Twelve Christmas Traditions With Pagan Origins

Twelve Christmas Traditions With Pagan Origins

Expat Mamasita, Author

Which Modern Christmas Traditions Have Their Origins in Pagan Festivals?
Do you celebrate Pagan Christmas traditions? Your first instinct would probably be to say “No!”, but I think you might be surprised.

Christmas is a time of year that is steeped in traditions, from the actual day itself to the tree we decorate and the presents we place under it.

Even those people who are not overly religious know that Christmas is a Christian festival, so you would think that it would follow that all the modern Christmas traditions developed as part of early Christian celebrations?

Wrong!

There are lots of Pagan customs in Christianity because early Christians adapted their Pagan customs to fit their new Christian beliefs, hiding their original meanings and giving them new ones.

We can thank the Romans and Celts for most of our modern day Christmas traditions.

The festival of Saturnalia, an ancient pagan holiday which honoured the Roman God Saturn, took place every year between the 17th and 24th December. This was basically a week of eating, drinking and giving presents during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice.

Likewise, the Celts celebrated the fact that the winter solstice had arrived and rejoiced at the fact that the nights were once more getting lighter and spring was only just around the corner.

The early Christian church tried very hard to ban Pagan customs and encourage its converts to follow Christ, but the people were not to be convinced. Winter was a dark and depressing time, and they were keen to keep their winter solstice festivities. Eventually the church realised that they were not going to able to ban all festivities, so they provided their followers with an alternative option, a festival which honoured the birth of Jesus Christ and eventually gave us the Pagan Christmas traditions that we celebrate today.

1) Holly Has Pagan Links
In Roman mythology, holly was the sacred plant of the god Saturn, and to honor him at the Saturnalia festival, the Romans gave each other gifts of holly wreaths.

When Christians began to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they risked being persecuted for their new religion, and to avoid detection, they would place holly wreaths in their houses. As far as passers by were concerned they were celebrating Saturnalia, not Christmas.

Gradually, Christian popularity increased, their customs became commonplace, and holly lost its links to Paganism and became a traditional symbol of Christmas.

Over the centuries, holly has become a symbol for peace and joy, and people often settled disputes under a holly tree.

In Germany, a sprig of holly that was used in church decorations is believed to protect homes from lightning, and in England farmers decorated their beehives with holly because they believed that at the first Christmas bees hummed in honor of the baby Jesus.

These beliefs all contributed towards “decking the halls with boughs of holly” being popular at Christmas.

2) Mistletoe Was Used by the Druids
Mistletoe was revered as a sacred plant by the Celts, the Norse, and the North American Native Americans.

Druids believed that mistletoe could protect against thunder and lightning. Priests would use a golden sickle to cut a piece of mistletoe from an oak tree, catching the branches before they reached the ground. The mistletoe would then be cut into small pieces and distributed amongst the people.

Mistletoe was also a recognized as a druidic symbol of joy and peace. If enemies met each other underneath the woodland mistletoe, they were obliged to put down their weapons and form a truce until the following day.

This is where the custom of hanging sprig ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and kissing under it originates from.

3) The Roman God Bacchus Wore Ivy
In Roman times, ivy was the symbol of Bacchus, who was the the god of wine and revelry. He wore it in his crown, and Pagans believed ivy to be a symbol of eternal life.

Because of the pagan connotations surrounding ivy, early Christians did not use ivy to decorate the inside of their churches, preferring to use it as an outdoor decoration.

It also plays an important part in a traditional English Christmas, but is not so popular in the U.S. The popularity of the Christmas hymn “The Holly and the Ivy” has helped ivy to become synonymous with Christmas time.

4) The Roman’s Made Laurel Wreaths
Laurel or bay leaves were popular with the pagan Romans because the leaves were sacred to Apollo, the sun god.

The ancient Romans used decorative wreaths, made from laurel wreaths as a sign of victory, and it is believed that this is where the seasonal hanging of wreaths on doors came from.

In northern Europe, laurel leaves were not commonplace, and instead evergreen branches were gathered and used to decorate houses at Christmas, either as swags or shaped into wreaths.

Probably the most common evergreen used today is the Christmas tree, whose origins are more Victorian than Pagan, but wreaths and swags still play an important part of our decorating, even though they are nowadays often made from artificial materials.

5) The Pagan God Odin
Despite the fact that our modern day image of Father Christmas has largely been shaped by a 1930s Coca-Cola advertising campaign, he most definitely has Pagan roots.

