Today I feel like writing something different, to veer away from my usual trivial topics. Not that this topic is any more or less trivial too.
It’s just a few hours before christmas, and here I am in front of my computer torturing almost every letter and symbols on my keyboard as I’ve been endlessly typing on just about anything since this morning. And no, I won’t be celebrating later tonight or even tomorrow, neither with a feast nor with anything , nor with any friends nor anyone at all for that matter. I will be spending christmas here alone in my room in front of my computer, as I always do every single year. Now, I am not replacing Scrooge nor am I putting the Grinch out of employment. Let me all tell you that this whole holiday season (until new year’s eve and morn) is actually my most favorite season of all. Not only is this holiday a long one, but the mood is also very festive. I like seeing people looking merry and joyful, with everyone being so generous with one another more than their own pockets could allow them. I also enjoy going to different malls and appreciate their mall decors, each one better than the other, each one grander than the next. Then there’s also the different discounted offers of gift items and gift packages of basically everything you could think of, from bath items to sleeping packages, cooking stuffs, beauty regimens and just about anything. Not to mention the many sales in different shops, from shoes to clothes to accessories. Sometimes, I like to indulge myself in such sales too. Everywhere you go there is a party going on, from a simple and quiet feast, to loud and noisy merrymakings. And don’t even get me started on the food. Everywhere you look, there are all kinds of food prepared to satisfy all types of taste buds. Nowhere is there a shortage on food. This is the season where everyone would like to forget their diets for a while and loosen their belts for several inches. No worries for now, and complaining about not being able to fit into your clothes anymore would have to wait until January.
No one likes to be alone during this holiday season. No one wants to be left out of the merrymaking. Which now brings me back to myself here alone in my room while everyone around me is having a good time. Being alone at this very moment is not something that just happened. I chose this. I wanted this. I don’t like parties. Loud music and a crowded room drain me of every fiber of my being. Too much noise, with everyone trying to speak all at the same time and also loud music, hurt my sensitive eardrums so badly. And also my head. Too much noise can leave a deep throbbing pain in my head. I also can’t keep a conversation going, nor can I keep up with a conversation. I’d rather sit in a corner while listening to everyone speaks. And listening to everyone speaks bores me, if not to death, then to deep despair. I would rather have my alone time than spend two to three hours in a crowded room.
Being alone gives me so much time to think and research on anything that can peak my interest. One of the things that I love to research on is the history behind each of our present day holidays. Since today is christmas, it’s only fitting that I should research and ponder on this subject matter. Before I continue on, let me remind you that whatever you read can never be unread. So be warned. You may not like what you will read in the next few paragraphs, especially during this festive and happy season. So turn away now before you enter the point of no return. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
Okay, now to open a can of worms.
Many christians all over the world celebrate this day as the day that Christ was born. But little did they know that this day, actually this whole christmas season, is anything but christian. For starters, everyone knows, and it is a very common knowledge, that December 25 is not the real birthday of Christ, but rather the anniversary of the roman pagan sun god, the unconquerable, Sol Invictus. The early Romans during the pre-christian period also celebrated a holiday season called the Saturnalia, from December 17-25, in honor of their agricultural god, the god of harvest Saturn. Saturnalia was just about as un-christian as it could get, as this holiday period was also called the Week of Lawlessness. This was the time when the roman courts were closed, and no one would be punished for any crime that they would commit within that period, from theft to vandalism, and even to rape and murder. The roman authorities would choose one unlucky person belonging to the enemies of Rome, either man or woman, who would represent the Lord of Misrule. For one week, this unlucky person would be treated with good food and all sorts of worldly pleasures. Then on December 25, the last day of Saturnalia, this person would be brutally killed in public as a human sacrifice. The murder of this person was said to be very slow and that not much would be left of his body after the killing. The authorities believed that by killing this innocent person, they were destroying all forces of darkness.
After the fall of Rome, Saturnalia continued on. In addition to the human sacrifice, this season was also the time when people would get ridiculously drunk. They would go from one house to the next, singing loudly while naked, raping anyone, and doing all sorts of sexual acts with one another. This was also the time when people would eat human-shaped biscuits, in reverence to their human sacrifice. Suffice it to to say, it was the most favorite holiday season of roman pagans. In the 4th century CE, the roman Catholic church agreed for Saturnalia to continue on as a holiday festival, in its complete entirety and without changing even a single practice, in order for a large mass of pagans to join their religion. The practice of going from one house to the next and then singing songs eventually evolved into what is known as caroling in our modern time. The eating of human-shaped biscuits is still being practiced today in the form of eating freshly baked gingerbread man. Indulging in large quantities of food and getting intoxicated are still being done this holiday season during christmas parties and feasts.
