Yuletide: Pagan Origins of Christmas Traditions

  • The Date: Jesus was born in the summer- this is a fact that is very well known. When Christianity was spreading across Europe the Christian rulers wanted to convert the Pagan population as quickly and smoothly as possible. They built Churches close to Pagan places of worship and arranged festivals around the dates of the established, Pagan ones. This is why Christmas was moved to late December, the same time as the Winter Solstice.
  • The Food: feasting is a common Pagan practice, especially in midwinter festivals when the darkness surrounds us. Unless I’m very much mistaken, feasting does not appear in the Bible story of the birth of Jesus.
  • The Tree: The tree is really a tradition brought over to England from Germany thanks to Prince Albert. It clearly doesn’t come from the Bible (evergreen trees in the Middle East?) but it’s an obvious Pagan symbol. Bringing something alive into the house when everything else is dying embodies the spirit of Paganism. We are reminding ourselves of the life that will return in the spring.
  • The Presents. This one is a little more difficult, obviously this is something that it represented in the Nativity story so I’m not going to say that it isn’t a Christian thing. However I do think that gift giving fits in with the theme of the midwinter festival, celebration and excess helps to get us through the doom and gloom.
  • The Drink: This one’s fairly obvious, with every good Pagan feast comes some good Pagan drink!
  • The Lights: There is a custom of keeping a candle alight all through the night of the Solstice, I think this is something that has morphed into all of the brightly coloured lights that we like to string inside and outside of our homes. When the world is at its darkest we can fill it with light.

Blessings,

Wren x

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