| There are many traditions and symbols that we associate with Christmas including the Christmas tree, leaving cookies out for Santa Claus, and sending Christmas cards and Christmas presents. If you're like most, you observe all of the traditions which are sacred to your family without a thought about where they originated or why they became so popular in the first place.
While you don't need to know why you celebrate the Christmas holiday the way you do, it makes for interesting conversation when you're sipping egg nog in front of the fireplace. So, if you're ready to wow your family and friends with your knowledge of the Christmas holiday, bring up these interesting facts about the most widely celebrated holiday.
The modern term Christmas originates form the Olde English "cristes masse," which means "Christ's mass." The name Christ finds its origins in the Greek tongue, which was the language spoken by Christ himself. The Greek form of the work was Khristos, which means "anointed one."
The origins of the Christmas tree actually predate Christ and the history of Christianity by thousands of years. The tree finds its beginning during the time of the Druids, a society made up of sorcerers, prophets and priests. During the time of the Druid winter solstice, which fell on December 21, the Druid priests decorated outdoor trees with apples and lit candles to show their appreciation to their god Odin. The candles represented the eternal light of their sun god Balter. Christians later adopted the practice widely and decorated their fir trees with apples to represent Adam and Eve's gall from grace.
The first Christmas tree has been credited to a warrior of the Crusades, Winfried of England, who had traveled to the Northern forests to covert the Pagans, according to legend. When Winfried came upon an unruly mob getting ready to conduct a human sacrifice before the sacred Oak of Geismar, he chopped down the detestable tree and a fir tree immediately sprang from where the Oak tree formerly stood. Winfried claimed the tree was the three of Christ which represented the love and kindness that should be in everyone's home.
Santa Claus is a lively, jolly and fat old fellow who tours the whole world on Christmas Eve delivering presents to deserving children. The modern-day Santa Claus finds his origins in Saint Nicholas. This patron saint was shown in paintings to look like the ordinary person that he was, but was given a makeover by the Coca-Cola Company in the 1930's. That's right; our beloved Santa Claus is nothing more than a clever marketing ploy. And you thought it was hard when the kids on the playground told you Santa Claus didn't exist.
Christmas cards were introduced during the 1840s in Britain with the introduction of the postal service and the penny stamp. While a penny was a lot of money during those days, sending Christmas cards still became very common by the 1860s.
Holly and mistletoe are also attributed to the Druids. The ancient Druids were the first society known to have worn sprigs of holly and mistletoe. The druid priests believed that holly was able to remain green and vibrant the entire year because it possessed magical properties. We may have also picked up some other significant traditions from the Druids. Do you think that it's a coincidence that the colors of holly, green and red, are the colors associated with Christmas today? Mistletoe, on the other hand, represented fertility and was looked down upon by the Christian church for its association with non-virginity.
Gift giving came to us from the Romans. The Romans exchanged holly wreaths as gifts during their Saturnalia festival, which coincided with the Druid's winter solstice. The wreaths were a symbol of eternal life. Later, many Christians would take to adorning their homes with holly during the Saturnalia festival to avoid persecution from the Romans. Eventually adornment with holly was absorbed into Christian practices as well.
So, now that you know a little more about why you do the things you do during the Christmas season, why don't you see what other tidbits of historical knowledge that you can uncover to share during your next holiday gathering.
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By Adam Lenk
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