Monday, December 23, 2013

Origins of Santa, Santa Claus who is he? and where did he come from?

Another "Winter holiday" article originally written for a few years back.


Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)
December 10, 2008 05:58 AM EST (Updated: December 30, 2008 03:01 PM EST)
views: 151 | comments: 12

So, I've been thinking a lot lately, and doing alot of writing about Christmas and the Winter Holidays in general...its become a motif of late for me....and I came upon pondering about Santa Claus.
and I think the images of Santa (while Christians say come from the Catholic St. Nicolas) and to a certain degree I can see that...

but I also think that a lot of the imagry comes from the Norse/Germanic Culture.

In the Bleak Mid-Winters of Northern Europe, it is said that the Chieftian God Odin would fly around in a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer...checking on the people of the land.

since it was cold outside, very cold, people were encouraged to stay indoors where it was warm. and away from the eyes of Odin watching you from the sky, that way if you were doing something you shouldn't be doing he wouldn't catch you.

in the ancient world there was no real "police force" and so this was an attempt to scare people into not doing anything the culture deemed wrong.

so these folktales were created.

"Oh, if you go out in the bleak midwinter and go steal some meade or barley from a neighboring household Odin and his Wild hunt will come and get you."

so I think the ideas of a Jolly guy being nice to everyone and giving them presents might come from St. Nicholas.

But the Reindeer, night time sleigh ride, red suit white fur and long beard idea comes from Odin and his Wild hunt. and also the idea of "punishing bad children" with coal, bags of switches etc.
Here are some follow up links about Santa:

Christmas: The Many Faces Of Santa. - History Of Christmas - The Evolution of Santa Claus.
So yeah just some pondering and musings.
(Another thing stole from the European Pagans!!!! ...Lol J/k)
Anyone have anything else to add? feel free....

For those "War on Christmas" Types.

This was originally wtitten 5 years ago as an aside/extra to my "Christmas, Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice." Series of essays on the website somebody on that site had wrote something about why people take Christ out of CHRISTmas/Christmas and this was my response to that person.

Winter holiday after winter holiday, year after year I find my response to still be relevant:


Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas.....
December 06, 2008 04:39 PM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:08 AM EST)
views: 232 | comments: 34
I saw this posted up else where;

"Why do people take Chist out of Christmas anyways? think 2 of the reasons are (1)there scared they will affend people but dont realize that you are affending Christians and (2) they dont know how to respond to Jesus Christ. I just want to c what u guys think"

And I responded Thus;

3. There are more holiday's out there than just Christmas.

and in fact Christmas is a New Invention, the earliest known celebrations of Christmas according to the Catholic Encyclopedia was in the 6th century C.E. And the feast Day was moved to December 25th by one of the early Popes and an Roman Emperor, in attempt to fill a void and get the population to convert to Christianity because there was already Pagan Festivals celebrated at this time the Roman Saturnalia, and later on the Feast to Sol Invictus - The Unconquered Sun. December 25th was also said to be the Birth date of Mithra a Persian God, worshipped by Soldiers and Statesmen and upper class business people.

according to the website - The bible does not specifically mention when Christ was born, but it is suggessted it was sometime in late spring or Autumn, as the Shepards were in the fields watching thier flocks - and in December the fields in that time period and geographical area would be unproductive.

and Up until the 6th century, Early Christians celebrated the birth of Christ, at various points in time, some celebrated it in January as part of Epiphany.

Also, besides the Pagan Festivals to the gods, December 21st-25th is also the Winter Solstice when the sun is as its lowest point, and around December 25th was when the early people were able to tell the different position of the sun.

(Oh, and let's not forget the Influence of the Northern European/Nordic Festivities of Yule on our Modern Christmas Season---though that is neither here nor there.)

So Maybe, people don't celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas/Yule/Saturnalia/Winter Solstice time because they realize Jesus wasnt born in December...and the date was only moved to December in attempt to Christianize the Soslstice Festivities centuries after Christ was said to have existed.

Just a Thought maybe.

But, Still if you want to stick to your traditions and celebrate Jesus' birthday on not his birthday...that is certainly your right and im not gonna stop you. in fact I'll do you one better - Merry Christmas!

I just hope that you extend the same courtesy to me, and not presume that I celebrate Christmas in the same way you do, and respect my right to honor this season for the original intended purpose and not the later invention of the birth of the Christ Child, Thank you.

----------So, Was my response diplomatic, and respectful? do you think it will be recieved well? or am I a raging liberal Bah humbugger?You decide, comment and weigh in with your own thoughts.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia What's the deal? Part 7 - VII

Today The Sun is Born! - Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 7 - VII)
December 21, 2008 07:23 AM EST (Updated: December 21, 2008 09:50 PM EST)
views: 150 | comments: 6
So We'll make this a part 7 of my Winter holiday series:

I posted up information earlier on in the series (link.) about the Northern European/Germanic YULE celebration, It was celebrated on the Winter solstice. Well, Today my friends IS the Winter Solstice!

