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> History Of Christmas, or how secular became religious
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Shadows 
Posted: 16-Dec-2005, 06:36 AM
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With all the current hubbub about Christmas I thought I would post this and the link that follows to show that "christmas" was first celebrated as a secular holiday and then was hijacked to become what it is today.


The History of Christmas

The history of Christmas dates back over 4000 years. Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals(parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, the holiday feasts, and the church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.
Many of these traditions began with the Mesopotamian celebration of New Years. The Mesopotamians believed in many gods, and as their chief god - Marduk. Each year as winter arrived it was believed that Marduk would do battle with the monsters of chaos. To assist Marduk in his struggle the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's festival that lasted for 12 days.

The Mesopotamian king would return to the temple of Marduk and swear his faithfulness to the god. The traditions called for the king to die at the end of the year and to return with Marduk to battle at his side.

To spare their king, the Mesopotamians used the idea of a "mock" king. A criminal was chosen and dressed in royal clothes. He was given all the respect and privileges of a real king. At the end of the celebration the "mock" king was stripped of the royal clothes and slain, sparing the life of the real king.

The Persians and the Babylonians celebrated a similar festival called the Sacaea. Part of that celebration included the exchanging of places, the slaves would become the masters and the masters were to obey.

Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and trolls. As the Winter Solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun.

In Scandinavia during the winter months the sun would disappear for many days. After thirty-five days scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to look for the return of the sun. When the first light was seen the scouts would return with the good news. A great festival would be held, called the Yuletide, and a special feast would be served around a fire burning with the Yule log. Great bonfires would also be lit to celebrate the return of the sun. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.

The ancient Greeks held a festival similar to that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans.

The Roman's celebrated their god Saturn. Their festival was called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. With cries of "Jo Saturnalia!" the celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits).

The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles. Again the masters and slaves would exchange places.

"Jo Saturnalia!" was a fun and festive time for the Romans, but the Christians though it an abomination to honor the pagan god. The early Christians wanted to keep the birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, not one of cheer and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia.

But as Christianity spread they were alarmed by the continuing celebration of pagan customs and Saturnalia among their converts. At first the Church forbid this kind of celebration. But it was to no avail. Eventually it was decided that the celebration would be tamed and made into a celebration fit for the Christian Son of God.

Some legends claim that the Christian "Christmas" celebration was invented to compete against the pagan celebrations of December. The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity's main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturanilia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.

The exact day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas.



Here is a link to another source:

http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/hol...stmas/real.html







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ChocolateFilk 
Posted: 16-Dec-2005, 09:47 AM
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For a history of Christmas in the United States, check out "The Battle for Christmas" by Stephen Nissenbaum.


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Raven 
Posted: 16-Dec-2005, 10:00 AM
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I did a lot of in depth research on this subject and gave it to my sister who is hopefully sending me a copy of the article that I wrote about 15 years ago.

It seemed only to serve to make my Christian friends upset.

But this is the absolute truth Shadows and it always bugs me to see people wanting to keep the Christ in Christmas when it so obviously had nothing to do with Him origionally. In fact according to the Biblical record He was obviously born much earlier in the year because the shepards were still tending flocks out in the open fields, a practice that is/was not done in late December.

Perhaps a better holiday to hijack would have been Halloween smile.gif

Also I saw a thread on how Odin became Santa Claus and thougt it might have been better titled how Silenus became Santa Claus wink.gif

Peace and Goodwill

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gaberlunzie 
Posted: 18-Dec-2005, 02:43 PM
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I agree, Mikel.
The A.C./B.C. system of dating which has been "invented" by a monk in the 6th century isn't very accurate.
Modern scholars say that Christ's birth had taken place 4-7 centuries earlier.
However, it wasn't in December, too...as you said the Bible tells shepherds were still watching their flocks at the night of Christ's birth...they wouldn't have done so in a winter month like December.
Then we learn that John the Baptist ( a cousin of Jesus) was born in March and that Jesus was 6 month younger ... so he would have been born in September.
Another fact is that an census for taxation ( see Luke) has never taken place but in 28 and 8 B.C. and in 14 A.D. and it was for Roman citizens only ...
only a few thoughts here.

In early Christianity celebrations of ANY birthdays had been forbidden as they were considered as Pagan traditions.

During the Protestant Reformation Luther pointed out that there was NO commandment found in the Scriptures to observe Christ's birthday.