Since Saturnalia is anything but christian, the Catholic church decided to christianize this pagan practice by proclaiming it as the day that Christ was born. And so the final icing on the cake was placed. But that icing was anything but sweet. Back in 1466, christmas in Rome was celebrated by forcing the Jews to run naked in the streets of Rome after being fed well, amidst the jeers and taunts from the spectators. Also watching the event was the Catholic pope high up from his own balcony, laughing together with the crowd. During the 18th century, the Jewish rabbis were forced to wear funny outfits and forced to parade down the roman streets, with the crowd taunting them and throwing stuffs at them. Despite repeated pleas from the Jewish community to the Catholic church to put an end to such abusive and humiliating acts, the practice of Saturnalia persisted on in Rome and in some parts of Europe until throughout the 19th century. Ironically, during those times, the Catholic church was divided when it came to observing christmas. The Catholic Puritans in the United States of America condemned the practice of christmas on the basis that it was a pagan holiday. From 1659-1681, anyone in Massachusetts who would be caught practicing christmas, or part of it, would be put in jail.
Now let’s move on to the embellishments of the cake. Kissing under the mistletoe is another practice derived from the pagan sexual acts during Saturnalia. Every 25th of December, any man in Rome could just grab any woman anywhere at any given time and have his ways with her under the mistletoe. Fast forward hundreds of years later, the sexual acts were now reduced to kissing only under the mistletoes. Mistletoes were also traced from Norse mythology and were highly priced by the Druids as they used them to poison their enemies. Gift giving also originated from Saturnalia, as the ruling emperors back then forced their citizens to offer them gifts during that season. The christmas tree is also a symbol of pagan worship, more specifically the worship of trees by the Asheira cult. When this cult was recruited into christianity, the Catholic church agreed for them to continue their tree worship by allowing them to bring home a tree once a year, every December 25, and adorn it with candles and ornaments before worshipping it.
The origin of Santa Claus is another long story. It started from a stern Catholic bishop named Nicholas, who participated in the creation of the new testament, and who also portrayed the Jews as the children of the devil. He was made into a saint later on by the Catholic church. When he died, his remains were taken by a group of pagan sailors who idolized him. They took his bones to Bari, Italy which worshipped a female deity called the Grandmother, or the Pascua Epiphania. She was said to give gifts to children by filling their stockings with goodies. The pagan sailors displaced her with Nicholas, but they continued the Grandmother’s way of giving gifts.
The Nicholas cult spread far and wide, and was later on adopted by the German and the Celtic pagans. Saint Nick finally took on the appearance of the Celtic god named Woden, who was described as an old man with a long white beard, wearing heavy winter clothes and riding a horse across the heaven one night every year during Autumn. Should you ask why Saint Nick became Santa Claus, that’s actually the Dutch version of his name. When Santa Claus was incorporated into christianity, they changed his once-a-year-Autumn flight to every christmas eve. Later on, the horse was converted into a sleigh drawn by eight reindeers, thanks to a very popular poem written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. I mean, who hasn’t yet heard of “‘Twas the night before Christmas…”? It’s also because of that poem that Santa Claus started coming down from the chimneys. In 1862-1866, illustrator Thomas Nast created many cartoon depictions of Santa Claus as a jolly fat fellow who was living with a bunch of elves in the North Pole and making toys for kids. It was not until in 1931 that the final look of Santa Claus was completed when Coca Cola released an ad depicting him as a jolly rosy-cheeked fat man in a red suit. Indeed, Santa Claus had come a long way, from being a stern-looking bishop, to a jolly fat gnome in a red suit with a sleigh drawn by flying reindeers.
Looking back, christmas then and christmas now are so different from one another, like night and day. And it’s quite surprising too that such a merry holiday season has a very dark and violent past, a macabre history full of carnage. I have to admit that there were a lot of things in my posts that I have just discovered recently. Once you dig deeper, you can’t help but find more skeletons.
At this point, I’m sure some of you are now wondering what’s my purpose of making this post. Let me be clear that I have no intention of offending anyone. I am not here to change anyone’s points of view, nor do I want to question one’s personal beliefs. I am not here to start an argument, nor do I have any intention of imposing my own personal opinions upon others. I just want to share with you some interesting historical facts that have been almost forgotten because of the many but major modifications they underwent with each passing of a century in order to make them more acceptable into our modern society. I also want to give you something to think about on this merry season aside from all the ongoing festivities. A little knowledge does go a long way.
And now to end this post, let me borrow a quote from Mr. Clement Clarke Moore, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.”