In ancient times, at least in European customs, this was a time to stay in doors, light your Yule logs (Because not only did it keep you warm the fire also kept the darkness outside from creeping into your home.) If you went outside, you could get frost bite, hypothermia, or worse: be taken away by Odin/Wodin and his "Wild Hunt" and never be heard from again. Tonight, the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, the Sun is at it's lowest point. This is a time to stay in doors and to contemplate about the upcoming year.

A lot of the "Christmas" traditions such as the hanging of the greens and erecting a evergreen tree and decorating it; among other traditions started at the European Yule. This was a way to make the houses look festive and to remind those dwelling within that though it may be bleak and dreary outside that the warmer months would soon be here.

The Europeans tried to make the most out of the situation, attempting to turn this time of being stuck in their homes into a holiday, they feasted on pork and beef...anything that could be cured and stored for use in the Winter time. They celebrated and made merriment in attempt to try to be happy and to forget what was going on outside, and to basically keep the occupants of the houses from going stir crazy.

In Rome: The Saturnalia festivities would be in full swing, this was a time to party it up, to live big, to feast, to dance, to sing, to even have sex if you wanted to. It was a carnival time atmosphere where the rules of law were temporarily suspended and the culture would flip upside down only for the festivities and it was only meant to be all in fun. Slaves would now be the slave owners. Workers would now be the Shop Owners, The Servants would now be the manor owners, and the Citizenry would now be the elected officials.  For more information, see my article on the Saturnalia here: Clickity Link.


In modern times, the Solstice celebrations among most Neo-Pagans (From my own personal experience and interactions) are based more so off of the Northern European/Germanic YULE celebrations. Though they put a modern spin on it.

While this is a time to stay in doors out of the cold and to reflect on this longest night of the year, in Modern times The Winter Solstice is seen as a time to honor the "re-birth" of the Sun. In Wiccan Tradition, The God is seen as an embodiment of the Sun, the Sun being a symbol representing him. (Likewise the moon is a symbol said to represent the goddess.) At this time in Wiccan lore it is said that the eternal Goddess is heavy with child, and she births both son/ and sun. That the newborn god will wax stronger as the days goes on, and so too does the sun, the days will get longer and longer until the Summer Solstice on June 21st. (The longest day and shortest night of the year)

Though, this may not be observed by the naked eye for a few weeks when it becomes apparent that the days are getting longer each day. If you have an Almanac or access to any source that lists the days weather as well as the time of sunrise and can see that after today the days start to get longer by a few minutes each day.

Today is the day to honor any god associated with the Sun. Mithra, Saturn, Thor I believe could qualify, and of course Jesus among other deities. (Though the Christians choose to celebrate on December 25th, and call it "Christmas"....and that is a topic for another time, which I've also wrote in my past writings Link. )

Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans tend to have a feast dinner. (like us, we're having a pork roast, Baked Potatoes, green beans, dinner roll, Salad, and dessert.)

They get with their friends and sing "Solstice" related carols, usually carols adapted from previously composed traditional "Christmas Carols".

I'd like to post a few of them up, however I don't know how that would work with copyright law, I try my best to only post original work. I've seen these Pagan/Wiccan "solstice" carols posted up on various websites all over the net - so I don't know if there is a free use agreement or not. At the very least I can provide URL's to where these Pagan Themed carols are located. However since I can find these all over the internet by doing a search for my favorite carol. I think it might be okay to share at least one here and provide links.

My favorite one is "God Rest Ye Merry Pagan Folk" (To The Tune of God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen)
Which can be found on the web:


Here - Among other Solstice Carols.

And Finally here - Among other solstice carols.

The Version I am using comes from the first link:

Gods rest ye merry pagan folk Let none of you dismay.
Remember that the Sun returns Upon this Solstice Day

The growing dark is ended now And spring is on its way

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

The winter's worst still lies ahead

Fierce Tempest Snow and Rain

Beneath the blanket on the ground The Spark of life remains

The Sun's warm rays caress the seeds To raise Life's song again

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

Within the blessed apple lies The promise of the Queen

Far from this pentacle shall rise The orchards fresh and green

The Earth shall blossom once again The air be sweet and clean

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy

Oh tidings of comfort and Joy

For More Wiccan/Neo-Pagan themed "Solstice" carols check out the links I provided. As Well as These other links: Yule Carols., More Yule/Pagan Carols and Chants., Even More Yule Songs.

And they also may hold rituals to celebrate this time. And if you ever wondered just what a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan Winter Solstice/Yule Festival might include; well look no farther becuase I'm going to share that with you today.
If you are a good little Wiccan or Pagan, you'd probably have your solstice ritual already wrote up and parts assigned for your group. Somebody to call in each element. One person for Earth, One for Air, One For Fire, and Finally one for Water. Also, depending on your tradition a Person to call in the element of Spirit. However, since the God and Goddess are the embodiment of such, you would not have to do that because THEY are spirit.

You'd have the person or persons leading the ritual to call in the god and goddess or god or goddess or whatever deity of your choice would be.

You'd have people to help you with any special parts of the ritual you'd wish to include etc.

