With just a few short days to Christmas, I thought I'd post some interesting stories behind the holiday. The traditions we follow today started somewhere. A tree to celebrate the birth of Christ? A man in a red suit? Stockings? Mistletoe? Here are a few tidbits to explain why we do what we do this time of year.
1. Christmas is the celebration of Christ's Mass, Christ referring to Jesus Christ, a major figure in the Christian religion. Jesus is considered by Christians to be the son of God.
2. In Greek, the letter X (chi) is the first letter of Christ's name. The similarity of the Roman letter X has also led to Christmas sometimes being referred to as Xmas.
3. There's much speculation that Dec 25th is not the date Christ was born. Scholars argue that it's more likely Christ was born in the spring or early fall, according to biblical texts. But because the pagan celebrations were so great in popularity, the Romans adopted them for Christmas. Saturnalia was/is celebrated from Dec 17-25th, and Mithra, a pagan sun god, was also revered during this time.
4. Pagans celebrated the holidays with green boughs, as a symbol of the harvest and prosperity. But the Germans are credited with first using the Christmas tree to celebrate Christianity back in the 16th century. And it's said Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, first added lit candles to the tree., inspired by the bright stars at night.
5. Santa Claus is derived from the name Sinter Klass, the Dutch pronunciation of Saint Nicholas--a Christian saint who when alive, gave selflessly to those less fortunate.
6. A famous story about St. Nicholas concerns the adaptation of stockings into Christmas lore. There was a poor old man who had no money to give his daughters for their weddings. So St Nicholas dropped bags of gold into the stockings they'd hung over their fireplace to dry out. Hence the tradition of hanging stockings out for Christmas.
7. Mistletoe is a plant, an aerial parasite that attaches its roots to its host tree. It's a symbol of peace that originated in ancient times, courtesy of the Druids. Whenever enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to rid themselves of their weapons and observe a truce for a day. This has been adapted to hanging the plant above, and so that those who pass below it must kiss and share in general good will at Christmas time. [There's also the legend of mistletoe killing the beloved Norse god Baldur, which some say has been adapted for the current trend of kissing as well. When Baldur was eventually restored, (the goddess Frigg's) his mother's tears turned into the white berries of the plant, and she kissed everyone who passed under it in her joy.]
Just a few explanations for things we take for granted today. They have an interesting history and these short stories listed above are by no means the only ideas behind why we celebrate the way we do.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Wolf Wanted, coming in Jan 2011