First, I want to start off with the fact that I am a Christian, so even if I am extremely analytical, giving many different “Truths” in my stories, I will not apologize for my beliefs and will post as such. If you are staunch against Christmas, go ahead and skip, but if you are a non-Christian that enjoys the aspects, stories and histories of Christmas, continue to read.
Christmas holds a special place in my heart, even if it is a mixed, post-pagan Christian holiday. It is a time for me to remember others above myself, to remember to slow down and love life, make a point to show my family how much I love them, and OF COURSE to remember the birth, life, death, and victory of my Lord, Jesus Christ.
“‘8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'”
Angels were extremely masculine creatures that shone bright, were huge, scary, and packed to the hilt for battle with demons, so these were some scary dudes. Even though we see them as feminine figures today due to painting from well-known artists.
So it is normal, then, that in the Bible they would intro themselves by telling everyone not to be afraid first.
Because of the census that was happening at the time, people would be required to visit the main township of their region, so the inn, which was really just a few rooms, would have been extremely full. Mary and Joseph ended up staying in a stable, but stables back then were not really what we think of.
Stables were typically a portion of the home that the animals stayed in. Many houses in the area were connected to the stable and shared the air. During this time of year, the animals were brought in during the night to keep warm. There were many different pests to animals and people alike in these stables. There were flies that placed eggs in the nostrils of sheep and men! Yuck. And Jesus was to be born here?
The manger was nothing but a wooden box. It was full of straw and weeds.
These WERE NOT ideal conditions to labor, birth, or for a baby to live.
Magi from the east came to worship Jesus. They were distinguished people. Magi usually number 12, but the number 3 came from the number of gifts they gave, Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. They had an international reputation as extremely smart and wise people. They were well versed in astrology, which at the time was considered a “science.” They were well acclaimed and wealthy scientists, so to speak. They probably didn’t get there until he was at least two months old, due to when the star showed up and travel time.
They were warned in a dream (by an angel) that Herod was looking for the King that they were searching for (to kill him) and in their wisdom never gave him the answer. Then they disappeared. The savior king was also foretold to some degree in their religion, and I think the beacon star was also that they were following.
3rd Century Non-Christian Roman Empire celebrated rebirth of the Unconquered Sun (Natalis Solis Invictus) honoring the sun god Mithras on December 25th because the return of longer days after the winter solstice. Emperor Constantine, forcefully, at the point of a sword, made Christianity the official religion of the empire. Then in 336 AD, during his reign, Christmas was formally celebrated on December 25th, in an attempt to weaken pagan celebrations.
Just so we are clear. Early Christians were NOT anti-pagan. They felt it was wrong and wanted to convert people to Christianity, but out of shear care for their eternal souls, not as a war. They also felt that many pagan traditions were worth remembering as their ancestors celebrated that way, so many things were adopted into Christian meanings.
In the book of Luke we read that the father of John the Baptist was Zacharias, and he was a priest who served at the temple in Jerusalem. He was “of the course of Abia” (Luke 1:5). While serving at the temple, he was informed by an angel that his wife was to have a son, who was to be named “John.” After this, Zacharias finished “the days of his ministration,” and “departed to his own house” (v.23). “And after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived…” (v. 24).
The course of Abia would have been the 8th of those mentioned in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19. It would have only happened twice a year. The particular course he was in was delayed by Pentecost by a week, so he ended up leaving the week after Pentecost to go home.
He would have gotten home and she would have conceived sometime in June. Add 9 months… John the Baptist was born in Mid-March before the Passover.
Jesus was conceived six months later after John (Luke 1:24-31). So he was conceived in December, making his birth the month of September.
This being said, Early Christians that were followers of “The Way” didn’t even celebrate the birth of Christ because it was considered a pagan tradition to celebrate birthdays.
Protestant Reformers were against this Catholic Ritual that they considered little better than paganism. It was rowdy and bawdy back then as well, so the Puritans despised it. Under Oliver Cromwell, it was banned in England.
In New England, it was illegal to celebrate it for 25 years in the 1600s because the Puritans hated it flashiness!
He lived in what is now modern-day Turkey in the 3rd or 4th century. Devout Christian who served and helped poor people.
Saint Nicholas was actually Bishop Nicholas. He had a friend that had 3 daughters that could not get married because they had no dowry money. He secretly threw 3 bags of gold into their living room, which some landed in socks that were drying by the fireplace.