Of course Heather and I, we're lazy and guess what? We havent even started on writing a ritual! (If we even decide to do one, I'd like to but yeah.) And We don't really like the people in our local pagan community, we're also Anti-social! So it'll just be me and her, maybe her sister, sisters boyfriend, and Heather's brother...who knows...depending on if they have plans today or not.
So anyway, If I or We do write up a ritual I'll gladly add it to my article and share it.

Until then prefab Yule Solstice rituals found on the internet will have to do, to give the reader and Non-Pagan some example of what a Yule Ritual might include.

Here Be Links! To Example Yule Rituals found off the internet. (usually it's better to write them yourself, or at the very least customize and personalize them to suit you....Don't be a lazy Pagan...of if you be a Lazy Pagan you should be darn good at it.)

Example of a Yule Ritual.
More Examples.
More Example!
Another Example site - from a reputable organization THE ADF! Ár nDraíocht Féin - Isaac Bonewits Druid Organization.
One More and Last Link - another ADF YULE Link.



For more information on Yule Lore go here: Yule Lore.
Here are the links to the rest of the articles in this series:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 1 - I) - The Introduction.

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II ) - YULE.

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III) - The Saturnalia and Feast of Sol Invictus.

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 4 - IV)- The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus.

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 5 - V) - NO CHRISTMAS FOR YOU! (The Pilgrims outlaw Christmas.)

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 6 - VI) - Christmas becomes a modern nineteenth century (1800s)invention up to present day.

And here is a few more related articles I wrote:

Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)
Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas.....


Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, What's the deal? (Part 6-VI)

by Paul R.
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 6 - VI)
December 16, 2008 08:12 AM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:10 AM EST)
views: 210 | comments: 10


(Okay so I'm posting this one up a wee bit early, but I finished it and was so excited that I couldn't wait to share it with you all.)

Another Essay in my Winter Holiday Series of essays. Take a look at past entries here:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 1 - I)

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? - YULE -(Part 2 - II )

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)

The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus. - Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 4 - IV)

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - NO CHRISTMAS FOR YOU! - (Part 5 - V)

Also, don't forget to check out these articles of intrest:

Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)

And; Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas.....

The Early nineteenth century in America was a very rough time, Unemployment was at an all time high during the early part of the 1800s. There was tensions between the States about slavery that ultimately lead to the Civil War. The States even saw Christmas in a different light. In the Northern States NorthernerÂ’s saw sin in the celebrations of Christmas and thought that Thanksgiving was a more appropriate holiday. Meanwhile those in the Southern States saw Christmas as an important part of the Social structure and seasonal festivals, itÂ’s not surprising that Christmas was made a recognized holiday in several of these southern states long before it was made a federal holiday in the 1870s.

However, lets back track about thirty or forty years or so to around 1819 and a man named Washington Irving. Washington Irving wrote several short stories which was featured in his book “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.” In the book Irving wrote a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving's mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving's fictitious celebrants enjoyed "ancient customs," including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving's stories depicted harmonious warm-hearted holiday traditions he claimed to have observed in England. Although some argue that Irving invented the traditions he describes, they were widely imitated by his American readers.

Irving’s publications were a huge boost in revitalizing the image of Christmas in America. Also, a key part of making Christmas more enjoyable in America and at the same time introduced a widely popular Christmas time figure that has reached icon status and is still honored today – is a poem titled “Twas The Night before Christmas” -- that was written by a Episcopal minister, Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. The Poem was originally titled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Santa Claus was a figure that pre-dated the 1822 poem and the history and origin of The Santa Claus is deserving of an essay all on its own. However, Clement Moore is responsible for making the imagery associated with this figure as popular as it is today, also, without Moore’s poem Santa probably would not have became so popular.

Moore’s poem also helped to popularize Christmas Eve – Santa Claus waiting for the children to get to sleep the now-familiar idea of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve – in "a miniature sleigh" led by eight flying reindeer, whom he also named – leaving presents for deserving children. "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore's poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus. But again, this is a topic deserving of its own Essay.

While Christmas in America was transforming, across the pond in jolly Ole’ England, people were helping Christmas transform as well. On December 19th 1843 a novel was published that would soon propel the Author into the history books and revitalize his career. The Novel was called “A Christmas Carol” the author? You guessed it, none other than Charles Dickens. Dickens story emphasized the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind. This struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to "spoil" them.

As Americans and Europeans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday (thanks to people like Irving, Moore, and Dickens), old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, sent holiday cards, gave gifts and shopped for the Christmas season.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday ( that was pieced together customs from many different countries) to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation. Over the last 165 years materialism, media, advertising, and mass marketing has made Christmas what it is today.

Sources: History Channel - History of Christmas - Irving Reinvents Christmas.

History Channel - History Of Christmas - Evolution of Santa "Twas The Night Before Christmas"

History Of Christmas *dot* Com.

Wikipedia - Christmas.

