So, as the days count down to Christmas. It seems the world is back in the spirit of gifting and shopping for the Turkey to stuff is already the foresight to many people’s agenda but have you ever stopped to think where this celebration originated from.If we go by simply, what we are taught in school, then it’s a Christian celebration and geared towards celebrating the day Jesus Christ was born. However, a little bit of digging into the past and we find that what we are taught in schools is not necessary the truth.
Illegalities of Christmas
The public holiday known as ‘Christmas’ was illegal until in 601 that Pope Gregory I wrote to Melitus (his missionary in England) telling him “not to stop such ancient Pagan festivities” but to “adapt them to the rites of the Church, only changing the reason of them from a heathen to a Christian impulse”. So all those who have been claiming for years that Christmas was, in fact, actually a pagan holiday – you were right and Pope Gregory I handily put it in writing for you.
That said, Christmas also moved around the globe between 900 – 1000 Common Era (C.E.) and was adapted to match their winter celebrations there as well. Christmas evolved slowly and gradually, with no firm mention of it until the mid 11th century, where we actually find the first reference to it. It evolved and changed and grew to become what we now recognise with egg nog and a tree, but it was not without its detractors.
In England, parliament banned Christmas for 12 years from 1647 under Cromwell. That ban was lifted only for it to be imposed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1660. This ban on Christmas, becoming law in many places, lasted until the apparently progressive state of Alabama was the first US state to legalise Christmas in 1836, meaning there was almost 200 years during which it was criminal to celebrate Christmas in the US. Oklahoma became the very last state to make Christmas legal again in 1907 despite the US making it a federal holiday in 1870.
So while you may have known that Christmas was originally pagan festival, you might not have known that in the UK it was made illegal for 12 years and in the US it was illegal for 260 years.
Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later undergoing Christianised reformulation resulting in the now better-known Christmastide. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Today Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking as a synonym for Christmas. Present day Christmas customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule. Today the event is celebrated in Heathenry and some other forms of Modern Paganism. Yule is the modern English representation of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastide”) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”.
Here is an infographic detailing the history of Christmas:
So, if you ever wondered who Santa, Father Christmas, and the elves had to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ or whether when it’s your own birthday, you buy presents for everyone except for the person of whom it is you are celebrating. Then wonder not… because it’s simply another historical story which was hidden under the carpet. Share, Like and Comment #UniDaily