The Origins of Christmas Customs

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Forum topic by HorizontalMike posted 12-24-2011 07:46 PM 4487 views 1 time favorited 76 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12-24-2011 07:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: christmas

IF YOU EVER REALLY WONDERED ABOUT CHRISTMAS, then here is some history to consider:


A. The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”.[7] Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

B. The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim.[8] The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.[9]

C. The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).[10]

D. The Origin of Santa Claus
a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil”11 who sentenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

The Christmas Challenge

· Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.

· Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.

· Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.

· December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.

· Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday’s monstrous history and meaning. “We are just having fun.”

Imagine that between 1933-45, the Nazi regime celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday – April 20 – as a holiday. Imagine that they named the day, “Hitlerday,” and observed the day with feasting, drunkenness, gift-giving, and various pagan practices. Imagine that on that day, Jews were historically subject to perverse tortures and abuse, and that this continued for centuries.

Now, imagine that your great-great-great-grandchildren were about to celebrate Hitlerday. April 20th arrived. They had long forgotten about Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. They had never heard of gas chambers or death marches. They had purchased champagne and caviar, and were about to begin the party, when someone reminded them of the day’s real history and their ancestors’ agony. Imagine that they initially objected, “We aren’t celebrating the Holocaust; we’re just having a little Hitlerday party.” If you could travel forward in time and meet them; if you could say a few words to them, what would you advise them to do on Hitlerday?

On December 25, 1941, Julius Streicher, one of the most vicious of Hitler’s assistants, celebrated Christmas by penning the following editorial in his rabidly Antisemitic newspaper, Der Stuermer:

If one really wants to put an end to the continued prospering of this curse from heaven that is the Jewish blood, there is only one way to do it: to eradicate this people, this Satan’s son, root and branch.

It was an appropriate thought for the day. This Christmas, how will we celebrate?

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

76 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


7902 posts in 3827 days

#1 posted 12-24-2011 11:06 PM

The more I have looked into this issue, the more I truly begin to understand why many existing and competing religions of Christianity become so upset at the Christian faith. I do a lot of web browsing on the current political scene because of the Far Right Wing’s absurd postings, however, running across this account of history and interpretation of the winter holidays according to Judaism, I had to stop and take note. Being agnostic myself, that itself came as a surprise to me.

History is often written by the victors and those victors have their own biases. On rare occasions we get to here about competing interpretations of historical significance. This is one of those times. I was raised as a Christian, but grew out of that faith as I observed the many inconsistencies of the Christian faith and became
agnostic. If I were to adopt some religious faith again, I would seriously consider Judaism.

While I prefer, and have pleaded for LJs to ban politics and religion from the site, LJs admin have NOT chosen to do so. Since that is so, I have chosen to share my thoughts as openly as anyone on this site. When and if the policy changes, I will abide accordingly.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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#2 posted 12-25-2011 12:13 AM

Michael, I do agree with you here, so much so that I left the church entirely during my master’s studies in history at Harvard and my acceptance at the seminary. Specifically it was a course in the history of Rome that the seed sprouted. But my reasons went a bit beyond what you’ve stated here. Probably the main reason was that throughout our Christian history of blame, wars, bloodshed, and hypocrisy, one small concept had seemed to be forgotten or overlaid with ritual and self-righteousness – the original message of the carpenter.

Now after many years, I’ve reconciled Christmas as a time set aside from our busy business of living and recall this simple message and find great enjoyment in family and friends. I enjoy wishing people Merry Christmas. I enjoy buying my wife a special gift and hiding it my workshop until Christmas Eve. I like the way she’s decorated the house and made it feel warm and full of love. And I do like the one great gift the church as fostered – the music. Mozart’s Mass in C still brings a tear to my eye.

And each year I hope that the simple message will somehow encourage someone to give a turkey to the Salvation Army, or pay off someone’s K-Mart layaway, or just give a neighbor a plate of cookies.

So I do wish you and all my friends here in the forum a Merry Christmas, and may all your neighbors get a plate of cookies.

Sorry, but I am an incurable romantic.

-- John from Hampstead

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7902 posts in 3827 days

#3 posted 12-25-2011 12:33 AM

I appreciate the post and feel good about the Winter Holidays, though I will continue to refuse to call it Christmas, because it infers that we ignore/defer all other celebrations such as Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Bodhi Day, NeoPegan rituals, the Hajj, etc. to Christianity in its entirety. Christianity, by its very nature moved/adopted THEIR holidays in order to directly compete with these other belief systems. As I have stated many times in the political threads, I HATE all bullies, be they political OR religious.

Please do not take offense if you are just practicing your own beliefs for yourself/family. I only get upset at having things shoved down my throat by bullies and the bully media. I push back at those bullies.

Happy Holidays

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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#4 posted 12-25-2011 01:19 AM

There’s no christian church that believes Jesus was born on Dec 25th? I’m Catholic and we believe Jesus was born on Christmas….......That’s what Christmas is – the birthday of Jesus. I don’t understand…..