Wikipedia - Charles Dickens

History Channel - History of Christmas - A Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens

Wikipedia - Christmas Carol

Thanks for reading, take a look at the past articles in the series, and possibly look forward to a last article in which we discuss how a modern day Family may choose to observe Christmas and how modern Neo-Pagans may conduct a Yule/Winter Solstice celebration/ritual.

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia what's the deal? Parts 4-IV & 5-V

The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus.
December 04, 2008 02:34 PM EST (Updated: December 30, 2008 03:02 PM EST)
views: 341 | comments: 18
The following is a continuation of my Winter Holiday Essay Series: "Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?"

For earlier Posts here is the links:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? (Part 4 - IV) The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus of Nazareth is probably one of the widest known birthday accounts in the modern era. What presumably happened in this account is a Woman named Mary and Her husband named Joseph were said to be expecting a child, except it wasnÂ’t their actual child. Mary had never known a man in the bounds of sexual desire. She was still a Virgin, instead Mary was visited by Angels and told she would be having the Son of God the Messiah that had been prophesied to come for centuries. The bible states that on the night of the birth, three magi or wise men followed a star in the east to a little town called Bethlehem and to the manger where Jesus was. AngelÂ’s appeared in the fields where SheppardÂ’s were watching their flocks by night. Everyone should know the story by now. No matter if it is a literal account of true events or a fictional narrative told to people to convey some sort of message --- this story has stuck with us and has became the foundation for all of Modern Christianity.

Today millions of people around the world celebrate December 25th as the day Jesus was born. ItÂ’s a day of giving, rejoicing, merriment, and thankfulness. Of course there might be a problem with this date, Jesus might not have been born in December at all. One of the most widely used reasons for this, is the bible passage talking about SheppardÂ’s being in their fields by night. By December the fields would have been barren and unproductive.

“The normal practice was to keep the flocks in the fields from Spring to Autumn. Also, winter would likely be an especially difficult time for pregnant Mary to travel the long distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem (70 miles).

"A more probable time would be late September, the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when such travel was commonly accepted. Thus, it is rather commonly believed (though not certain) that Jesus' birth was around the last of September. The conception of Christ, however, may have taken place in late December of the previous year. Our Christmas celebration may well be recognized as an honored observation of the incarnation of 'the Word made flesh' (John 1:14).

Â…The probability is that this mighty angel, leading the heavenly host in their praises, was Michael the archangel; this occasion was later commemorated by the early church as Michaelmas ('Michael sent'), on September 29, the same as the date of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It would have at least been appropriate for Christ to have been born on such a date, for it was at His birth that 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us' (John 1:14).

This would mean, then, that His conception took place in late December. Thus, it might well be that when we today celebrate Christ's birth at what we call Christmas (i.e., 'Christ sent'), we are actually celebrating His miraculous conception, the time when the Father sent the Son into the world, in the virgin's womb. This darkest time of the year--the time of the pagan Saturnalia, and the time when the sun (the physical 'light of the world') is at its greatest distance from the Holy Land--would surely be an appropriate time for God to send the spiritual 'light of the world' into the world as the 'Savior, which is Christ the Lord' (Luke 2:11)" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible (notes for Luke 2:8,13)].” (Source: ChristianAnswers.Net. )

Also, the earliest account we have of Christmas time being celebrated by Christians didnÂ’t happen until around the 6th century C.E. according to the Catholic encyclopedia.

Early Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as Part of Epiphany (Jan. 6th) although this feast focused on the baptism of Jesus. Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.

The Twelve Days of Christmas end on January 5. December 26 is St. Stephen's Day and January 6 is Feast of Epiphany This period encompasses the major feasts surrounding the birth of Christ. In the Latin Rite, one week after Christmas Day, January 1, has traditionally been the celebration the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ, but since Vatican II, this feast has been celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. (Wikipedia)

Pope Julius I finally chose December 25th to host the feast day of the Nativity, in attempt to make the holy day universal. Up until then different groups celebrated the birth at different times and this was an attempt to unify the early Christians. It has been speculated as well that this date was chose so that the new Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus would be used to replace earlier Roman Pagan Feast days. (see previous posts:here andhere)

“The original significance of December 25 is that it was a well-known festival day celebrating the annual return of the sun. December 21 is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year and thus a key date on the calendar), and December 25 is the first day that ancients could clearly note that the days were definitely getting longer and the sunlight was returning.

So, why was December 25 chosen to remember Jesus Christ's birth with a mass (or Communion supper)? Since no one knows the day of his birth, the Roman Catholic Church felt free to chose this date. The Church wished to replace the pagan festival with a Christian holy day (holiday). The psychology was that is easier to take away an unholy (but traditional) festival from the population, when you can replace it with a good one. Otherwise, the Church would have left a void where there was a long-standing tradition, and risked producing a discontented population and a rapid return to the old ways.” (Source: ChristianAnswers.Net.)

Look for future articles in this Winter holiday Series from now until the new year. IÂ’m thinking about doing one on why the early Puritans did not celebrate Christmas at all because of the Pagan iconography and symbolism inherent in the holiday. And also one about the Winter holidayÂ’s in Modern times. How People observe Christmas and Yule today.