Children all over the world are told that Father Christmas developed from St. Nicholas, but those people that follow Paganism know there is more to the story than that. There was a Pagan god named Odin, often depicted as a chubby old man with a white beard who wore a long flowing cloak.

It is therefore a combination of these two characters, and a liberal sprinkling of Coca Cola advertising that has resulted in who we now call Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

6) The Romans Gave Gifts at Saturnalia
Despite the fact that our modern day image of Father Christmas has largely been shaped by a 1930s Coca-Cola advertising campaign, he most definitely has Pagan roots.

Children all over the world are told that Father Christmas developed from St. Nicholas, but those people that follow Paganism know there is more to the story than that. There was a Pagan god named Odin, often depicted as a chubby old man with a white beard who wore a long flowing cloak.

It is therefore a combination of these two characters, and a liberal sprinkling of Coca Cola advertising that has resulted in who we now call Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

6) The Romans Gave Gifts at Saturnalia
Wassailing is an ancient custom that is not seen very often today.

The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael,” which translates as “good health.”

The wassail drink was originally made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices, and sugar, and was served from large silver bowls, maybe holding as much as ten gallons.

A modern day alternative to this would be mulled wine, red wine, and spices that is served hot.

8) Pagans Loved Green Leaves and Red Berries
Wassailing is an ancient custom that is not seen very often today.

The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael,” which translates as “good health.”

The wassail drink was originally made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices, and sugar, and was served from large silver bowls, maybe holding as much as ten gallons.

A modern day alternative to this would be mulled wine, red wine, and spices that is served hot.

8) Pagans Loved Green Leaves and Red Berries
Wassailing is an ancient custom that is not seen very often today.

The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael,” which translates as “good health.”

The wassail drink was originally made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices, and sugar, and was served from large silver bowls, maybe holding as much as ten gallons.

A modern day alternative to this would be mulled wine, red wine, and spices that is served hot.

8) Pagans Loved Green Leaves and Red Berries
The yule log is a reminder of the times when European pagans would have bonfires at the time of the winter solstice, thereby symbolising the return of the sun with the days starting to get longer again.

The Yule log played a major role in the Yule festivities, with a piece of the previous year’s log being saved to start the fire the following year.

Traditionally, it was considered unlucky to buy a log and instead it was harvested from the householder’s land, or received as a gift.

Once brought into the house and placed ceremoniously in the fireplace it was decorated with greenery, smothered with alcohol, and dusted with flour before being set on fire. The log would then burn all night, before smouldering for twelve days.

Celtic mythology told the stories of the Oak King and Holly King, with the Oak representing the time from the Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice, and the Holly representing the time from the Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice.

Today, yule logs are often represented by a chocolate covered swiss roll cake, sprinkled with icing sugar to represent the flour that was dusted onto the log before burning, and decorated with small plastic sprigs of holly.

11) A Pagan Holiday Adapted to Christianity
This time around the Winter Solstice was celebrated all over Europe, and as nobody was really sure when Jesus was actually born, early Christians altered their existing Pagan festivities to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In December the sun appears to rise at the same point on the horizon for the three consecutive days beginning on the 22nd and then miraculously on the 25th it appears to move.

Our ancient ancestors watched this and celebrated the fact that the days were now beginnig to get longer and the dark nights shorter.

It is hard for us to understand how important sunlight was to our ancestors, and how it affected their quality of life. Typically people would live and work during daylight hours, so the long and dark winter months must have seemed never ending.

Also, they would have been relying on their store of grains and crops from the previous summer to tide them over until the following year and would be eager to plant new crops and receive some fresh food to eat.

12) Candles Were Used During Saturnalia
Throughout history, candles have been used to ward off darkness and evil.

The first use of candles in December was during the Roman Saturnalia festival, where tall tapers of wax were offered to Saturn as a symbol of his light and also given as a gift to guests.

The Pagans also used candles during their Yule festivities, with candlelight and bonfires being used to welcome the nights beginning to get lighter.

As Christianity became more widespread, candles were put in the front windows of houses in order to guide Jesus as he went from house to house on Christmas Eve.

Published on Holidappy
https://holidappy.com/holidays/twelve-christmas-traditions-with-pagan-origins

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Click, Click Click! Up on the Housetop Lyrics Celebrates 150 Year Anniversary

Click, Click Click! Up on the Housetop Lyrics

 

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Up on the Housetop, the classic Christmas song written by Benjamin Hanby in 1864, with these free printable lyrics.

