Is Christmas Satanic or what?
Christmas is traditionally the celebration of the birth of Christ, or nativity (from the Latin nasci, to be born), practiced since the third century A.D. (earlier Christian practices did not include the celebration of Christ's birthday, since birthdays were a pagan ritual). Originally a simple festival, it was later set to coincide with the winter solstice (Brumalia), the birthday of the Roman sun god Solarus, and the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, celebrating the god of agriculture, Saturn. During Saturnalia, all of Rome would be decorated with boughs of laurel, wreaths, flowers, and shrubs. Evergreens were used for household decorations and in processions as a symbol of eternal life because they did not die in the winter. (The use of evergreens as Christmas decorations was banned in the sixth century due to its association with pagan festivals.) Bonfires were believed to regenerate the sun god as he returned from his winter home. The common practice of the time, known as the Festival of Kalends, was to take time off of work and exchange lavish gifts and to give presents to children and the poor. Another practice was to elect someone to rule over the holiday sports and allow servants to exercise the perogatives of their masters (one that has been affiliated with the Abbot of Misrule and the Feast of Fools). These practices were rites of the official Roman religion of the time, known as Mithraism (after the Roman god of light, Mithras). Not long after this, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the Christian Church was faced with the task of converting not only Roman citizens, but their holidays to Christianity. Since then, the Christmas holiday has adopted several traditions from different cultures. During the Middle Ages, it became the biggest celebration of the year, blending pagan practices with Christian devotion.
The Christmas season includes the observance in some churches of Advent Sunday on the last Sunday in November, the Immaculate Conception (of Mary) on December 8, Childermas on December 28, and the Feast of the Circumcision (of Jesus) on January 1. For some Roman Catholics, December 16-24, known as the Nine Days Before Christmas, represents the nine months Mary was pregnant with Jesus.
Christmas is generally observed on December 25, a date established sometime in the fourth century by the Western Church, and of which many attribute to the birthday of the Persian god Mithra, adopted by the conquering Romans, whose mythical life bore many similarities with that of Christ. It is also the birthday of several other major pagan gods, including the Egyptian gods Osiris and Horus, the Greek god Hercules, the Syrian god Adonis, the Roman god Dionysus (Bacchus), the Babylonian god Tammuz, the Vedic god Indra, the Celtic god Cernunnos, the Phrygian god Attis, and the Norse gods Thor and Frey, just to name a few. It is doubtful that Christ was actually born on this day, and argueable that he was born during this season (some scholars and early Church fathers estimate his birth sometime in the spring). The Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on January 6, the day they believe Jesus to have been baptized. The English word Christmas (Old English Cristes Maesse, "Christ's Mass") was first used in the eleventh century. In Germany it is Fr�che Weihnachten (Happy Holy Night), in France it is No� in Spain it is La Navidad (The Nativity), in Italy it is Il Natale, and in the Norse and Anglo-Saxon winter solstice it is Yuletide (turning time of the sun). The condensed term "Xmas" may be traced to the Greek word for Christmas, Xristos, which was shortened to Xmas and made popular in Europe in the sixteenth century. The Protestant Reformation suppressed the Mass during Christmas and in England the Puritans condemned the celebration of Christmas altogether. Pilgrim settlers in America suppressed Christmas for nearly two centuries and it was not until the nineteenth century that German, Irish, and Dutch immigrants to the U.S. revived many of its festivities.