For more information on the Nativity try out these links:


Wikipedia Nativity of Jesus

NewAdvent.Org - Catholic Encyclopedia

Wikipedia Christmas

Also, for more information on Christmas, check your local Listings for the history Channel: for the Special “Christmas Unwrapped: The History Of Christmas” Link.

Thank you.


by Paul R
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 5 - V)
December 15, 2008 02:49 PM EST (Updated: December 30, 2008 03:01 PM EST)
views: 170 | comments: 11
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? - (Part 5 - V)


This is part five in my Winter holiday essay series, part six if you count my brief article on some of the Origins of Santa Claus.

Here Are Links To My Previous Entries:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)

The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus. - Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 4 - IV)

Here are some other articles that readers who enjoy this series may find interesting as well:

Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)

Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas....

In the last official essay in this series we discussed the birth of Jesus and the feast of the Nativity. We discussed that The Roman Catholic Church and a Roman Emperor moved the celebrations to December 25th in attempt to overshadow previous Pagan festivities that took place this time of year. This went on without a hitch for many centuries, around twelve centuries until the 1600s and the Puritan era.

Can you believe there was a time in our Modern History that after there was a day rededicated for the birth of Christ, that that day was actually looked down upon and even outlawed? You CanÂ’t? Well there was. There was about a 200 year span of time when no one hardly celebrated ChristmasÂ…and it was by choice.

In an effort to stamp out the influences of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, when Oliver Cromwell and his band of Puritan reformers saw the Pagan influences of the holiday and they also wished to end the old traditions of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Cromwell wishes to rid England of the excess and the decadence and part of their efforts was to get Christmas in England canceled. (1)

Meanwhile in America the Pilgrims were even more orthodox than their Puritan brethren still in England, and they not only simply chose not to celebrate Christmas but it was actually outlawed, and anyone found to have celebrated the holiday would be fined.

“The Puritans who immigrated to Massachusetts to build a new life had several reason for disliking Christmas. First of all, it reminded them of the Church of England and the old-world customs, which they were trying to escape. Second, they didn't consider the holiday a truly religious day. December 25th wasn't selected as the birth date of Christ until several centuries after his death. Third, the holiday celebration usually included drinking, feasting, and playing games - all things which the Puritans frowned upon. One such tradition, "wassailing" occasionally turned violent.

The older custom entailed people of a lower economic class visiting wealthier community members and begging, or demanding, food and drink in return for toasts to their hosts' health. If a host refused, there was the threat of retribution. Although rare, there were cases of wassailing in early New England. Fourth, the British had been applying pressure on the Puritans for a while to conform to English customs. The ban was probably as much a political choice as it was a religious one for many.” (2) – As Quoted From: Source.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor all together, this of course included Christmas. (1) It wasn’t until the Victorian Era that the traditions of Christmas became popular again in America, It started to become celebrated in England again when Charles II was restored to the throne, and the American’s ( Some of whom grew up in the Colonies and the new fledgling country – and never knew a Christmas celebration) became curious about these celebrations that were occurring across the “pond.” Christmas did not become a federally recognized holiday in America until the 1870s. (1)

Sources – References: (1) – The history Channel’s History Of Christmas Mini site.

(2) - Once upon a Time when Christmas Was Banned. From The Massachusetts Travel Journal.

Here are some other links to check out: Colonial Christmas - Women.About.Com

History Of Christmas *dot* com.

Also, if you are interested check out the History Channel’s Special “Christmas: Unwrapped” the first showing of the season should be on tonight on the History Channel at 11PM Eastern Time. Check your local listings for times in your area and also for encore.

Christmas:Yule, Saturnalia Whats the deal? Essay Series.

Hey all. These are a series of articles I wrote about the Christmas/Yule Winter holidays for a site called a little over 5 years ago. I really enjoyed writing and researching for these articles. And I took the time to refind them and re save them to post here to save for future years and I hope to continue to get positive feedback on them. So I hope people continur to enjoy and read them. Thanks. -Paul.


by Paul R
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?
November 18, 2008 11:11 AM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:06 AM EST)
views: 973 | comments: 9

The Following is the first installment of my Christmastime/ Winter Holiday essay. I am focusing on Christmas with an emphasis on the Neo-Pagan observance of The Winter Solsitice and the Old European customs of Yule and of the Ancient Roman Feast of Saturnalia and what they have in common with the Feast Day of the Nativity and Christmas time.

Well we’re in mid-November, and though we have a somewhat major holiday coming up in a little under two weeks (Thanksgiving) it is generally downplayed for an even bigger Winter Holiday, Christmas. There are other Holiday’s around this time of year, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa come to mind. But it seem none so important to American Culture as Christmas. When we think of Christmas we think of presents and evergreen trees. Decorations, and lights, candy, and great food, Santa and his reindeer. We think of good times, jolly times, and playful times with our family. We think of singing carols and attending our children’s Christmas programs at school. There is also religious significance, Christians go to church and celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus who will one day become the savior for Christians and mankind.