Up on the Housetop Printable Song Lyrics

Click to download the pdf printable Black & White version Up on the Housetop Pdf.

What are the lyrics to Up on the Housetop?

Up on the housetop reindeer paws
Out jumps Good Old Santa Claus
Down through the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones, Christmas joys

CHORUS
Ho, ho ho! Who wouldn’t go?
Ho, ho ho! Who wouldn’t go?
Up on the housetop, click, click, click
Down through the chimney
with good Saint Nick

First comes the stocking of little Nell
Oh, dear Santa fill it well
Give her a dolly that laughs and cries
One that will open and shut her eyes
REPEAT CHORUS

Next comes the stocking of little Will
Oh, just see what a glorious fill
Here is a hammer and lots of tacks
Also a ball and a whip that cracks
REPEAT CHORUS

What were the original lyrics to Up on the Housetop?

Santa May Not Be Recognized (Original Title, 1864 by Benjamin Hanby)

Up on the house top, no delay, no pause
Clatter the steeds of Santa Claus;
Down thro’ the chimney with loads of toys
Ho for the little ones, Christmas joys.
O! O! O! Who wouldn’t go.
O! O! O! Who wouldn’t go,
Up on the house top, click! click! click!
Down thro’ the chimney with good St. Nick.
Look in the stocking of Little Will,
Ha! Is it not a “glorious bill?”
Hammer and gimlet and lots of tacks,
Whistle and whirligig, whip that cracks.
Snow-white stocking of little Nell,
Oh pretty Santa cram it well;
Leave her a dolly that laughs and cries,
One that can open and shut its eye

150th Anniversary of Up on the Housetop

Up on the Housetop is America’s favorite Christmas song about Santa. Written by church minister, Benjamin Russell Hanby in 1864 for a church sing-along, Up on the Housetop is one of the first entirely secular Christmas songs.

2014 marks the 150 anniversary of Up on the Housetop. Hanby House in Westerville Ohio is on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated United Methodist Landmark. In 2011, the National Park Service also recognized Hanby House as an important Underground Railroad site.

 

–familii

NORAD Santa Tracker 2018: Follow Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve journey to deliver gifts

NORAD Santa Tracker 2018: Follow Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve journey to deliver gifts

The most wonderful time of year is almost here – with just hours remaining until Christmas Day. During the holiday season millions of children count down the days of December and go to sleep on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting the delivery of their gifts from the beloved Santa Claus.

Before the arrival of December 25, children (and adults) can follow Father Christmas’ journey delivering gifts across the globe using the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Google’s Santa trackers.

From the history behind NORAD’s festive role, to finding out what time you can expect an appearance down your chimney, here is everything you need to know about Santa’s route.

Santa’s journey across the globe – in numbers

Once Santa has made his list, checked it twice and finds out who has been naughty and nice, he sets off on his sleigh with his trusty reindeer, travelling an estimated 510,000,000 km on Christmas Eve – approximately 1,800 miles per second.

Christmas Eve is a busy time for Father Christmas as he needs to visit 390,000 homes per minute – or 6,424 per second.

From sherry, mulled wine and beer, to mince pies, gingerbread men and fruit cake, Santa won’t be short of energy during his journey, consuming a total of 71,764,000,000 calories.

With plenty of driving involved throughout the night, let’s hope children choose to leave him non-alcoholic beverages.

Santa’s travel route

Father Christmas’ journey begins in the South Pacific, with his first stop to the Republic of Kiribati, a collection of 32 atolls in the Pacific Ocean.

He will next travel west, delivering presents to those in New Zealand and Australia, followed by Japan.

Santa will then visit Asia, Africa and Western Europe, concluding with Canada, the US, Mexico and South America.

How to track Santa’s journey with NORAD and Google

Throughout the year, the US and Canadian organisation NORAD, monitors aerospace in event of nuclear attack, but on Christmas Eve they turn their attention to monitoring the skies for Santa’s sleigh.

Every year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. On December 24, 1,500 volunteers respond to emails and receive more than 140,000 calls regarding Santa’s exact whereabouts.

The history behind NORAD’s role at Christmas

On a Christmas Eve shift back in 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup answered a call made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) in Colorado Springs, USA.

To his surprise, a young child had phoned the top secret line after finding a newspaper advert about ‘Santa’s Toyland’ from department store Sears, with the number of CONAD, NORAD’s predecessor, printed by mistake.

