Most of my readers probably know Christmas has its roots in pagan religion. It is a celebration of the death and then the rebirth of the sun – hence the date just after the Winter Solstice, when the sun is the lowest in the sky and then gradually rises higher and higher.
Ancient druids decorated trees with fruit and cakes. Their custom was much more sustainable than ours. They left those “Christmas trees” living in the wild rather than cutting them down to brighten a room inside the house for just a week or two.
Kissing under the mistletoe may also have been an ancient druid custom. This may be because the white berry of the mistletoe was considered to represent the semen of the sun, and therefore kissing under it could perhaps increase the chances of fertility. If you are attending a late Christmas party where there may be sprigs of mistletoe maybe you should remember this before kissing!
The idea of feasting and exchanging gifts comes from the Roman festival of Saturnalia. During that festival, which was usually full of revelry which would make most of us blush, those with wealth and power were expected to display some humility and serve those with none.
The original Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, was St Nicholas, who lived in Myra in what is now Turkey – not, I am afraid, at the North Pole. This real Santa Claus was a wealthy man who gave away his wealth to help the poor around him, particularly young girls who might otherwise have drifted into prostitution. Santa Claus was particularly fond of and protective of children.
Christians have adopted, and adapted, these early celebrations to create the festival we now know as Christmas. Celebrating the birth of someone who wanted us to renew our lives and become better people.
Whether you are Christian, Pagan, of another religion, or of none, you should perhaps wish to take the inner meaning of all these early elements of the season. Reverence for nature, love, humility, charity and generosity all feature in the festival. A festival of renewal and rebirth.
As John Lennon said in his “Happy Christmas” song, “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one begun.” A time for renewal. A new chance to change and create a better life for yourself and for all around you.