However, where do we get these ideas, and customs? Surely they are not original to Christianity? Anyone who has done any studying knows that Jesus was not born on December 25th. The Catholic Church moved the feast day of the nativity to that day to coincide with the Roman Feast and celebrations of Saturnalia, and the Northern European festivals of Yule. They moved it to that day to help convert those nasty Heathens to the new religion of Christianity all those centuries ago.

The customs of Christmas are borrowed from these earlier holidays. And, the original holidays are celebrated today by those people who identify themselves as Neo-Pagan, people who attempt to revive the old gods, and the old customs and traditions and religions of the pre-Christian era. Not all Neo-Pagans attempt to reconstruct these old religions; some use the old religions as a model but upon which to build modern modes of worshipping the old gods. Wicca is one such modern religion, that while based upon myth and stories from these old Pre-Christian religions, are also based on modern lore from Witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, went public with this religion in the late 1950’s when the last of Britain’s anti-Witchcraft laws were repealed. There is much debate on if Gardner invented the whole Wiccan religion or simply brought it to light. Such debate rages like a five-alarm inferno in the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan Community to this very day. Of course this essay is not about the merits or history of Wicca, it is about Yule and other Early Pagan Festivals that took place around the Winter Solstice that coincides with the modern Christmas. So let’s get on with the show.

The Modern Yule usually takes place on the Winter Solstice (DEC. 20-22nd) It is not a fixed holiday, as it comes about based on the season and planetary and astrological alignment. Yule in Modern Wicca/Neo-Pagan lore is seen as the longest night of the year. The cold depths of Winter is setting in. This is a time to reflect. However, there is the promise that imbolc will be here in February, and that spring time will soon be here. Though this is the longest night of the year, from this point on the days will start to get longer. It will be subtle to those unaware, but the day gets longer from this point until around June 21st or the Summer Solstice when the sun is at its very peak. Traditionally this is a time when Yule logs are to be burned to help give energy and strength to the Sun. This is also said to be the time when the newborn god, the bright child of promise is said to be born from the eternal mother goddess. Some Neo-Pagans take part in a ritual known as “Birthing the Sun/Son” it is a ritualistic way of aiding the Goddess into delivering the god child, and in aiding the natural world in delivering the mighty Sun out of it’s winter slumber and giving it strength to help bring about the warmer months of the year.

“Sun Gods: Apollo, Mithras, and Jesus”

“Without the sun there would be no life. Without the sun there would be no plants, and without plants, there would be no oxygen. Without oxygen, there would be no animals or human beings!

Like many pre-Christian customs and beliefs, the old feast commemorating the yearly return of the sun was rededicated to the birth of Christ. In the year 274CE, the Roman emperor Aurelianus established the cult of “The God Of The Invincible Sun” which was celebrated on December 25th, even though the actual day of the winter solstice is the twenty-first or twenty-second day of the month. Why? Perhaps this was the first day on which the people could actually discern the elevated position of the sun, and see that it truly was coming back from the depths of darkness. The feast associated with the event was called the “rebirth of the sun.” At the same time the Romans rededicated the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Christ, they also took over the cult of the Persian sun god Mithras, whose birthday was also celebrated on December 25th. “The [Mithraic] mystery started with his initiation into a heavenly soul voyage.” ( Giebel 1990, 200).

Many of the gods of the past were associated with the sun: Ra and Osiris, the Egyptian sun and vegetation gods; Helios and Apollo, Greek gods of the sun and light; and the Germanic Wotan, who searches for the sun in the time of darkness with his wild army, to name just a few. The power of each of these important gods was attributed to the reigning emperor or king of the day. The sun was the giver of life for plants and thus also for human beings. Therefore, the first day of the week –Sunday- was named after the day once dedicated to Helios, the sun god.

In the context of this cosmological and mythological background, the idea that Jesus was a descendent of the former sun gods was only logical, and it is easy to see why his followers associated the rebirth of the sun with his birth. But there remains a significant difference. According to Christian belief, the sun itself is not divine, but is “a mere creation that God has given special duties. … The Pagan belief remained centered on the divine beauty of His work, and worshipped it, in their adoration of God, instead of only comprehending the Creator” ( Forstner 1986, 96).

This is why the Church was so keen to point out that the Pagan admiration of the sun really amounted to adoration of the “glowing light from the heights.” (Luke 1:78, quoted in Forstner 1986, 97).

From: - “Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and rituals at the Origins of Yuletide; Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling 2006 inner traditions publishing (originally published in German by AT Verlag 2003), Pg. 149-150

Look for the next installment of this eassy where I focus on The Customs, myths, and stories of the Northern European Yule and of the Ancient Roman Festival of Saturnalia (As I compile the information)

And look for an installment about the Feast of the Nativity and the Christian celebrations of this Winter holiday.


by Paul R
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )
November 18, 2008 01:53 PM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:06 AM EST)
views: 541 | comments: 7
This is the second part installment of my series on the history, rituals, customs, and myths surrounding the Winter Holiday Season, more specifically The Winter Solstice and the Ancient and Modern day Pagan Observances of it and how the Christian Celebration of Christmas is factored in and influenced by these earlier celebrations.

