DO YOU KNOW THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH?
Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Jeremiah 10 : 1 - 5.
Its that time of year again; out with pumpkin and in with the tree.
Another tradition that overwhelms the last two months of every year, and sadly enough, rooted deep within the rituals of most major religions world-wide. But, lets take a closer look at those roots, and make-up our minds once and for all whether or not a true child of God should be an active participant with all thats going on.
Winter Solstice celebrations are held on the eve of the shortest day of the year. During the first millennium in what is today Scotland, the Druids celebrated Winter Solstice honoring their Horned God and rejoicing his solar return as the days got longer, signaling the coming of spring. Also called the Yule and the Saturnalia, this tradition still lives today in the Wiccan traditions and in many cultures around the world.
The symbols of those earlier religions - the mistletoe, the holly, the pentagram, the evergreen tree, the Yule log, the wreath, and the fertility colors of red and green - have survived and been incorporated into the iconography of current Christmas celebrations.
Images of Father Christmas date back to prehistoric cave drawings in Lascaux, France. He appeared as Pan Pangenitor to the ancient Greeks, and as Cernunnos to the Celts, and as numerous other horned or antlered fertility deities across Europe. On the eve of the Winter's Solstice, he was believed to impregnate the cold, dead Earth Mother, so that she may resurrect and give birth to new, green life in the spring.
The celebration of the Solstice was officially forbidden by the Christian Church, but continued on among peasants and nobles nonetheless. Finally, in the Fourth Century, Pope Julius I acquiesced and created the holiday we now know as Christmas, substituting the birth of Jesus (which most historians have placed in September) for the veneration of the Pangenitor in an attempt to transform the pagan holiday into a Christian one. Still, the figure of the Horned God survived into the character we today know as "Santa Clause," the "Old Man of the North," the ancient, furry, man in red who is borne aloft by a team of horned bucks and "delivers the goods" to the entire planet in one magical night."
THE REAL HOLIDAY
Just how Christian is Christmas? Not as much as you think. In fact, not much at all...
CHRISTMAS : A Christian festival, named after Christ's mass, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Anyone knows that. Slightly more savvy people are aware that Christ wasn't born in 1 AD and also know Christmas is actually a cleaned up version of old rituals. But that's not the half of it. In fact, Christmas is utterly Pagan!
For a start, there is no evidence that Christ was born at Christmas. Shepherds would not have had their flocks out in the fields in midwinter, even in Palestine. Nor would the Romans have ordered a census in the winter, the most difficult time of the year for travel.
As for the 12 days of Christmas, that's traditionally the time it took for the three wise men to arrive at the stable in Bethlehem. The fact is that the Roman celebrations around the winter solstice (December 21st), starting with the feast of Saturnalia and ending with the Sol Invictus festival, also lasted 12 days. All over the world, the solstice is connected with rebirth, so it made sense for the early Christians to tag on their own ersatz birth-celebration to one that was already around.
Now, take Santa Clause. "Santa Clause" is "Saint Nicholas" mispronounced, and Saint Nick is the patron saint of children - as well as merchants and pawnbrokers, which seem rather apt. So how did Saint Nick, who lived in Turkey, end up at the North Pole, driving a sleigh full of reindeer?
It's claimed that part of the story goes back to the Norse god Odin, who also gave cash to the poor, and who used to ride across the sky. And there's Cernunnos, the Horned God who led the Wild Hunt, chasing souls through the night sky. Or Freya, another Norse deity, who was supposed to spend the twelve days after the winter solstice driving a chariot pulled by stags, giving presents to the good and punishing the naughty. Whichever of the ancient legends you choose, one thing's for sure: Father Christmas is as Pagan as they come!
He first appeared as a fat bearded bloke in a fur coat in a poem written in 1822 by Clement Moore and a picture drawn by Thomas Nast in 1860 - up to then he'd been anything from a skinny elf to a thinly disguised version of Cernunnos dressed in green. When in 1931 the Coca Cola company wanted a figure to represent their drink around the world, they commissioned artist Haddon Sunblum to paint a fat, jolly, human Santa in their corporate colors of red and white, and the rest is history (and marketing).
But red and white is also the colour of the fly agaric mushroom, a powerful hallucinogen from northern Europe, where it's a favorite food of reindeer. It used to be a big part of pre-Christian shamanic rituals, and is said to have formed from the specks of blood and spittle that fell from the mouth of Odin's horse as he galloped on (ta daaaa!) the winter solstice! And Christmas poet Clement Moore was an expert on European folklore. That's no coincidence.
