The Dark Origins of Christmas
Howdy!! Christmas is coming up so I thought we should explore the dark origins of Christmas
The Ancient Romans bevelled that Saturn was the God of agriculture and ruled over the Earth in a period known as the Golden Age when humans enjoyed produce without having to farm and labour for it. The celebration is believed to be held around the time of the winter solstice, which celebrated the sun coming back to life and being unconquerable.
This holiday was celebrated by attending temples dedicated to Saturn where priests would conduct ceremonies. Slaves would eat with their masters, speak freely and dress in colourful party attire. Many of the traditions we observe for Christmas today were observed for Saturnalia. People wouldn’t attend work, school, exercise, courts would and justice systems would not be operational and no one could declare war on this day. People would hold elaborate feasts that everyone would partake in, the wealthy would donate to the poor and children would receive toys. Mistletoe was hung as a symbol of peace, love and understanding. People would elect a King of The Saturnalia who would symbolise how the Gods could come and turn establishments humans made upside down. This tradition later became “Lord of the Misrule”.
The birth of Jesus is unknown, but it definitely isn’t on the 25th of December as baby lambs are born in spring and not the dead of winter. In the Fourth century Pope Julius I decided to formally make the birth of Christ on the 25th of December to merge together the practices of Saturnalia to keep the recently converted heathen population happy and to carry on a form of tradition.
There was a dark side to Saturnalia. Gladiators and other strong men were sacrificed to Saturn and his wife Lua. Lua was considered the mother of destruction and for 10 days around the festival, men were killed as offerings to the God and Goddess.
The ancient Norse people used to celebrate Yuletide at the time of the winter solstice. It is related to the Wild Hunt where Odin, would travel between the world of the living and the dead. Because of this, there was an increase in supernatural activity, which included the undead to be able to walk the earth. It was a time of feasting, drinking and love making. The event of Modraniht focused on females and was a fertility event.
People would celebrate Yule by sacrificing animals such as horses to the Gods and taking asparagus and painting the statues with the blood of the sacrificed animals as a way of honouring them and for the warmer months to come.
Many traditions of Yule still are practiced today. Odin, a large older man with a long white beard, would fly the in the skies on his eight legged steed, and deliver toys and presents to children on Christmas eve by slipping down chimneys and children would stuff stockings with straw as an offering for him and leave them by the hearth. (Sound familiar?)
Traditions of a Yule Boar, Yule Log and Yule singing are still present in the form of a Christmas Ham, Christmas Log and Christmas Carolling. There was plenty of merry making, drinking, dancing, singing and love making during the Yule Tide.
It’s so interesting how the traditions of ancient people have been passed down and continue to be practised today. I for one, I’m all for merry making and celebrating with loved ones.