Colonel Shoup, dubbed “Santa Colonel”, later received multiple calls that night from other children, all looking for the whereabouts of Father Christmas.

He and his fellow call operators  informed the children calling throughout the night of Santa’s exact location. The Santa tracking tradition, later continued by NORAD, was born.

NORAD has carried out it’s Christmas role for over 60 years and since 1997 children across the globe have been able to track Santa’s journey of delivering presents online.

More than 50 years after the night of calls from children, Colonel Shoup’s granddaughter Carrie Farrell, who worked for Google, announced their partnership with NORAD to track Santa in 2007 – although the companies have since parted ways, carrying out their roles separately.

Now, every year, thousands of volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) around the world. As of 2007, search engine Google has also provided an online tracker, in partnership with Norad.

Keep your fingers crossed that when he arrives at your house, he’ll find your name on the good side of that list…

 

–The Telegraph

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Dec. 24: CHRISTMAS FIRSTS: CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS IN AMERICA

CHRISTMAS FIRSTS: CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS IN AMERICA

LEARN ABOUT THE FIRST CHRISTMAS CARD, TREES, AND MORE!
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
When were the first Christmas card, Christmas tree, and department store Santa Claus in America? See when some of these Christmas traditions began!

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS CARD

  • The first American to print and sell Christmas cards was Louis Prang of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who began publishing cards in 1875. It was a British civil servant who pioneered commercially-produced Christmas cards. In 1843 Henry Cole saw that the postal service could help customers send their Christmas greetings. Making dozens or hundreds of your own personalized cards was very time-consuming. Why not make it easier? So he hired an artist named John Callcott Horsely, engaged a printer, and created the first Christmas cards. See below.

 

  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for sending the first “official” Christmas card from the White House. An art print also became the standard Christmas gift for the president’s staff, a practice continued to this day.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE

  • Of course, Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition. However, the first American Christmas tree can be credited to a Hessian soldier by the name of Henrick Roddmore, who was captured at the Battle of Bennington (Vermont) in 1776. He then went to work on the farm of Samuel Denslow in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, where for the next 14 years he put up and decorated Christmas trees in the Denslow family home.
  • The first Christmas tree retail lot was established in 1851 by a Pennsylvanian named Mark Carr, who hauled two ox sleds loaded with Christmas trees from the Catskill Mountains to the sidewalks of New York City.
  • The first president to set up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce, and the first president to establish the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn was Calvin Coolidge.
  • On December 22, 1882, Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, created the first string of Christmas tree lights. They were first sold in New York City.

 

MARTHA’S GREAT CHRISTMAS CAKE

While cakes at the holidays have been around for centuries, it was America’s first First Lady, Martha Washington, who made the first famous Christmas Cake. Below is the exact recipe for celebrating what she called “a true Virginia Christmas” at Mount Vernon:

  • “Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth, start to work four pounds of butter to cream and put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well worked. Then put four pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same way, then put in the yolks of eggs, and five pounds of flower, and five pounds of fruit. Two hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace, one nutmeg, half a pint of wine, and some French brandy.”

HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS…

  • The first department store Santa was James Edgar, who, during Christmas seasons beginning in 1890, would wander about his store (the Boston Store) in Brockton, Massachusetts, dressed as Santa Claus, talking to the children of customers.

 

MORE CHRISTMAS FIRSTS

  • December 7, 1898: The first Christmas postage stamp was released in Canada
  • December 7, 1907: Christmas seals sold for the first time
  • Wednesday, December 1, 1909: The Christmas Club savings account began

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Dec. 24: CHRISTMAS DAY 2018

 

CHRISTMAS DAY 2018

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, FOLKLORE, RECIPES, AND MORE
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac

What is the real meaning of Christmas? Enjoy our Everything Christmas page with Christmas dates, customs, folklore, and beautiful quotes—perfect for a Christmas card!

WHAT IS THE REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS DAY?

Christmas Day is an annual Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Specifically, the meaning of Christmas comes in the remembrance and celebration of God’s presence in our world through Jesus, God-made flesh.

Although the actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown, Christmas has been symbolically celebrated on the 25th of December since the 4th century.