Part 1 - I can be found here: Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?


Yule is a winter festival identified with Christmas in modern times. The pagan Germanic peoples celebrated Yule from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. When the Julian calendar was adopted in northern Europe, Yule was placed on December 25 to correspond with the date of Christmas.

The word "Yule" come from the same root as the word "jolly." Modern Yule traditions include decorating a fir or spruce tree, burning a Yule log, hanging mistletoe and holly branches, giving gifts, and general celebration and merriment. Yule celebrations at the winter solstice predate Christianity. Yule is a feast celebrated by sacrifice on mid winter night 12 January, according to Norwegian historian Olav Bø.

There are many references to Yule in the Icelandic sagas but few accounts of how Yule was celebrated beyond the fact it was a time for feasting. According to Adam of Bremen, Swedish kings sacrificed male slaves every ninth year during the Yule sacrifices at the Temple at Uppsala. 'Yule-Joy' with dancing continued through the Middle Ages in Iceland but was frowned upon after the Reformation. The ritual of slaughtering a boar on Yule survives in the modern tradition of the Christmas ham and the Boar's Head Carol.

On Yule Eve the best boar in the herd was brought into the hall where the assembled company laid their hands upon the animal and made their unbreakable oaths. Heard by the boar these oaths were thought to go straight to the ears of Freyr himself. Once the oaths had been sworn the boar was sacrificed in the name of Freyr and the feast of boar flesh began. The most commonly recognized remnant of the sacred boar traditions once common at Yule has to be the serving of the boar's head at later Christmas feasts.[8]

According to the medieval English writer the Venerable Bede, Christian missionaries sent to proselytize among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were instructed to superimpose Christian themes upon existing local pagan holidays, to ease the conversion of the people to Christianity by allowing them to retain their traditional celebrations. Thus, Christmas was created by associating stories of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of Christianity, with the existing pagan Yule celebrations, similar to the formation of Halloween and All Saint's Day via Christianization of existing pagan traditions.

The confraternities of artisans of the ninth century, which developed into the medieval guilds, were denounced by Catholic clergy for their "conjurations" when they swore to support one another in coming adversity and in business ventures. The occasions were annual banquets on December 26,

"feast day of the pagan god Jul, when it was possible to couple with the spirits of the dead and with demons that returned to the surface of the earth... Many clerics denounced these conjurations as being not only a threat to public order but also, more serious in their eyes, satanic and immoral. Hincmar, in 858, sought in vain to Christianize them."[9]

Many symbols and motifs associated with the modern holiday of Christmas derive from traditional pagan northern European Yule celebrations. The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe and others are all historically practices associated with Yule.

When the Christianization of the Germanic peoples began, missionaries found it convenient to provide a Christian reinterpretation of popular pagan holidays such as Yule and allow the celebrations themselves to go on largely unchanged, versus trying to confront and suppress them. The Scandinavian tradition of slaughtering a pig at Christmas is probably salient evidence of this. The tradition is thought to be derived from the sacrifice of boars to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations. Halloween and aspects of Easter celebrations are likewise assimilated from northern European pagan festivals.

English historian Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum contains a letter from Pope Gregory I to Saint Mellitus, who was on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Pope Gregory suggested that converting heathens would go easier if they were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while recasting those traditions spiritually towards the Christian God instead of to their pagan "devils": "to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God". [10]

_____________________ From: Wikipedia

The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Yule time festivities. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift... it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze be a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.

A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine, and flatten one side so it sets upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green, and white (season), green, gold, and black (the Sun God), or white, red, and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds, cloves, and dust with flour.

Deities of Yule are all Newborn Gods, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, and Triple Goddesses. The best known would be the Dagda, and Brighid, the daughter of the Dagda. Brighid taught the smiths the arts of fire tending and the secrets of metal work. Brighid's flame, like the flame of the new light, pierces the darkness of the spirit and mind, while the Dagda's cauldron assures that Nature will always provide for all the children.

Symbolism of Yule: Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.

Symbols of Yule: Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, christmas cactus.

Herbs of Yule: Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.

Foods of Yule: Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).

Incense of Yule: Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.

Colors of Yule: Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.

Stones of Yule: Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds.

Activities of Yule: Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honoring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule

Spellworkings of Yule: Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.

Deities of Yule: Goddesses-Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.


Yule Drinking:

“When the gods left the earth, beer became alcohol and the divine intoxication became a purely mean drunkenness…” (Gronbech 1997, 180).

In the north, Christmas is called Jul or Jule. This is the time for Juldrinking and Julfeast. In this season, one can choose among specially brewed Christmas beers, Wodelbeers (Wodel=Wotan) made from rye, and traditional Yule beers. Old Nordic Julbeers were not brewed in keeping with Bavarian pureness laws, but instead included intoxicating herbs like hemp, wormwood, black henbane, fir greens, and wild rosemary.

