Before people start getting all “Put Christ back in Christmas” like they do every year around this time (with monotonous regularity), maybe we should first understand that Christmas *is* for everyone. YAY!
And that’s because our most beloved holiday traditions originate from pagan religions and *have nothing to do with Christianity.* The winter solstice or Yule (December 21st or 22nd) existed long before Christianity…and so did wreaths. Mistletoe. Holly. Odin/All-Father. Romans giving gifts during the Festival of Saturnia. Wassailing. Green Leaves and Red Berries. Group Singing. The Yule Log. Candles. Flying Reindeer.
That’s right…presents, a Christmas tree, decorating, caroling, and Father Christmas are all pagan in origin. Those naughty pagans had some stellar ideas! Yule was (re)branded Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) by the Catholics, but there’s actually *nothing* in the bible that states Dec 25th as Jesus’ birthday — nor has there ever been any evidence of this date being his day of birth. (Most historians feel it was sometime in the Spring due to the sheep tending schedule.) It’s really just a random day that was chosen to celebrate the birth. Church officials likely settled on the 25th to coincide with existing pagan festivals honoring Saturn and Mithra. That way, it became easier to convince pagan subjects to accept Christianity as the empire’s official religion. The first three centuries of Christianity didn’t celebrate Christmas at all, opting for Epiphany (January 6th) instead.
When Catholics aggressively started their conversion campaign, pagans declined…to put it politely. So, an agreement to blend time-honored pagan traditions with the Catholic version of Christmas was approved. This “convert or kill the infidel” process was actually quite horrible and referred to as “The Dark Ages” – for a reason. Forced conversion, seizure of property or assets, destruction of property and revered grounds, brutal killings, destruction of historical sites and statues, burning sacred texts, and much worse occurred.
Christianity has a long, violent, and bloody history that rivals terrorism. Anything that wasn’t Christian — including science, medicine, and free thought — was deemed heretical and violently suppressed. (Hence why we still don’t know much about religious history.) Goddesses were banned and women were no longer seen as (near) equals in regions where they had been.
The Norse (Vikings) were the last to hold out against conversion and fought mightily. Many are still multi-theistic or Deist pagans and religions such as Asatro, Wicca, and a Druid/Christianity hybrid are still going strong today.
Pagan beliefs tend to align with nature and being a humanitarian rather than prioritizing capitalism or turning to humans instead of Spirit for a connection.
Additional Odd Religious Fact Most May Not Know: In medieval times, priests were able to marry and have children. One day in the year 1139, after the Catholic Church had grown weary of people leaving property and fortunes to the collared ones, marriage was outlawed, current marriages were annulled, and effective immediately, all children were declared bastards. The church became wealthy.
Let’s recap, shall we?
Since there was no Christ in Yule to begin with, and Christmas is just Yule with a different name — nor does this time-frame accurately reflect Jesus’ birthday (according to biblical fact) — this holiday is not just for Christians.
And we should probably stop with the “putting Christ back into it” thing. That just makes people sound ignorant.
But Christ (without the long mass, please…) is most welcome to the party now!
I wrote about this because so many of us believe the history of Christmas IS Christmas…that it’s always been this way. The origin of Christmas/Yule has a rich history with fun, colorful traditions, and many lives were destroyed and lost in order to keep those beliefs going.
We carry on these pagan traditions but aren’t aware of the origins.It’s been buried and hardly spoken of, to the point where people get belligerent when mentioned (NO! YOU ARE WRONG!), truly believing that you’re lying, trying to ruin their faith, or disrespect Jesus. This is not the case at all. This history exists and I think we should learn it, just like we learn about the Holocaust. Tribes and tribes of people were slaughtered because of their religion if they didn’t convert. If that’s not lesson-worthy, I don’t know what is. These are our ancestors.
Oddly enough, the only people I’ve met who aren’t pagan and are aware of the history are Catholics. They must teach it in schools or churches. If so, well done. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Lost history is tragic. It could be us next time.
Have a cool Yule!
April K. Hunter is a television writer, short story author, copywriter, blogger, and primarily writes thrillers and memoirs. She has her B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment and her work appears in a variety of publications, including RxMuscle, Page & Spine, Medium, and European Journal FONT. Her first book, UNDISCLOSED DARKNESS can be found on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.
A model and pro wrestler, she’s currently a part-time superhero at geek conventions, Mother of Chickens, and owned by one spoiled rotten corgi. When not crafting stories, she is learning something new each day or scouring the internet for funny memes while drinking too much coffee.