Later he was declared a Saint by the Catholic church. I don’t know if this lines up with the Christian Persecution, but that part of his story goes like this:
He was Archbishop when a violent Christian persecution began, in which he was probably imprisoned and tortured like, most were. This was under the rein of Roman Emperor Diocletian and carried on by his successor, Galerius, for eight years.
Any leaders that endured all of this gained extreme admiration and respect. There are many stories of his faith, generosity, and even miracles.
His death on December 6th, gave way to a new tradition… gift giving, but I think this may have been on New Year’s Day, until Queen Victoria began giving gifts on Christmas Eve in the Mid-1800s.
“A Visit from St. Nicholas” in the 1800s was the first attribution to the modern Santa Claus. Coca-Cola in the early 1900s, expanded on it in advertising campaigns.
Even though the story is my favorite part, I decided to include a lot of the different symbolisms of Christmas. They are all historically rooted and have a deeper meaning, than just that they are pretty.
Ancient symbol of eternal life. Usually fir Trees, which once again are evergreen. Thought to be a tree of knowing, because it could predict weather, pine cones opening for sunlight, and closing prior to rain. It was an exalted tree. This was rumored to offer a clear Vision experience, which people wanted, because they wanted to know if their winter stores of food would last.
The fir was also used in Pagan Rome to denote Baal-Berith.
Points to Heaven
Pagan symbol signifying hope, happiness, and safety.
Obviously from the accounts in the Bible of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Red represents sacrifice of blood, Green represents the evergreen tree.
Holly was once considered a holy plant because of the colors. In ancient Rome, Holly was an attribute to the sun gods. Christians adopted the shape of the leaves as the “crown of thorns.”
Was used to tell the real story of Saint Nicholas.
Invented by a Christian candy maker to represent the life of Christ. White represented his purity. The large red stripe was for his blood shed. 3 small stripes to represent the destructive beating and whipping that Jesus received. The J-shape was for Jesus and to represent a staff of the “Good Shepherd.”
Bells were used to call people to churches (the community center) for church service, for the death of a person, for announcing Christ’s birthday.
Represents the biblical Star of Bethlehem, which the wise men followed to worship the child Jesus. Orion is very easy to spot around winter solstice and played a part in the solstice celebrations.
Is a ritual straight from the Bible. Salvation is called “A free Gift” in the New Testament. Jesus is the gift to man. People came to give gifts to the King Child of the Jews.
Angel means messenger. Beings of Light and known for messages from the Devine. Angels only had masculine names in the bible, but today they are portrayed as females or feminine looking males. They did battle and stuff in the bible. Angels told the shepherds where to find Jesus.
Mexican legend says that a poor girl could only give Baby Jesus the gift of a bunch of weeds and when she gave them to him, they blossomed into lush red plants. Poinsettia is a native red flower native to Mexico.
Represents fire and light
Along with Holly, was ever present during winter solstice celebrations because it was evergreen. It was symbolic of endurance, promise, hope and vitality.
Representative of an illuminated life. It was known as a sacred plant of peace with European and Celtic warriors. If they spotted it in the forest where they fought, they would drop their weapons. It was a natural “white flag.” It also represented overcoming difficulties, the way it climbed up the mighty oaks.
Reindeer first appeared in Christmas in the “A Visit from St. Nicholas” poem from the 1800s, which is now known as “The Night Before Christmas.” They came from the Norse myths of Thor. He was pulled in a chariot by a goat, which became a reindeer later as it was retold. They are honored for nobility and worthiness due to its provisions for food, supplies, warm clothing, tools, and… helping the ancestors find medicinal plants in the snow and ice covered earth. Interesting: They ate hallucinogenic mushrooms!
Several symbolisms. First is the crown of thorns for eternal life. Next is the circle for cycles, seasons, and immortality. Was typically Holly and Ivy for the aforementioned reasons.
Usually from Ash, The charcoal from the previous year’s Yule Log was usually used to start the current log ablaze. European cultures would choose the biggest greenest log to set on fire because it was meant to burn through the entire festivities… so they wanted it to last as long as possible. Somehow it got transferred into Chocolate Yule Log cakes… go figure.
A pagan deity was turned into a fir tree, and the yule log was said to be her son. Don’t remember which deity though. I am sure you can look it up on Google.
Well, that is the end of this 2100 (holy cow!) word post on Christmas. I plan on making the podcast this week more interesting than just a bunch of facts, at least to me. So make sure you check it out!
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