December 2017           "A Journal of Biblical Understanding"           Volume 14           

(Daniel 4:25)
" ... and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."


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Meaning of Christmas Symbols Explained

(Emphasis by Seven Times Editor)

Nativities dot the landscape, carolers abound and not a lick of snow in Provo. it must be Christmas.

In the Christian world, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, yet traditions from mistletoe to the gift giving largesse that is so prevalent, seems a far cry from the simplicity of Jesus Christ's birth.

Celebrating Christmas has been controversial since its inception. Numerous festivities found their roots in pagan practices, and were greatly frowned upon by conservatives within the Christians world.

Despite its Christian context today, much of what defines the modern Christmas holiday, found their roots in pagan society.

Here is a brief look at where some Christmas Traditions originated:

The Date:

There were mid-winter festivals in ancient Babylon and Egypt, and Germanic fertility festivals which also took place at this time. The birth of the ancient sun god Attis in Phrygia was celebrated on December 25th, as was the birth of the Persian sun god, Mithras, according to Christmas-time.com.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of peace and plenty, that ran from the 17th to 24th of December. Public gathering places were decorated with flowers, gifts and candles were exchanged and the population, slaves and masters alike, celebrated the occasion with great enthusiasm.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, in Scandanavia a period of festivities known as Yule contributed another impetus to celebration, as opposed to spirituality. As winter ended the growing season, the opportunity of enjoying the summer's bounty encouraged much feasting and merriment.

Mistletoe:

The Celtic culture of the British Isles revered all green plants, but particularly mistletoe and holly. These were important symbols of fertility and were used for decorating their homes and altars, stated Lady Anna, christmaspast.info contributing writer.

Santa Claus:

Also known as Father Christmas, the myths and legends surrounding Santa Claus are a mixture of pagan customs from differing regions.

According to CNN.com, Santa Claus is a corruption of the name "Saint Nicholas", a Roman Catholic Bishop who lived in the 4th century. He was a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on December 6th, for the legendary bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen - said to originate the custom of giving gifts in secret on the ever of St. Nicholas, December 6th, later transferred to Christmas Day.

The legend of Santa Claus entering the house through the chimney, and the hanging of socks and stockings by the fire-place, relates to the ancient superstitions around hearth spirits. The Chinese and others would traditionally sweep and scour the house in preparation for the visit by the hearth spirit. Dressed in a pointed red cap and red jacket, this fire god traveled from the heavens above, visiting homes to distribute favors or punishments.

The Tree:

The concept of the Christmas Tree originated around 3000 B.C. in ancient Egypt with King Osiris and Queen Isis, according to historychannel.com

After the death of King Osiris, his wife, Isis, propagated the doctrine of the survival of Osiris as a spirit. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead stump, symbolizing the new life of the Osiris spirit from his death. On each anniversary of Osiris' birth, which was the date we know know as December 25th, Isis would leave gifts around his tree.

During the middle ages, the Germans believed the evergreen trees were especially imbued with life since they remained green throughout all of winter. Greenery was prominent in pagan winter celebrations in honor of the tree spirit or spirit of fertility.

The Romans trimmed the trees with trinkets and toys at that time of year. The Druids tied gilded apples to tree branches. For many, a tree decorated with orbs and fruit-like objects symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

Despite pagan origins, many of today's Christmas traditions have given way to Christian interpretations.

Copyright 2003 BYU NewsNet

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