Christmas was never a celebration of Christ's birth - there's nothing in the Bible to say that Christ's birth should be celebrated at all, and it wasn't until 375 AD that the Church fixed it's date. Instead, it was a way of twisting old beliefs to Christianity's advantage, making more converts for what was then the new faith on the block. Roman historians realized this: in 230 AD Tertullian wondered why the Christians were so willing to dilute their beliefs with Pagan "superstitions".
CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS : THE SHOCKING TRUTH!
MISTLETOE : Has no Christian significance. It's an ancient Druid fertility symbol, and people used it to do a lot more than kiss under it.
HOLLY : Supposedly something to do with Christ's crown of thorns, but in fact a lot more to do with the god Saturn and the old Pagan Holly King.
CHRISTMAS TREES : Evergreen trees were a potent symbol of life in the dark winter days. Decorating them was a way of making offerings to the tree's spirit.
PRESENTS : From the Roman feast of Saturnalia, integrated into Xmas in 375 AD when the church first set Christ's birthday as December 25th.
YULE LOGS : A Scandinavian tradition, where an oak log was kept burning for 12 days, and a piece of it saved to light the next year's log. "Yule" is named after Ullr, the Norse god of winter.
BOOZE : the old Greeks celebrated the death and rebirth of Dionysus, the god of wine and wild revelry, for 12 days at the winter solstice. Dionysus's parents were Zeus and Hera. When he was killed by the Titans, he was brought back to life and ascended to Mount Olympus. Does this remind you of anyone?
Yup. Just like Christmas, and several other customs and traditions of Christianity, many pagan holidays and customs were absorbed and - changed - by the Church. As one major example, December 25th was the supposed birthday of Mithra, who was supposedly born of a virgin, and visited by Magi! Incidentally, the word "Magus" is the singular of "Magi," it means "Zoroastrian priest," and is the root of our word "Magician." Mithra raised the dead and healed the sick and cast out demons. He returned to heaven at the spring equinox and before doing so had a last supper with his 12 disciples (representing the 12 signs of the zodiac), eating mizd, a piece of bread marked with a cross (an almost universal symbol of the sun). Any of that sound familiar?
All Saint's (Hallows) Day was first introduced in the 7th century CE, and was originally on May 13, and then apparently moved to February 21. It was changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory in 835.
There is also a Jewish festival near that date: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights (another solar reference) which occurs on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, approximately in December by the Roman calendar, and the Zoroastrian Yalda, the celebration of the victory of good over evil. The Christian holiday was not always celebrated on December 25th, however. For the first three hundred years of the current era, there was no festivity of the birth of Jesus. Some churches celebrated Jesus' birthday in the spring time and some celebrated it on January 6 (Epiphany).
Early in the fourth century, the Roman Catholic church decreed that December 25 would henceforth be recognized as the birthday of Christ. The Eastern churches refused to accept Christmas until 375 C.E., and the churches in Jerusalem rejected the December 25 date until the seventh century. There are still some Eastern Rite churches that continue to celebrate the Epiphany date. The Pilgrims outlawed Christmas. They also refused to use the 1611 King James Bible! The Winter Solstice was the season of a major celebration of fertility in ancient Rome called "Saturnalia," starting on December 17th. This honored the "good old days" when the god Saturn ruled a supposed "Golden Age", and there were no masters and no slaves, and everything was easy. Thus, it became a reversal-holiday, when the masters served the slaves, and a slave was chosen to temporarily rule the household. The Romans were civilized enough to not kill him afterwards, as seems to be the custom with such holidays in more primitive cultures. They also exchanged presents, were allowed to gamble in public, and in general had a good time. It was the greatest holiday of the year. It should come as no surprise then that the Christian Church co-opted this seasonal holiday, celebrated by the city that ruled the world - and - celebrated by Christianity's major competitor (Mithraism). It was simply a very astute political move.
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century wrote: "On this day also the Birthday of Christ was lately fixed at Rome in order that while the heathen were busy with their profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their sacred rites undisturbed. They call this (December 25th), the Birthday of the Invincible One (Mithras); but who is so invincible as the Lord? They call it the Birthday of the Solar Disk, but Christ is the Sun of Righteousness."
This custom of the "Feast of Fools" was continued in medieval Western Europe, with a "Lord of Misrule," mummers doing traditional plays, feasting with a boar's head, games, dancing and other such merriment. This could last for more than just Christmas Day, going on until at least Epiphany (January 6th) in many cases... these are our "Twelve Days of Christmas."
Christmas even started out controversially in North America. Reverend Rel Davis writes, The festival of Christmas has always been a controversial one in Christianity. The Puritans banned Christmas altogether and during the Cromwellian period in England, anyone celebrating Christmas was jailed for heresy. Probably the most hated of all Puritan laws was the one abolishing Christmas and probably led to popular acceptance of royalty (nb: the Restoration) - at least the King allowed the masses to celebrate Yule!