CHRISTMAS DAY DATES

Year Christmas Day
2018 Tuesday, December 25
2019 Wednesday, December 25
2020 Friday, December 25

CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS

Today’s rich mosaic of Christmas customs dates back through the ages. Evergreen branches were first used in ancient solstice festivals to symbolize life, as they stayed green in winter. This tradition was absorbed by Christians, who interpreted the evergreens as the Paradise tree and began decorating them with apples.

The candles and lights associated with Christmas, meant to symbolize guiding beacons for the Christ child, may have evolved from the Yule log, which was lit to entice the Sun to return as part of the jol (Yule) festival in pagan Scandinavia.

 

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, TIPS, AND TRIVIA

  • Learn the origins of some of the most popular Christmas traditions and read about America’s Christmas firsts!
  • Get some tips for taking care of your Christmas tree—including what to do with it after the holidays.
  • Learn about the Star of Bethlehem. Was it a real celestial object or a miraculous vision?

CHRISTMAS RECIPES

Check out our favorite Christmas recipe collections to get inspired for your holiday meals:

. Photo by GreenArt/Shutterstock.

CHRISTMAS CRAFTS

Make your own Christmas decorations this year with these fun and easy holiday crafts:

 

CHRISTMAS WEATHER FOLKLORE

Here at the The Old Farmer’s Almanac, we love our folklore, and so do our readers! A selection of Christmas weather folklore for your perusal:

  • Christmas in snow, Easter in mud. 
  • A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard. 
  • If December be changeable and mild,
    The whole winter will remain a child.
  • Thunder in December presages fine weather.
  • December cold with snow, good for rye.
  • Lengthened winter and tardy spring are both good for hay and grain, but bad for corn and garden.
  • If at Christmas ice hangs on the willow, clover may be cut at Easter.
  • As many mince pies as you taste at Christmas, so many happy months will you have.

 

CHRISTMAS VERSE

Here are some of our favorite quotations. Do any speak to you?

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!

Beggar’s Rhyme

All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good-will henceforth from heaven to earth
begin and never cease
!
Nahum Tate

Granny’s come to our house, And ho! my lawzy-daisy!
All the children round the place ist a-runnin’ crazy!

James Whitcomb Riley

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.
The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart.

Robert Herrick

Hark, how all the Welkin rings,
‘Glory to the King of Kings’;
Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
God and sinners reconcil’d.

Charles Wesley

Holidays Around the World: Christmas Eve Bonfires

Christmas Eve Bonfires

December 22, 23, and 24

The state of Louisiana contains four parishes (the equivalent of counties) called the river parishes, named for their position along the Mississippi River. This cluster of communities, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, forms part of the state’s Cajun Country, a region that has preserved distinctive ethnic traditions. One such community, St. James Parish, has apopular Cajun tradition that takes place during the three days before Christmas in the towns of Gramercy, Lutcher, and Paulina.
According to the festival organizers, the tradition of the Christmas Eve bonfires most likely came from such European countries as France and Germany, the home countries of many early settlers of the St. James area. In those and other European nations, fires commonly marked the Christmas season, as well as St. John the Baptist’s Feast Day Eve on June 23. The tradition of fires on these occasions in turn most likely sprang from pagan rituals marking, respectively, the winter and summer solstices.
The Christmas bonfire tradition in Louisiana dates back to the 1880s. There are several theories about how the current practice originated, but the most common explanation is that the bonfires lit the way for the arrival of Papa Noel, the Cajun version of Santa Claus. After World War II, the bonfire structures expanded into more elaborate creations, taking different forms and reaching 25 feet high.
Once restricted to small fires built by family groups, the tradition now calls for dozens of huge blazes lining the levee for miles along the local River Road. Some residents begin building the bonfires the day after Thanksgiving. In the weeks leading up   to Christmas, local residents work together to collect materials and to construct the bonfires. A bonfire is lit on each of the two days before Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas Eve, nearly 100 bonfires are ignited before a large crowd. Fire chiefs give a signal at 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve (weather permitting) and the fire-
tenders simultaneously ignite the fires. The event draws thousands of revelers to the area for the bonfires as well as a series of pageants, music performances, and cook-offs accompanying the main event.
The local community of Lutcher provides a preview of the Christmas Eve bonfires with an annual Festival of the Bonfires takes place in a public park on a weekend early in December. The three-day event features live music, food, crafts, and carnival rides, as well as the lighting of a single bonfire on each night of the festival. This preview festival celebrated its 18th anniversary in 2007.
CONTACTS:
St. James Parish
P.O. Box 106
Convent, LA 70723
800-367-7852 or 225-562-2266