Pagan Ties to a Christian Holiday

Madeline Runyon
mrunyon@lc.edu

 

Christmas is a holiday celebrated by many, whether it be through gift giving under the guise of Santa or observed by Christians as the birth of the savior. Christmas has always been heavily tied to Jesus’s birth, right?

In all actuality, you’d be wrong in that assessment. Some biblical scholars don’t believe that Jesus was even born on Dec. 25, placing the date closer to the end of September.

So why do we celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25?

The real reason is that Pagans celebrated a holiday of their own on that day, and the early Christians knew that they couldn’t allow a blatantly evil event to be celebrated annually. Instead of forming a different holiday altogether, the Christians allowed the Pagans to continue their celebration but insisted it was now converted to a Christian holiday dedicated to worshiping their savior.

It was a loud and robust celebration filled with drinking, feasting, and fighting. Obviously, the early Puritans were not fans.

Even things as small as the way we decorate for Christmas has Pagan ties, including the Christmas tree. The Romans decorated their houses with evergreen to honor the God Saturn. Some cultures believed that evergreens guarded them against witches and bad magic.

Christians later adopted the tradition and changed it to fit their own religion. It’s actually believed that Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, should be credited with first putting the lights on the tree as he thought it would be more aesthetically pleasing.

Although Santa Claus can be primarily tied to the Christian religion, even he has some Pagan roots.

Saint Nicholas is the basis for Santa Claus and is in honor of a real-life bishop. However, some of the folklore regarding Santa Claus is based on different Gods and Goddesses.

Odin, a major God in Norse mythology is one character that Santa is probably based on. During the Winter Solstice, Odin went on a hunting party, carried through the sky by an eight-legged horse. It’s not hard to see how this evolved into the story of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.

Frau Holda, the Pagan Goddess of Winter, is another example. Frau Holda was believed to fly through the sky and deliver gifts to children. If that isn’t enough evidence, it was also believed that she was dressed in all red and slid through chimneys of houses to deliver her gifts.

All in all, Christmas is a great holiday and everyone is free to celebrate it and believe in whatever way is desired. It is still interesting to be made aware of the different traditions which have been derived from other cultures.

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