The Christmas tree can be traced as far back as the the Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia, during which time green trees were decorated with trinkets and lit with candles to ward off hovering spirits of darkness. The Druids, who worshiped nature and whose practices predate those of the Romans, also decorated trees with candles and fruit for their winter solstice on December 21. In modern Christian tradition, however, they do not appear until the eighth century in Germany, when they were decorated with apples and used to symbolize the tree of paradise in the garden of Eden (Paradeisbaum) as a prop in mystery plays. When these biblical plays were suppressed, the trees of paradise were used in homes and decorated with cookies, fruit, and candles (Tannenbaum). From there, the domestic practice spread to other Eurpoean countries, to England in 1841, then to America in the nineteenth century by German immigrants, where it became customary to display them publicly. (Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British during the American Revolution in the seventeenth century celebrated Christmas with Christmas trees, although it did not catch on in America because Christmas celebration was against colonial law at the time.) The first White House Christmas tree was erected in 1856 by President Franklin Pierce. The first commercially manufactured tree ornaments were sold by Woolworths in 1880. The first light bulb designed specifically for a Christmas tree was made in 1882 by the Edison Electric Company. Various other myths and traditions attribute the Christmas tree to such individuals as Winfried of England (Boniface), who cut down the sacred Oak of Geismar in the black forests of Germany during the Crusades (a tree where people were sacrificed to Thor), and immeditaely a fir tree grew from it which Winfried identified as the tree of Christ. He then used the triangular shape of the fir tree to explain the Trinity. As this legend goes, by the twelfth century the fir tree was hung upside down from ceilings in Europe during Christmas time as a symbol of Christianity. Martin Luther is also credited with the first Christmas tree on Christmas Eve of 1519, when he supposedly cut down a fir tree on a starry night and brought it into his home for his family to admire, then decorated it with candles in memory of the stars above Bethlehem. The earliest written accounts of the Christmas tree are from Germany in the early seventeenth century. It can therefore be ascertained that the Christmas tree originated as a fir tree somewhere in Germany.
The twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas day (December 25) and Epiphany (January 6), the day the wise men supposedly appeared with their gifts. Traditionally, gifts were given on each of these days. The nativity scene is believed to have been started in Greccio, Italy, by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223, when on Christmas Eve he arranged a live nativity scene with actors and the crib of Jesus as the central figure. These live nativity acts became popular in the Middle Ages, later to devolve into the stationary nativity scenes of today. Although the nativity scenes depicting the birth of Christ include the three Magi (wise men or magicians, most likely Near Eastern astrologers or Zoroastrian priests), they did not actually show up in Bethlehem until about one or two years later (Matthew 2:1-18). It is also not known for certain how many wise men arrived -- it's assumed that there were three only from the three kinds of gifts that are mentioned. Giving gifts at Christmas is often attributed to the giving of the gifts to Jesus by the wise men, although it can be traced back to the Roman Saturnalia where the giving of gifts on New Year's Day continues to be practiced in many European countries. In Germany, gifts are known as Christ-bundles and believed to be delivered by Christkindlein, or the Christ child (of which Kriss Kringle is a derivation).
Mistletoe was forbidden by the Catholic Church until the twentieth century due to its use in idolatrous pagan rituals. Instead, it promoted holly (which, coincidentally, was also used in pagan rituals), the pointed leaves of which symbolized the thorns in the crown of the crucifixion and the berries as drops of Christ's blood. Tradition maintains that the holly wreath originated from Christ's crown of thorns, although they can be traced back to the Roman Saturnalia, where they symbolized eternal life and were exchanged as gifts (Christians wishing to avoid persecution would reportedly hang a holly wreath on their door). As a poisonous, parasitic plant that grows on the bark of trees, one French tradition holds that mistletoe was growing on the tree used for the cross of Christ and, because of this, was cursed with poison and denied a place to grow on earth. Roman tradition held that enemies who met under mistletoe in the forest had to disarm and observe a truce until the following day. The ancient Druids of Britain believed that mistletoe had miraculous powers and used mistletoe sprigs to keep themselves safe from storms and evil spirits. Another association of mistletoe is with the Scandanavian goddess of love and beauty, Freya (or Frigga), whose son Balder, according to myth, was killed by its poison. Freya's tears changed the red mistletoe berries to white, raising Balder from the dead. From then on, she would kiss anyone who walked under mistletoe in gratitude for her son's life. According to the legend, a man could kiss any young girl unaware that she was standing under mistletoe. As for its traditional Christmas use, a berry is to be removed each time a man kisses a woman underneath the mistletoe. Once the berries are gone, the kissing is over and any single woman not kissed will remain unmarried for another year.
