Why Anyone Can Celebrate Christmas
Especially in primarily Christian countries, most of us grow up with the idea that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and that's all there is to it. But in fact, this is far from being the full story.
Indeed, the modern festival we celebrate under the name 'Christmas' has it's roots in three festivals, two of which dating back to well before the birth of Jesus Christ. These festivals, and many of the traditions and customs pertinent to each, have become entwined and have evolved to the point where they have mingled together as part and parcel of one big festival.
One of those festivals is of Roman origin, Saturnalia, which was named after the Roman god Saturn. During Saturnalia, people gave gifts to one another – a tradition that has endured to this very day.
The other is the Winter Solstice festival, which came to us from the Nordic peoples. It was especially prevalent in Britain too, where it became part of Anglo Saxon lore. We still preserve traditions to this day that reflect the customs and beliefs of these ancient peoples. Why do we have Christmas trees, and holly? What do they have to do with the birth of Jesus? Nothing.
The ancient Britons were fascinated by the ability of evergreens to retain their color, even when all other leaves had turned to red and brown, and had died before the coming of the winter snow. Green symbolized the passing of winter and the much-awaited onset of spring. Therefore, when we place a Christmas tree in our homes, we are preserving an age-old tradition dating back to our European ancestors.
In fact, Santa Claus was supposed to be clad in green, and not red. He is thought to have been a personification of Odin, chief of the gods in Norse mythology. This tradition blended almost seamlessly with the 'new' image of Santa, who is based upon a real person. Interestingly, Santa only became the red and white, jolly figure we know today because of a commercial promotion by Coca Cola in the thirties, who made Santa red forever, to match their own company's established color.
So, in the end, anyone, Christian or not, can celebrate the joys of Christmas. Give presents, send Christmas cards and decorate a Christmas tree with beautiful lights and objects, and let us all share in the peace, joy and love that is…Christmas.