Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, holly wreaths, decorated trees, mistletoe, season’s greetings, seasonal music, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and Santa Claus are all associated with this holiday. These all bring warm feelings to those who celebrate it. Christmas is thought by most to be a wonderful time, focusing the participants on giving, family togetherness, beautiful music and decorations and feasting on special foods.
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Let’s carefully examine the roots of Christmas.
Nearly all aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. Consider the following admission from a large American newspaper (The Buffalo News, Nov. 22, 1984): “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honoured Saturn, the god of sowing. Saturnalia was a rowdy time, much opposed by the more austere leaders among the still-minority Christian sect. Christmas developed, one scholar says, as a means of replacing worship of the sun with worship of the Son. By 529 A.D., after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday. The celebration of Christmas reached its peak—some would say its worst moments—in the medieval period when it became a time for conspicuous consumption and unequalled revelry.”
Consider these quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, under “Christmas”: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church…The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” Further, “Pagan customs centring round the January calends gravitated to Christmas.” Under “Natal Day,” Origin an early Catholic writer, admitted, “…In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).
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1915 Natal Day Lumsden
The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, adds, “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth…a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western church ordered the feast to be celebrated on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”
There is no mistaking the ORIGIN of the modern Christmas celebration. Many additional sources could be cited and we will return to this later. Let’s begin to tie some other facts together.
It was 300 years after Christ before the Roman church kept Christmas, and not until the fifth century that it was mandated to be kept throughout the empire as an official festival honouring “Christ.”
Previous quotes introduced the subject of the Saturnalia. Let’s carefully study just exactly who Saturn was. Consider the following quote from another large American newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, December 1984: “The Roman festival of Saturnalia, Dec. 17-24, moved citizens to decorate their homes with greens and lights and give gifts to children and the poor. The Dec. 25 festival of natalis solis invicti, the birth of the unconquered sun, was decreed by the emperor Aurelian in A.D. 274 as a Winter Solstice celebration, and sometime (later)…was Christianized as a date to celebrate the birth of the Son of Light.”
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Ruins of the Temple of Saturn (eight columns to the far right) in February 2010,
with three columns from theTemple of Vespasian and
Titus (left) and the Arch of Septimius Severus (center)
Dr. William Gutsch, chairman of the American Museum of Natural History—Hayden Planetarium, further confirmed the original name of Christmas with this quote on December 18, 1989, in a Westchester, New York, newspaper, The Reporter Dispatch:
“The early Romans were not celebrating Christmas but rather a pagan feast called the Saturnalia. It occurred each year around the beginning of winter, or the winter solstice. This was the time when the sun had taken its lowest path across the sky and the days were beginning to lengthen, thus assuring another season of growth.
“If many of the trappings of the Saturnalia, however, seem to parallel what so many of us do today, we can see where we borrowed…our holiday traditions. And indeed, it has been suggested that while Christ was most likely not born in late December, the early Christians—then still an outlawed sect—moved Christmas to the time of the Saturnalia to draw as little attention as possible to themselves while they celebrated their own holiday.”
The Saturnalia, of course, celebrated Saturn—the fire god. Saturn was the god of sowing (planting) because heat from the sun was required to allow for planting and growth of crops. He was also worshipped in this dead-of-winter festival so that he would come back (he was the “sun”) and warm the earth again so that spring planting could occur. The planet Saturn was later named after him because, among all of the planets, with its rings and bright red colour, it best represented the god of fire!
Virtually every civilization has a fire/sun god. The Egyptians (and sometimes Romans) called him Vulcan. The Greeks named him Kronos, as did the Phoenicians—but they also called him Saturn. The Babylonians called him Tammuz (as Nimrod, resurrected in the person of his son), Molech or Baal (as did the Druids). These were all simply the various names for Nimrod. Nimrod was considered the father of all the Babylonian gods.
The above comes from the http://rcg.org/books/ttooc.html website.
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December 25 had already been identified by Sextus Julius Africanus in AD 221 as the day on which Christmas would be celebrated, and it was celebrated in Rome by AD 336. During the Middle Ages Christmas became extremely popular, and various liturgical celebrations of the holiday were established. The practice of exchanging gifts had begun by the 15th century. The Yule log, cakes, and fir trees derive from German and Celtic customs. Christmas today is regarded as a family festival with gifts brought by Santa Claus. As an increasingly secular festival, it has come to be celebrated by many non-Christians.
I have celebrated and enjoyed Christmas my whole life. The only way to differentiate 25th December from any of the other 364 days of the year is to call it Christmas. It is a day when we take the time out (we are forced to by businesses shutting and workplaces having this day as a public holiday) to spend time with those in our lives who are most significant. Families gather from great distances in some cases to share in joyous time feasting and sharing in the love they share. This is a very important custom as the year continues and lives get busy it is sometimes the only gathering that some families have each year where they stop and rejoice in the love and life they share.
We see the lights on the Christmas Tree, the faces of the children embracing the celebration of the day with Santa and the magic that he brings. Celebrating togetherness of family, love, giving, hope and magic - all this can bring warm feeling of love to all those involved. It is in the acceptance of YOU and the celebration that surrounds you that you feel and integrate the true meaning of Christmas.
I wish everyone a joyous day filled with love, just sit with the feeling and allow it to seep into every cell of your being, then carry that love with you throughout the coming year.
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In English-speaking countries, the day following Christmas Day is called 'Boxing Day'. This word comes from the custom which started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago: churches would open their 'alms boxe' (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas. The tradition continues today - small gifts are often given to delivery workers such as postal staff and children who deliver newspapers.