Poinsettias became associated with Christmas in 1828, when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, imported the winter-flowering plant to the United States. In Central America, it is known as the flower of the Holy Night.
The Yule log originated from Germanic tribes as part of their winter soltice celebration. In medieval times, the log was selected on Candlemas Day (often a large stump or root) and dried out until the following Christmas eve, when it was kindled with the unburnt part of the previous year's Yule log and burned for twelve consecutive hours.
Christmas lights can be traced back to the Roman Saturnalia, when houses and buildings were decorated with candles. Tradition, however, traces it to Ireland in the Middle Ages during times of religious suppression, where candles were placed in windows on Christmas eve to guide priests to the house in order to celebrate Mass there. This practice was brought to America by Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century and has progressed into the custom of decorating houses and buildings with lights.
Urban myth teaches that the candy cane was designed by a Christian candy maker in America as a witness for Jesus. The shape represents not only a J for Jesus, but a shepherd's staff, while the white represents the Virgin birth and sinless purity of Christ, the thin red stripes symbolizing the whip marks on Jesus' back (three represent the Trinity), and the thick red stripe his blood shed on the cross. It's also hard because Jesus built his Church on a rock and flavored with peppermint like cleansing hyssop. This story has not been substantiated and Christmas cards from the nineteenth century depict candy canes of solid white. It is more than likely that they were made as they are in order to hang them from trees as ornaments, since food was the primary decoration for Christmas trees before manufactured ornaments. Another tradition from France teaches that hard candy sticks were made with hooks to look like shepherd's crooks specifically to quiet children in the choir at the live nativity at the Cathedral of Cologne in the seventeenth century. (This story has the support of Bobs Candies, the first and largest mass producer of candy canes since the 1950s.)
Santa Claus can be traced directly to Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the fourth century, who had a reputation for kindness and generosity especially towards children (himself an orphan), of whom many churches have been named, whose remains and relics are located in the Basilica de San Nicola in Bari, Italy, and whose feast day is December 6. In medieval times, St. Nicholas was regarded as the patron saint and guardian of children (he had reportedly brought back to life the dismembered bodies of three youths). The association of Saint Nicholas with Christmas is due primarily to the Catholic Church, which is why it was suppressed during the Protestant Reformation by those opposed to the veneration of saints. It was introduced into America in the seventeenth century by Dutch immigrants, who called him Sinter Klaas (or Sinterklaas, Dutch Sint Nikolaas) and celebrated his feast day with festive sports and gifts for children. The image of Sinter Klaas in Holland to this day is one of a bishop in medieval bishop's attire (traditionally red and white), however, in America he has evolved into a red fur suit and an image more appealing to children largely based on Washington Irving's "History of New York" (or the "Knickerbocker History") in 1809, the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas (originally "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas") by Clement C. Moore in 1822 (published in 1823), and artist's renderings such as engravings by Thomas Nast published in Harper's Weekly between 1863-1886 and paintings by Haddon Sunbolm for the Coca-Cola Company from 1931-1964. Santa Claus is the English variation of Sinter Klaas, whose image today was established in the U.S. by about 1860. In England, he is known as Father Christmas. In France, he is P� N� In Germany, he is Weihnachtsmann, or Christmas man. In Poland, he is Star Man. In Czechoslovakia, he is Svaty Mikulas. In Iceland, he is Jola Sveinar. In Scandinavia, he is Joulupukki (originally the Yule goat). In Norway, St. Nicholas was assisted by Kriss Kringle, whose sleigh and reindeer could glide miracuously over house tops (suggestive of Odin's white horse Sleipnir, which had eight legs and was the fastest in the world). In Italy, children receive gifts from La Befana, the good witch. This good witch in Russia was formerly known as Babouschka, now revered as Grandfather Frost.
