Many Christian traditions in the home were borrowed from older pagan celebrations. Pope Gregory I around AD told churchmen to encourage harmless folk customs, like the use of greenery and trees, where Christian interpretations could be made. Boniface in the 's encouraged pagan nature worshipers to stay out of the dark forest and take a tree indoors to worship in the light and warmth of the one true God.
Many folk legends have grown around the Christmas tree. Christ's blessing and gift to mankind in the form of a decorated tree remains the central theme of most.
Across Europe, people used tree-based folk tales to teach children about the celebration of Christ's birth. The evergreen tree's symbolism of eternal life was strong. It was said that he was walking on a bright snow-covered, star-lit night pondering the birth of Christ. He was enthralled by the evergreen trees, the stars and the landscape. He took a tree inside and put candles on it to try and represent the majesty he felt about Christ's birth.
By the early 's many German towns were celebrating Christmas with elaborately decorated trees. Decorations first used were paper flowers, fruits, nuts, gold foil, cakes, small gifts, and candies. German mercenaries used by the British in the Revolutionary War were responsible for bringing the Christmas tree tradition to the United States. Old Puritan doctrine banned a celebration at Christmas. Holiday festivities around a decorated tree took a while to become established in America. In the 's the use of Christmas trees across the Christian world exploded.
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From the royal family in England to the elite of America, Christmas trees were fashionable. Buy now from your favorite retailer:. Howard was fascinated by the ancient Celts, and the possibility that they displaced an aboriginal culture. An English policeman travels to an isolated island to investigate the disappearance of a child. He learns, much to his horror, that the islanders are the practitioners of a savage faith. This novel is based on the excellent film starring Christopher Lee. The present slams head-on with the distant past in this horror novel from a master of modern fantasy. Over twenty years ago, three boys went into the woods.
The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.
History of Christmas
The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter.
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For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.
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In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.
In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down.
An Ancient Holiday
For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun. Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. In the early years of Christianity , Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.
In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration.
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Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter? It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.
Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.
By the Middle Ages , Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in , they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.