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November 14, 2017

Meta: A look at ancient Christmas traditions.


While Christmas for the vast majority of us means sitting around the table with our family and friends, enjoying a lavish feast that may consist of one too many mince pies, fruitcake if you’re into that and perhaps a bottle or three of wine.

Not to mention all of the gift unwrapping, cracker pulling and all of the general mayhem and madness that accompanies the festive season, but the original traditions of Christmas were not very much like our modern ones are, and some are far more pagan in origin than our own. Therefore, we decided to hunt down some of the most mind boggling Christmas traditions from before our time.

Ancient Christmas Traditions

Firstly Christmas has its origins in the Roman festival of Saturnalia where they celebrated their deity Saturn who presided over farming and agricultural activities during the later winter months. When the time came to choose a date to officially observe the birth of Christ, this date was chosen as people were already having outlandish celebrations and non-stop partying, so it seemed appropriate to select this date as the birthdate of Christ can still not be one hundred percent pinpointed as yet.

Saturnalia is also the root of gift giving, during this festival children would be gifted with a wax doll, this was to represent the former human offerings made to the god Saturn in exchange for a prosperous farming year. Now, have you ever wondered why we hang stockings up by the fireplace, or in my house on the wall?

Well, this has to do with Saint Nicholas – no not Santa, the actual Saint. Saint Nick wanted to ensure that there was at least one night out of a year that children had a good time, since they started working for their keep and to help out their family before ten! He would place fruits, toys, clothing items and handmade bits into stockings that children hung near the fireplace, purely because the stockings were a convenient place to store these items.

Wreaths, the things we hang outside of our doors, an extra way to decorate the house and liven up the neighborhood, but they actually are more than mere ornaments during the times of ancient empires such as Rome. Wreaths were seen as a symbol of power and often worn by nobility. Wreaths were used in early Christianity during the funeral rites of saints and other people who had made a great impact in society; this was because wreaths were seen as showing continual forces made to endure.

Ancient Christmas Traditions

Wreaths then led to the appropriation of probably one of the most memorable images of Christmas, notably the tree. Trees, however, were not traditionally decorated with angels, baubles and lights, they were initially strewn with apples and nuts and other plant life. This was to show the resilience and everlastingness of the tree itself and this appealed to many cultures that all recognized the same features within the tree, including the Chinese and Egyptians.

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