I’m not trying to start a fight with u, but if u PLEADED with LJ’s to ban politics and religion from LJs, why r u posting a controversial religious/historical topic? Change of heart?

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

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#5 posted 12-25-2011 01:25 AM

What difference does it make what church or religion you belong to… or whether you belong to a religion at all.
What is important at this time of year and all through the year is that we act with kindness, generosity and caring toward others. It is not what group we belong to but rather how we live that gives our lives meaning.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

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#6 posted 12-25-2011 02:11 AM

We are all entitled to think what we may ,one can list how things come about in religion, science, economics or what ever subject a person might select. Because we find information on line,in books or from some source of formal education it is all subject to how much we believe what ever source we gather our information from. So in short what ever we believe is based on faith of some sort, faith in God faith in what ever source we choose to believe. Some people will follow what science calls proof , others written information or what scholars have to say. Folks that ask me to prove there’s a God, I tell them that religions are based on faith and in my way of thinking so is every thing else. I agree with Ellen about making this a time of year being a great time to express joy,kindness and generosity no matter what your religious beliefs are.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year.


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#7 posted 12-25-2011 02:16 AM

NH_Hermit: You summed up my feelings perfectly!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View HorizontalMike's profile


7902 posts in 3827 days

#8 posted 12-25-2011 04:25 AM

Thank you Ellen, Jim, and Charlie. Doug, I hold no grudge, but do urge you to look deeper as you grow older. Not always, but age does tend to temper/alter ones interpretation of their surroundings. Enjoy your Holidays, what ever they may be.

Doug, my only point is and has been is to show just how volatile these topics are. I am willing to take the heat to show others why we should NOT have politics and religion posted within LJs, as odd as that may sound.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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#9 posted 12-25-2011 04:54 AM

I may look young… but you can’t tell a book by its cover ;-)

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

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#10 posted 12-25-2011 05:11 AM

a1Jim, You summed up my sentiments exactly! Thank you and MERRY CHRISTMAS

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View derosa's profile


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#11 posted 12-25-2011 07:49 AM

That’s a nice antagonistic bent on Christmas you have there, just enough historicity there to make it sound good but not enough to actually be the real story. I especially like the Hitler part, nothing gets people irrational and non-thinking so that they’ll blindly follow what you say as making the comparison to Hitler. Of course Christmas is founded on celebrating the birth of someone who called for peace, love and non-violence and who didn’t espouse the murder of millions but otherwise your comparison does somehow work if your mind is twisted enough.
Yep, most denominations agree that Christ wasn’t born on the 25th, sometime in May sounds about right, but then not all denominations celebrate it on the 25th, you’ve missed the entire Eastern Orthodox who have a different day entirely. You’ve discovered nothing new.

Your origin of the Christmas tree is entirely wrong, not even remotely close. The cult of Asheira is eastern and centered in the Holy Land, you can find references to then in the Old Testament; for more information on them try Did God Have a Wife by Bill Deaver who does a great job of exploring the significance of the cult in the OT. Either way they disappeared by Christ’s time, Josiah does a real good job of oppressing them and they do disappear from the Archaeological record. I’m sure the rest of the examples are equally as accurate.

Yes, throughout time, starting with Constantine the church is adopted and co-opted by the state. However that doesn’t mean that you should demonize everything about the religion for what a few did vs. what the many have tried to do. It is easy to hang onto witches and crusades and ignore all the Salvation Army ringers that are out there collecting funds to help the poor. It’s easy to overlook Catholic Charities who supply free clothing, food, shelter, and even half-way houses. It’s easy to ignore the churches that house the food pantries that supply needed items for millions who would otherwise fall through the cracks of a broken system. Sure, some have taken advantage of religion and killed millions in the name of Christ driving others to join them in their madness over the last 2 thousand years. But this year I helped package 450 Christmas baskets that included dinners, gifts, and clothing to families and shut-ins that needed them to actually have a holiday. I was joined by thousands more just like me who cheerfully gave of their time, money and energy across this world so that others might also have a cheerful holiday and something to be thankful for. Your demonization of a holiday that celebrates the birth of a being who never asked for the evil that was conducted in His name and who offered love is small and petty. Try celebrating what this holiday is supposed to mean and look to those who are celebrating it for what it is really about; and merry Christmas.

-- A posse ad esse

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#12 posted 12-25-2011 12:05 PM


As long as I’ve been around this site, I’ve thought of you as something of a renaissance man; ie., someone who is open-minded, interested in many things, with the intellect to sort through the bs to find the truth and make the connections.

