Christmas Traditions

There are lots of traditions associated with Christmas in this part of the world. There aren’t (m)any that show up in the Bible, so where’d they come from? (No, this isn’t turning into yet another post about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas. There are enough of those out there. Personally, Colossians 2:16.)

The Date

The last article went over the date controversy. December 25 was chosen by a Roman Emperor (Constantine) and ratified by a pope (Julius I) to draw emphasis away from pagan holidays at the same time.

Now, it’s meant to symbolize how Christ is the light of the world (December 25 is about the time when days are noticeably longer than the longest night: December 21) and conquered the darkness of sin.

Decorated Evergreen Trees

These were the special tree of the Viking sun god Balder.

Martin Luther re-purposed them to show the endless life of Christ.

Candles

Romans used candles during Saturnalia (a couple weeks before the current Christmas date) as a gift to the god Saturn.

Now… they represent the light of Christ in the world.

Holly

Druids used holly to represent the continuation of life throughout the winter, when all the deciduous trees go dormant.

Christians use holly to represent the thorns used in the crown at Christ’s crucifixion.

Gift-giving

Gifts were given to royalty, which is why the Wise Guys showed up with gifts. Gifts of (wax?) dolls were given to kids during Saturnalia.

Now we give gifts to remember the gifts given to the Christ by the Wise Guys.

Santa Claus

The fat guy in the red suit? That actually pre-dates the Coca Cola ad that most folks think is the origin. There are magazine covers before that ad that show the modern depiction of Santa Clause in the early 1900s. Further back from that, though, he’s based on St. Nicholas, who gave gifts to gals who had no dowry after their daddy spent the family fortune on goofy stuff.

Yule Log

If you wanted good luck, the Viking men of the house had to find an oak tree big enough to burn for 12 days, and it had to catch fire on the first try.

Now it’s a snack cake shaped like a log.

Mistletoe

In the Roman Empire, meeting under mistletoe was a time to trash old enmities and restore friendships.

Christ took away our enmity with God and restored our friendship with him. … And, unrelated, guys smooch girls they meet under mistletoe.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas…”

That’s a poem by Clement Moore from 1822.

Bells

Bells (and other noisy stuff) were used to scare away evil spirits.

These days, they proclaim good news: church is starting soon, Gospel, marriage, etc.

 

That’s a bunch of them anyway. There are more, I’m sure.

What traditions does your family observe for Christmas?

 

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