History of Christmas
Although the birth of Christ has never been pinpointed, Christmas has been celebrated on December 25th since as far back as AD 354. Today, we find than many Christmas traditions and festivites (i.e. 12 days of Christmas, yule log, gift giving, etc.) date back prior to the birth of Christ and have origins stemming from many cultures around the world.
The Roman festival Saturnalia began the middle of December and ended January 1st in celebration of the Sun God Saturn. This celebration consisted of masquerades, large meals, socializing and the exchange of gifts called Strenae or lucky fruits. It also included decorating, where many Romans added garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles; referred to as decking the walls.
Each year just prior to the arrival of the winter season, the Mesopotamians believed that their god, Marduk, would do battle with the Monsters of Chaos. To help their god during battle, the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year known as Zagmuk, a festival that lasted for 12 days.
The Babylonians & Persians
The Babylonians & Persians celebrated a festival called the Sacaea. Part of that celebration included the exchanging of places--a slave would become the master and the master would become the salve (would obey the slave).
In Scandinavia during Winter, the Sun would not be seen for many days at a time. The story has been told that after 35 days, scouts would be sent out to look for the return of the sun. Upon spotting the first rays of sunlight, the scout would return with the good news and a great festival would ensue. This festival was called the Yuletide, where a tremendous feast would be held around a fire burning with the "Yule log".
The Early Europeans
Many early Europeans believed in witches and ghosts, which is thought to be a reason why each year, as winter approached and the Sun was less seen, they held special rituals and celebrations to welcome back the sun.
The Ancient Greeks
The Greeks celebrated with a festival similar to that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans.
In the USA, traditional Christmas foods include:
- Prime Rib
- Seasonal Vegetables
Family members who are not able to share Christmas with one another may find that a simple phone call is a good substitute. Calling loved ones allows the sharing of the Holiday Spirit and reflections upon times past.