Throughout history, common celebrations have often revolved around solstices, eclipses and other astrological occurrences. Because of this, historians believe that Christmas origins and traditions owe much to pagan celebrations during the winter solstice.
Here are three ways that Christmas origins and pagan winter solstice celebrations are similar:
1. Holly and Mistletoe Are Meaningful in Winter Solstice Celebrations
During today's Christmas celebrations, holly wreaths and strategically-placed mistletoe commonly adorn our homes. In pagan cultures, holly was commonly used as a decoration during the winter solstice because it thrived in colder climates. Mistletoe was known as a symbol of fertility in ancient cultures. It is believed that kissing under the mistletoe has its origins in Scandinavian legend. Many thought that getting caught beneath the mistletoe was good luck. The tradition was later adopted by Christians.
2. Christmas Is In December Because Of The Winter Solstice
No one really knows when Jesus was born. In fact, many historians believe it is more likely that Christ was actually born in the Spring. However, Christian cultures chose to celebrate this pivotal event of their religion close to the time of the winter solstice in an attempt to reclaim a pagan celebration. Over time, Pope Julius I chose December 25 as Christmas day to give Christians a religious holiday to celebrate during the winter solstice. It is also believed other faith traditions (such as Judaism) chose to celebrate their own religious festivals during this time to get their followers to avoid these pagan traditions.
3. Feasting During The Winter Solstice Is A Pagan Tradition
Many ancient cultures chose to hold lavish feasts during their winter solstice celebrations even though this was a time when food was scarce. They believed that if they ate and drank too much it would show the gods they had hope for abundance in the new year. In addition, many wealthy people would compete with each other to help the poor during this time. This meant that everyone had food for feasting during this time.