In America, Christmas was generally outlawed until the end of the last century. In Boston, up to 1870, anyone missing work on Christmas Day would be fired. Factory owners customarily required employees to come to work at 5 a.m. on Christmas - to insure they wouldn't have time to go to church that day. And any student who failed to go to school on December 25 would be expelled. Only the arrival of large numbers of Irish and northern European immigrants brought acceptance of Christmas in this country. Christmas did not even begin to be a legal holiday anywhere in the United States until very late in the nineteenth century, with Alabama being the first state to make it so.
Now let's look at some Christmas customs:
The name "Yule" is not derived from Chaldaean, as some would have you believe, but rather from the Old Norse "Jol" or "Jul" thru Anglo-Saxon "Geol" to Middle English "Yule." It means "Winter Solstice," or "Christmas." It is found in the Germanic languages, but not in any of the Romance languages like French, Spanish and Italian, who have names for Christmas that mean closer to "The Birthday" than anything else. There is, of course, no connection linguistically between Chaldaean and the Germanic languages or with the Romance languages either, for that matter.
There are also some folks thundering against the use of the abbreviation "Xmas" as being "against Jesus." This usage derives from a common medieval abbreviation for "Christ" using a Cross rather than the name. This was most common in signatures, and thus you would see a signature of "Xtoph" rather than "Kristoph." It is simply an abbreviation, and nothing more.
The name "Christmas" derives, of course, from Middle English "Cristes mæsse" or "Christ's Mass," that is, the Roman church's standard ritual celebration.
The night before Christmas Eve was called "Modranect" or "Modranecht" by the Germanic pagan peoples (this seems to be Old English / Anglo-Saxon, and apparently means "Mother's Night"). This is obviously in honor of the Mother Goddess who bore the solar Child of Promise.
The Magi, or the Three Wise Men were, in antiquity, priests of Zoroastrianism and reputed to be expert Magicians and astrologers. Mithraism is associated with Zoroastrianism much like Christianity stems from Judaism. The "Three Kings" bits are a later interpolation, and there may very well be a "Triple God" aspect slipping in here from folk-memory, too.
The Yule Log is pretty obvious. Sympathetic magic, with its rule of "As in Heaven, so on Earth" (a re-stating of the more usual wording of 'As above, so below") means that to have a blazing fire on earth would encourage the sun to grow stronger. Therefore, the Winter Solstice is a "fire festival," with bonfires and Yule logs being lit to "help" the sun grow stronger between then and Midsummer. It also served a more practical purpose of warming up the home during a cold night in which many people stayed awake for much longer than they usually did.
Mistletoe is an old Celtic symbol of regeneration and eternal life. The Romans valued it as a symbol of peace and this eventually led to its usage as one of the common symbols of Christmas. Kissing under mistletoe was a Roman custom, due to its' being regarded as a symbol of fertility. We also find the mistletoe figuring in the Norse story of Balder, and in medieval legend as the wood from which the Cross was made which was probably derived from the Balder story, as it was a twig of mistletoe that killed him. It was considered a protection against evil, the devil, and witchcraft and, when laid on the altar of a church (as done as late as the 18th Century CE at York cathedral in England) signified a sort of general amnesty. Many primitive societies, such as the Ainu of Japan and the Wallas of West Africa also regarded the mistletoe with veneration. During the "Druid craze" (an interest in alleged "Druidic customs", mostly entirely spurious) of the 18th and early 19th Century CE, the Church began to distrust mistletoe as a "pagan" plant and banned it from the churches. This is curious in view of the old legends that the plant was the wood used for the Cross, the "sanctae crucius lignum," called the "l'herbe de la croix" in France. Supposedly it was once a strong tree, but it's use for the Cross degraded it! Does all of this sound far-fetched?
Now-a-days, the true meaning of christmas does not, of course, involve Christ, in any way, shape, or form. Christmas is celebrated at home, in school, and more often than not, at work. For those who refuse to participate, it is a decision that generates disdain amongst peers and relatives. Yet the way of the heathen is made more apparent than ever as we look at the origins of these customs popularized by the church. Sure, a lot of it is marketing, but its marketing by the church as well, and its an event created by the evil schemes of Satan; christians practice paganism while thinking they are doing God a service! Lucky devil! The way of the heathen has been gift-wrapped and delivered under the mantle of religion, and this ungodly gift has been accepted despite Gods warning. From Rudolph to fruit cake, the pleasures of a season run rampant as the world drags the Son of God into their socials. The gift of God is eternal life, and its now up to us to decide from whom we should receive, and what gift we should choose.
Part of this text is : © copyright 1997 W.J. Bethancourt III, and has been edited for length.