English Puritanism was even stricter. Oliver Cromwell campaigned against the heathen practices of feasting, decorating and singing, which he felt desecrated the spirit of Christ. Christmas was called such names as "the Papist's Massing Day" and "Old Heathen Feasting Day". The very word Christmas was viewed as taking the Lord's name in vain. Cromwell's government abolished English Christmas celebration by an act of Parliament in 1647, and the ban was not lifted until Cromwell lost power in 1660. But the tradition of caroling at Christmastime did not resume again in England until the 1800s.

In 1583 the Presbyterian Church suppressed the observation of Christmas in Scotland because there are no biblical references to Christmas celebrations nor any biblical commandments to celebrate the birthday of Christ. The Church of Scotland continued to discourage the celebration of Christmas, which remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958. Hogmanay (December 31) was main day of Scottish celebration.

Modern Jehovah's Witnesses and other fundamentalists still regard Christmas to be an un-Christian pagan holiday, which they do not celebrate.

Most likely the Roman really built the Catholic Church and Christ's birthday intentionally upon pagan celebrations like upon the birthday of Mithras and the festivals of Saturnalia.

You like the custom of kissing under a mistletoe? It's not Christian - like at all..
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to trees, never touches the ground and can bear fruit in the winter. The Druids regarded mistletoe as sacred. The Scandinavians associated it with the goddess of love. Ancient Babylonian legend regarded mistletoe as a divine branch from heaven which was grafted to earthly trees. Mistletoe was a token of peace & reconciliation -- with a kiss symbolizing pardon. Kissing under mistletoe was a Roman custom. The unholy & pagan associations with mistletoe (and the adulterous temptations) caused the church to ban its use and substitute holly wreaths, which could represent Christ's crown of thorns. (Puritans later condemned holly wreaths as a pagan symbol of sun-worship -- the shape symbolizing the sun.)

There are many other examples you could find that Christ isn't in Christmas originally ( I pinched this phrase from you, sorry Raven but I liked it wink.gif ).


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Celtic cat 
Posted: 19-Dec-2005, 01:15 PM
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QUOTE (Raven @ 16-Dec-2005, 10:00 AM)

Perhaps a better holiday to hijack would have been Halloween smile.gif


Actually Halloween is the opposite of Christmas. It is the holiday that has been thought of by many conservative Christians as pagan when it fact it is Catholic. Of course I know a few protestants that think catholics are pagan anyway. Oh sorry off topic...here is a site where I found some good history on All Hallows Eve. Main idea is that All Hallows Eve is the eve of All Saints Day, a holiday much celebrated in Spain.


www.americancatholic.org


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Raven 
Posted: 19-Dec-2005, 01:30 PM
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QUOTE (Celtic cat @ 19-Dec-2005, 01:15 PM)
QUOTE (Raven @ 16-Dec-2005, 10:00 AM)

Perhaps a better holiday to hijack would have been Halloween smile.gif


Actually Halloween is the opposite of Christmas. It is the holiday that has been thought of by many conservative Christians as pagan when it fact it is Catholic. Of course I know a few protestants that think catholics are pagan anyway. Oh sorry off topic...here is a site where I found some good history on All Hallows Eve. Main idea is that All Hallows Eve is the eve of All Saints Day, a holiday much celebrated in Spain.


www.americancatholic.org

Hey Gabby

Gute Tag (I hope that is right smile.gif)

Whew, good info

Hey Celtic Cat (I really like cats BTW smile.gif)
Actually the name is another hijacking just without the same type of hijackint that Christmas is smile.gif

Halloween was predated by the Samhain and the Catholic Church did the same thing with it as they did with Christmas dubbing it All Saints Day in modern times similar to all Hallows or Day of the Dead (still celebrated as such by Spanish speaking people - Dia de Muerte) This particular holiday just failed to take in Christendom beyond the Roman Catholic Church.

The only holidays celbrateed by the early Christians were the Feast of Tabernacles, Passover and.....one other that I am at a loss to remember rignt now.

Slàinte

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Nightchild 
Posted: 21-Dec-2005, 09:06 AM
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Let me just throw in a quick thought...:

Isn't that what happened most of the time?
Pagans were celebrating some feast, christians came, saw and didn't want them to. They tried to make them stop celebrating and failed. And then, because they couldn't make them stop, they invented a new christian holliday with about the same content, invented a nice name and made them slowly celebrate the occasion they thought was better to celebrate if celebrating couldn't be stopped.

I was told once, the only really christian holliday is Pfingsten. I strongly believe that's just a german word... Celebrated somewhen in May usually...
Anyway, noone really knows what they celebrate anyway... They had a servey once. Someone answered it was the day when god died... I believe that's a nice describtion of our world today...
Where was I...?

