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=> The Origins Of Christmas

The Origins Of Christmas
Posted by Maggie (Guest) - Saturday, December 2 2006, 2:11:43 (CET)
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Origins of Christmas
Maggie Yonan

Many of our modern Christmas traditions began thousands of years before Christianity came on the scene. Some of these traditions date back more than 4000 years with the Assyrians, who celebrated the Winter Solstice between December 21st through January 1st., and this is where we get the 12 days of Christmas, (just like the 12 days of Akitu).

The celebration of the Winter Solstice for the Assyrians was just as important as the Akitu Festival, (the Assyrian New Year, celebrated in March, or the Spring Equinox). It was the time of year where the sun was furthest from the earth, giving the Assyrians the opportunity to prepare their fields for the next season of planting, without the heat of the scorching sun. Once the fields were prepared, it was time to rest, enjoying the inactivity for the next two months.

During Entem, (winter) nearly every Assyrian household brought in an evergreen into their home. The evergreen was a marvel to the ancient Assyrians, and symbolized eternal life amidst a dying nature. They decorated their evergreens with the fruit of their harvest, using winter staples such as Pomegranates, pears, and apples. These ornaments are still dominant in Christmas decorations today.

The practice of exchanging gifts during the winter celebration is also a pre-Christian Assyrian tradition. The Assyrians would exchange good-luck gifts, using fruits of their harvest to offer to one another, for a better harvest the following year. They also would hold a big feast just like we do today. These ancient festivities celebrated the return of the sun, which was the light of Ashur, and his annual rebirth.

These ancient Assyrian traditions transmitted to the Persians, who named their Sun God Mithras, and claimed he was coincidentally born on December 25, the same day as the birth of Ashur. Later, the Romans adopted this festival, as well, and began celebrating Saturnalia on December 25th, the day of the birth of their sun God.

With the advent of Christianity, the early Christian church became tired in their futile efforts to stop people celebrating the winter solstice and the birthday of the Persian sun god Mithras, and the Roman Saturnalia, on December 25. Thatís why in 320 A.D., the pope at the time decided to make Jesusí official birthday coincide with Mithrasí birthday.

As late as 1800, some devout Christian sects, like the Puritans, forbade their members from celebrating Christmas in so far as it was considered a pagan holiday. Eventually they gave in to celebrating Christ Mass on December 25, like the rest of Christians.


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