Now, I know what you are thinking. "Oh, here is going to be just another sermon on how we shouldn't be all about presents this holiday season and we should be all loving."
Well, you are sadly incorrect, my friend.
Let's start by you telling me all you know about Christmas. Do presents, trees, ornaments, that little manger scene come to mind? Don't worry, for most people that it what does. But let us, with a little help from the Ghost of Christmas Past, go back in time to find where Christmas really started.
The First Christmas
Most people think the first Christmas is when little baby Jesus was born in a little stable and the three wise men came and gave him presents. However, it is not even for sure that Jesus was even born in December; most historians agree that he was most likely born in September.
So then, when was the first Christmas, and who celebrated it? The answer is that what is now Christmas is believed to be first celebrated well before Jesus Christ or Christianity was even heard of.
On December 25 in ancient Babylon, there was the great feast of the Son of Isis, the Goddess of Nature. Participants would look forward to partying, eating and drinking, and gift-giving on this date.
In Roman times, people celebrated the Winter Solstice, calling the holiday Saturnalia honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, Romans observed the Kalends of January to represent the triumph of life over death. The entire season was named Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
The pagans of northern Europe celebrated their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule, symbolic of the pagan Sun God Mithras being born, was observed on the shortest day of the year. They believed that as the Sun God matured, the days became longer and warmer. Also, Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means "wheel," which a pagan symbol for the sun.
Actually, the first Christmas as we know it today is agreed by historians to be celebrated in Germany, however Catholics and Lutherans still disagree about which church celebrated it first.
So Why December 25?
The ancient church declared the celebration of Christ's birth to be on the twenty-fifth of December. It is quite obvious it was a ploy to get Roman pagans, who were the majority at that time, to convert to Christianity. Making December 25th a Christian celebration made the new religion more acceptable as the pagans knew their feast would not be taken away from them.
Today's Christmas Traditions
Christmas trees, caroling, smooching your crush under the mistletoe . . . who would have thought these modern practices held their origins in pagan Europe?
From the Romans, we get our caroling tradition from the Mummers, a costumed group of singers and dancers who would travel from house to house to entertain neighbors.
Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the tradition of kissing under it was first a fertility ritual.
The much-loved Christmas tree, traditionally an evergreen, was also from pagan Europe. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during winter as a reminder to families that crops would soon grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck, however the Christian Church in the early third century strictly prohibited the decorating of houses with them. The decorating of Christmas trees only caught on in the mid-19th century. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.
So, now we know that Christmas, however bearing the name of Christ, does not actually have it's origins in Christianity. However, it still remains an important time of the year to people everywhere.
Author's Note: Sources: http://de.essortment.com/christmaspagan_rece.htm and http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_menu.htm