According to one popular tradition, the original Saint Nicholas left gold coins in stockings belonging to three poor girls who needed dowry money for their weddings. The stockings were hung by the fireplace to dry and St. Nicholas dropped the pouches of gold down the chimney, which landed inside the stockings. In some countries, gifts are left in childrens' shoes. Lumps of coal for naughty children have descended from traditional whips and birch switches in some Eurpoean countries, which come from Nordic folklore of a magician who rewarded good children but punished naughty ones. In other Eurpoean traditions, he traveled on a white horse with a scarey, dwarf-like helper named Pelznickel (a.k.a. Belsnickle, "Nicholas with furs"). In Germany, Knecht Rupprecht (Knight Rupert) makes his rounds ahead of Christmas man to frighten and threaten naughty children with punishment. Santa's helpers were originally dark-skinned Moorish slaves from Spain, known as "black peters" (named after his lead slave, Black Peter). Later tradition adopted the Scandinavian folklore of gift-giving elves. Perhaps one of the greatest modern boosts to the inspiration of Santa Claus and the giving of presents came from commercial marketing during the mid-nineteenth century in the industrialized United States. During this time, Christmas in the poor neighborhoods of larger cities, predominantly New York, was celebrated with reckless abandon, bonfires, and riots. A practice which immigrated from England, one person was elected Lord of Misrule and, in the spirit of the Roman Saturnalia, festivities included taking possessions from the rich by the underclass, often resulting in the looting and vandalizing of affluent neighborhoods. In order to bring civil accord, department stores enlisted the aid of the character of Santa Claus and promoted the ideal of a peaceful Christmas at home with gifts for the families of all classes. (England experienced the same problems in the seventeenth century during Protestant suppression of Christmas until King Charles II revived the celebration of Christmas and brought peace to the nation during this time of the year.)
Some associate Santa with Satan, claiming that through Santa Claus the devil is attempting to steal Christmas from Christ. One of the origins of this belief is the fact that St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors (he had supposedly calmed a storm and resurrected a dead sailor). Some historians do not believe that St. Nicholas was an actual, historical figure, but rather a mythical person adapted from various pagan gods, such as the Teutonic god Hold Nickar (Greek Poseidon), which was a powerful sea god who galloped through the sky during the winter solstice, spreading blessings to his worshipers. The Western Church associated Hold Nickar with the devil, dubbing him "Old Nick," a similar nickname to Santa's "Old St. Nick." Another explanation of the Dutch Sinter Klaus claims as its origins the Scandinavian god Thor, who lived at the North Pole and whose nickname was "Klaus of the cinders" or Sinter Klaus, so named because the tradition holds that the altar of Thor is a fireplace and that on his birthday (December 25), he descends down the chimney of his altar of fire, bearing gifts for children. Others simply point out the obvious similarity between the two names, Santa and Satan, as an anagram, as well as observing that Santa has adopted the name of Kriss Kringle. An additional similarity between the two is the devil's desire to be like God, which includes omniscience (Santa knows everything), omnipresence (Santa is either everywhere at once or outside of time), omnipotence (Santa can do anything, if you just believe), ascention to the throne (Santa sits enthroned as Father Christmas), and life everlasting ("Thank God, he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, Francis P. Church, The New York Sun, September 21, 1897). Elves, it may also be noted, are traditionally demonic entities who more easily associate with children than adults.
Note: It is not altogether unreasonable to liken Santa Claus with Satan, however, to accuse pagan and secular practices of taking over Christmas is to overlook the fact that it was originally an adaptation of pagan holidays. It was the early Christian Church which combined celebration for the birth of Christ with celebration of the winter solstice and the pagan Roman festivals dominant in the centuries surrounding Christ's birth. Since then, Christmas has been a culmination of traditions from all over the world and the Church continues not only to adapt them to Christian practices, but to maintain that the true meaning of Christmas is Christ. This may very well be true in name alone, since the true spirit of Christmas remains secular generosity and human love. As St. Augustine said in the fourth century, "We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it."
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."