I don’t like the heavy-handedness of some of the Christian faith. Funny; faith is defined as the ability to accept a concept without proof, yet they continually try to ‘prove’ the articles of their “faith’ while demonizing all concepts that threaten or disagree with it. In the last 200 years, religious scholars and historians have tried and failed to find proof of his birth, life, deeds, or death. Religious scholars and historians have pretty much concluded that any attempt to prove Jesus’ existence through historical records is a lost cause. The gospels don’t agree, and in 1906, Albert Schweitzer lamented that efforts to bring Jesus “into our time as teacher and saviour….Coming to the results, there is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus. The Jesus od Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never had any existence. This image has not been been destroyed from without. It has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by the concrete historical problems which came to the surface one after another, and in concrete historical problems which came to the surface one after another,and in spite of all the artifice, art, artificiality, and violence which was applied to them, refused to be planed down to fit the design on which Jesus of the theology of the last hundred and thirty years had been constructed and were no sooner covered than they appeared again in a new form” He concludes, “We thought it was for us to lead our time by the roundaout way through the historical Jesus, as we understand him, in order to bring it to the Jesus who is a spiritual power in the present. This roundabout way has now been closed by genuine history”. James P. Mackay confirmed Schweitzer in that is was in the previous 200 years that people took confidence in the trusty methods of science and that they could , through scientific history make the real Jesus stand up. And with that confidence produced one version after another, each disturbingly different from the one before..Pessimism spreaqd far beyond the confines of professional scholarship:The ‘real Jesus’ could not be found. History is full of efforts past and current to ‘prove Jesus’existence much less his divinity that have failed miserably.

The point is, if you have faith, you don’t need proof. If you don’t need proof, you don’t have to be RIGHT ALL the time, and you shouldn’t probably try to damn anyone who disagrees to Hell (where geographicaly is
Hell and do you have that power anyway?). If yow want to celebrate cHRISTMAS, do so, but don’t be upset at others who have a different take on the season.

Mike, I thank you for a thought-provoking post, wish you and everyone a Happy Holiday season, stay safe, and if you, Mike should ever find your way into Judaism, I would say, “Mazel Toff, my frieND.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

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7902 posts in 3827 days

#13 posted 12-25-2011 03:14 PM

Reverend Russ SAID: That’s a nice antagonistic bent on Christmas you have there, just enough historicity there to make it sound good but not enough to actually be the real story. I especially like the Hitler part, nothing gets people irrational and non-thinking so that they’ll blindly follow what you say as making the comparison to Hitler.

Wow Russ, how can you explain what you just said as any but a cheap shot? My posts above, including the OP, come from Jewish scholars. The Jews and Armenians suffered terribly at the hands of Adolph Hitler during WWII, and YOU want to reduce that fact to a mere “sound-byte” (AKA Godwin’s Law)?

For you to call yourself a reverend of anything is an unbelievable stretch, especially following the posting of such a comment in reference to religious beliefs. I fear for those who could fall under your sphere of influence.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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#14 posted 12-25-2011 03:48 PM

Mike, no offense taken here. At 68, I tend not to get upset about too many things. I’m glad to see that at Ellen’s tender age, she’s learned the same. In fact, I’ve enjoyed your role here as the protagonist several times.

Want to add just one more tidbit to your argument about the Christmas myth? The Romans actually kept pretty good governmental records back then and there is no record that Augustus called for an empire-wide taxation. There was a census taken but that was ordered by Cyrenius, or Quiribius, somewhere around 6 or 7 CE. Normally I’d take the time to site my sources, but I’m told it’s time to open some gifts.

So back to the simple message of the Carpenter – Happy Winter Festive to you and yours.

-- John from Hampstead

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#15 posted 12-25-2011 09:26 PM

My shot was no cheaper then your own. You decided to post something that is a slam on a holiday that is meant to celebrate something good by comparing it to a fictional holiday about someone who was purely evil. No amount of corruption can destroy the meaning of Christ’s gift to us, just as if such a holiday were created could it make good the evil that was Hitler. Just as people will now scream terrorist to get others’ attention and get them blindly following without thinking your use of a comparison fictional holiday about Hitler serves the same purpose and you know it. I’m not marginalizing what they did, I’m marginalizing this lame attempt to demonize the holiday through comparing the actions of some Christians who have done evil in God’s name with Nazis. The fact that Hitler was even introduced says that this isn’t meant to get people thinking, just reacting in a negative fashion.

The fact that the original post was written by Jews does nothing to authenticate the historicity you are claiming, theirs is just one more perspective. How much less biased are they that they refer to the pagan rituals as “depraved” even those most weren’t. Wikipedia has scholars involved in it as well, doesn’t mean the whole thing is accurate nor that many parts of it don’t have a bias based on who wrote it. This very sentence Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid”only points to the intrinsic bias that is this whole piece. Reading the new testament would tell you just how invalid this very statement is.

As to the co-opting of religious holidays by other religions; it is nothing new. Christianity wasn’t the first by far and the fact is old news. It does however help to create a rich tradition for new adherents from their old faiths; some of which were no where near as evil as this piece cares to paint them. But to know that would also require real scholarship and research. Something this piece doesn’t do since it prefers to rely on shock value in the hopes of a non-thinking response.

As for me, my parishioners like me a lot and I lead them well regardless of what you might think.
Merry Christmas.

-- A posse ad esse

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