Oh right. Christmas is the holiday when the birth of a child is celebrated. So was Yul. The celebration of the birth of the new child of light. The will be sun king.
Isn't that about the same?
I believe it is...
As for Samhain, I think it's obvious.

Hope I somehow could stick to the red line of the topic...


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gaberlunzie 
Posted: 21-Dec-2005, 09:28 AM
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QUOTE (Raven @ 19-Dec-2005, 01:30 PM)
QUOTE (Celtic cat @ 19-Dec-2005, 01:15 PM)
QUOTE (Raven @ 16-Dec-2005, 10:00 AM)

Perhaps a better holiday to hijack would have been Halloween smile.gif


Actually Halloween is the opposite of Christmas. It is the holiday that has been thought of by many conservative Christians as pagan when it fact it is Catholic. Of course I know a few protestants that think catholics are pagan anyway. Oh sorry off topic...here is a site where I found some good history on All Hallows Eve. Main idea is that All Hallows Eve is the eve of All Saints Day, a holiday much celebrated in Spain.


www.americancatholic.org

Hey Gabby

Gute Tag (I hope that is right smile.gif)

Whew, good info


Hey and Guten Tag, Mikel...thanks! smile.gif
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gaberlunzie 
Posted: 21-Dec-2005, 09:34 AM
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QUOTE (Nightchild @ 21-Dec-2005, 09:06 AM)
Let me just throw in a quick thought...:

Isn't that what happened most of the time?
Pagans were celebrating some feast, christians came, saw and didn't want them to. They tried to make them stop celebrating and failed. And then, because they couldn't make them stop, they invented a new christian holliday with about the same content, invented a nice name and made them slowly celebrate the occasion they thought was better to celebrate if celebrating couldn't be stopped.


Yes, I'd agree with most you said, Night Child. Pagan holidays have been hijacked by the Roman Church, most likely for the reason you gave here. I don't want to run down Christianity or upset my Christian friends but these are my thoughts exactly.

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Raven 
Posted: 21-Dec-2005, 02:07 PM
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QUOTE (gaberlunzie @ 21-Dec-2005, 09:34 AM)
QUOTE (Nightchild @ 21-Dec-2005, 09:06 AM)
Let me just throw in a quick thought...:

Isn't that what happened most of the time?
Pagans were celebrating some feast, christians came, saw and didn't want them to. They tried to make them stop celebrating and failed. And then, because they couldn't make them stop, they invented a new christian holliday with about the same content, invented a nice name and made them slowly celebrate the occasion they thought was better to celebrate if celebrating couldn't be stopped.


Yes, I'd agree with most you said, Night Child. Pagan holidays have been hijacked by the Roman Church, most likely for the reason you gave here. I don't want to run down Christianity or upset my Christian friends but these are my thoughts exactly.

Very True Gabby and Nightchild with the important distinction being that it was not necesarilly Christians who did the hijacking but specifically the Roman Church. And it was just as you said Nightchild, as a result of the expansion of the Roman Church this is exactly what happened.

As far as the only truly Christian Holiday, that would be the Passover (yes I know it was Jewish first but the entire Christian faith is based on this) THis particular holiday was a double hijacking with the Christian celebration being moved to Easter. Many Christians lost their lives over the hijacking of this holiday at the hands of the Roman Church.

A bit off topic but non the less relevent.

I almost wrote "Guten Tag" Gabby but it has been so long since I studied Deutsch smile.gif

Happy Holidays all!!

Mikel
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stoirmeil 
Posted: 21-Dec-2005, 02:29 PM
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Maybe it's useful to think about the universal human impulse for preserving light in the darkest part of the year and celebrating the return of a life principal that appeared to be disappearing -- so many religions have some way of recognizing that and personalizing or metaphorizing it, so to speak, to fit their own group history. And whether you would say we were given the impulse as a grace, or we evolved it, it's undeniable that we all have it universally to express. In so many diverse ways, the common denominator is the same: the cold and the dark are fearsome, are a kind of death, and the hope of light and heat returning to cradle the fragile life we hold is what all the winter festivals are about.

I really believe that before any of the belief systems we know about, some poor cold individuals who barely had language were feeling this impulse acutely and on the most literal level. Maybe even the capacity to recognize the cycles of seasons as a conscious thing, with memory and expectation, was new and raw and uncertain for them. It's to them my mind goes first in this season, and that level of wonder and gratitude and relief I would have, if I only could.
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