Christmas Traditions and where they Came From

Christmas

Christmas is just a couple of days away, and everyone knows that the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Christ, but did you ever wonder where some of the strange customs that most people take for granted come from?

Christmas evolved from Saturnalia, the Roman festival honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture on winter solstice.

With the Pagan celebration in full swing, it was natural to celebrate Christ’s birth on the same day. Many writers have given reference to December 25 with Christmas being celebrated as early as the 4th century. Although Christmas is on the 25th, no one knows the exact date or even what year Jesus was born. Some researchers believe that Christ was actually born during the spring.

Gifts

The tradition of giving gifts is said to come from the three wise men delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn King, however, the true origin of exchanging gifts goes back much further with children being given wax dolls during Saturnalia. The dolls represented human sacrifices that the Romans gave Saturn in return for a good harvest. Plants and trees were also given to represent a good bounty for the year.

X-Mas

Although some believe that the, “X,” was a commercial way to take Christ out of Christmas, that couldn’t be further from the truth. X is the Greek letter for Chi, which is the first letter of Christ in Greek. Jesus name was abbreviated to XP, the combination of both the first and second letters for Christ in Greek.

Stockings

Although most know that Saint Nicholas was the early Santa Clause, stocking stuffing goes back to the charitable donations of Saint Nicholas himself back in the 3rd century. Saint Nicholas believed that children should enjoy life, but at the time, girls and boys under the age of 10 were forced to support their families.

Saint Nicholas gave food, furniture, and clothing. The bishop even handed out oranges, which were very expensive and quite rare. The problem was where to put the gifts so that the boys and girls would be able to find them. According to legend, the bishop saw the girl’s stockings hanging from the fireplace after being washed and thought, why not? From that point on, children would hang their stockings on the fireplace hoping for a visit from Old Saint Nic.

Mistletoe

The parasitic plant, which attaches itself to tree branches absorbing nutrients from the tree trunk have been inspiring generations with the plant having a mythological background in many cultures.

Aeneas, the famous Greek ancestor of the Roman people carried mistletoe in a golden bough while in Eddic mythology; mistletoe was the only thing that would kill the Norse God Baldur. Other pre-Christian societies believed that mistletoe carried the male essence and was an extension of vitality, fertility, and romance.

Mistletoe was used as a decoration to protect homes from lightening and fire and was hung year round replacing it each year at Christmas time. Although no one really knows where the kissing came from, it was first recorded back in England in the 16th century.

Merry Christmas from Knoxweb!