The festive time was sometimes called “beer days” in Germany, and the tranquil atmosphere of domestic family togetherness was described by the name “beer peace.”

Beer brings a festive shine with it. It does not belong to the mundane nourishment and thirst-quenching quality of everyday food, but offers a spiritual enjoyment of a higher level than milk and whey, a holy nourishment. And it is the drink that honors the high feast with its blessing, of a special power to unite gods and human beings. (Gronbech 1997, 164).

The magical power of old Germanic brewing methods has been replaced largely by technology by now. Instead of intoxicating ingredients, manufacturers add the sedative plant hops to create a beer without holiness, a festive beverage made profane. However, the magic of the past still shines on modern labels, and the consciousness that accompanies the drinking can be a catalyst for a sense of Christmas holiness.

Germanic mythology, especially from the north, is full of drinking stories. According to one myth, Odin (Wotan) robbed Odhrarir of the “ecstasy drink” or the “meade of inspiration.” Whoever drank this beverage would be filled with wisdom and knowledge, become artistically and gifted in the art of poetry, and develop the ability to lure and seduce with words.

Thor, the thunder god, was the heaviest drinker of the gods. His thirst was unquenchable, his drinking feats legendary. One myth recounts that during a drinking competition he drank from the sea godÂ’s drinking horn, which was connected with the worldÂ’s seas. He gulped three times and caused high and low tides. These were some truly divine gulps! Many humans seem to want to emulate Thor, especially during Yule drinking; thus the Yule feast always ended when the people were drunk.

- “Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and rituals at the Origins of Yuletide; Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling 2006 inner traditions publishing (originally published in German by AT Verlag 2003), Pg. 117-118

Look For Part Three, a Look at the Roman Festival Saturnalia

and Part Four a History of the Feast of The Nativity from the Churches point of view.

and Finally a Part five A Modern Look at how Christmas celebrations are conducted today.

look for them whenever I get them complied and wrote up.


by Paul R
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)
November 19, 2008 05:30 PM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:07 AM EST)
views: 275 | comments: 10
For Those of you following along in this series Hooray for you!

For Those of you that aren't here are the links to the first two articles;

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?

And; Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )

I would Suggest reading those before going any farther, Thank You.

PART 3 - III of my Winter holiday essay series.

The Roman Feasts of Saturnalia and To Sol Invictus:

The Roman Feast of Saturnalia was celebrated in commemoration of the Roman Sun Deity Saturn. The greeting for this event was “IO, Saturnalia!” Which roughly translated into, “Ho, Praise be to Saturn!” Originally it was only a day long celebration but it became so popular and important in Roman culture that it expanded into a week long festival. The cities in Rome were turned upside down the Slaves became businessmen and businessmen became slaves, it was all in good fun and only for the festivities. The town Mayors usually picked a citizen of low class to be in charge of the festivities as a “Master of ceremonies” for the events. Gambling was made legal for this time and even the slaves could participate. There was the making and exchanging of small gifts. The slaves were absolved from any sort of punishment during this time and treated their masters with a bit of disrespect, giving them a taste of their own medicine so to speak. Everyone wore their most colorful and nicest clothes. It was a time to eat, drink, party, and to be merry. During huge dinners the Masters would cook, prepare, and serve the slaves. In addition to the public festivities, private citizens would conduct their own parties and celebrations. It was remarked that during this time there was to be no serious business performed.

Seneca the Younger, around 50AD wrote about Rome during the Saturnalia;

It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations, as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business....Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct; whether we should eve in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity, both take a better supper and throw off the toga.

In the year 274AD Emperor Aurelian created a new Roman god, a State-Supported Roman god at that. This new god’s name was Sol Invictus, and it quickly took Saturn’s place as being significant. Soon after that the festival of Saturnalia was replaced by the feast to commemorate the birth of Sol Invictus or “The Unconquered Sun.” The Week long Festival of Saturnalia was replaced by one big party day held on the day of the Winter Solstice on the Julian calendar, December 25th.

When Christianity took root and a day of worship and commemorating the Christian deity Jesus Christ was needed it seems only appropriate that it was super imposed on December 25th. Because, Jesus was the Unconquered Son to them. If you need a farther explaination of this, please go back to the first article in this series and read the Section from the book “Pagan Christmas” Titled “Sun Gods: Apollo, Mithras, and Jesus”.

Saturnalia and The Feast to Sol Invictus soon waned as Christianity and the Christmas grew in popularity. Still, if you look close enough you can find traces of these Roman Pagan Festivals in our Modern Day Celebrations of Christmas. The same can be said for the Northern European Celebrations of Yule, If you look close enough can find traces of that in our modern Winter holidayÂ’s as well.

Thank you for your time.

Look for future articles between now and Christmas time on the Christian history of the Feast Day of the Nativity and how it came into being from a early and modern Christian perspective.

And a last article on how people choose to observe the Winter holiday time today, maybe if your nice IÂ’ll include a modern day neo-Pagan Yule Ritual.

(Information for this article compiled with the aid of Wikipedia and and

Thank you again.