to be Scary
In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, 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. Oden, transformed, is Santa Clause.

Or Shop ’til you Drop
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. Saturnalia was a hedonistic (STOP!  Vocabulary Time!) 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 control of the city, business and schools were closed so everybully could join in the fun. Today, this is called “consumerism.”

Epicureanism and Toys fur Tots or How the Pope Stole Mithra
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, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

♫I don’t care if you think it’s a lie-
Christmas will be soon be hee-ere!
I don’t care about the C-I-A
I don’t care what the calendars say!

In the early years of Christianity, the celebration of the Passover was the only main holiday– the birth of Jesus was never celebrated! Later, in the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday, probably to attract more of the Mithra crowd. The Bible does not mention a date of Jesus’ birth. Although some evidence suggests his birth may have occurred in the spring (shepherds be not be herding sheep or sleeping under the stars in the dead of winter), Pope Julius I chose December 25.

Origins of The Christmas Tree
Ancient People believed the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.

Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.

In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

History is fundamental!

Many People don’t even know how these traditions began or even care. They think history is all in the past. But just like then, today, fur ever increasing numbers of  professed Christians, Christmas is less about Jesus and religious reflection, than it is more about travel, family, food, shopping, colorful lights, gift giving, gift receiving and fun.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Goodwill Energies I direct
Toward each and every one of you
Each and every day!

“And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…”

That’s life today.

  1. ThatOne,
    You have a great cool super suit and you are cool and nice to me and Im happy you came to Woodland Park Middle School so i hope you come back soon. Bye 🙂

    • Thanks, Ryan! I am soooo excited to be a part of the Woodland Park School Crew! I LOVE Readers, and I can’t wait to hear YOU read next week. Keep checking in and keep on writing– and reading, and listening, and speaking and thinking. Ciao! ThatOne, EBD.

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