The Christians took a lot from our traditions. But that’s ok really. We are peace-loving beings we do not condemn and we do not punish! If you did some of these things last Christmas or once believed in some of these things then you were just doing it rightfully so, as your ancestors once did. It is fun to know the origins of certain traditions and even more fun to know that almost every tradition has Pagan roots.
Here are just 5 Christmas traditions that have Pagan roots:
The tradition of Christmas caroling actually began as the tradition of wassailing. The word “wassail” derives from the Anglo-Saxon phrase "waes hael," which translates as "good health." The wassailers, the equivalent of present day carolers, went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. The wassail drink was made from mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices, and sugar and served in large silver bowls.
Wassailing was a sort of fertility rite taken from the pre-Christian era when villagers traveled through their fields and orchards in winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might prevent the good growth of their crops.
Caroling was adopted by churches in the 13th century, when St. Francis thought it a good idea.
The Mistletoe was considered a magical plant of peace and reconciliation by the Celts, the Norse, the Druids, the Native Americans, and the Vikings. The mistletoe is also associated with Frigga, the goddess of love and the Roman god Saturn. The Romans would honor Saturn by performing fertility rituals under the mistletoe. This probably explains where the kissing-under-the-mistletoe tradition comes from. Warriors from opposing tribes would also meet under a mistletoe and lay down their arms and have a truce till the following day.
The custom of giving presents at Christmas came from Saturnalia, the feast of the Roman god Saturn. The Romans would give each small gifts for luck.
Boughs Of Holly and The Christmas Tree
Saturnalia fell on December 17 and was a time to honor the god Saturn. The Romans did so by decorating their homes and hearths with boughs of greenery like vines, ivy, and etc. This was also a way to brighten their spirits and homes during the winter.
The ancient Egyptians didn’t have evergreens so they used palms-- the symbol of resurrection and rebirth, to honor the god Ra. They would bring the fronds into their homes during winter.
This has evolved into the modern tradition of decking the halls with boughs of holly and of putting up a holiday or Christmas tree.
When you think of Santa Claus, you think of a stocky old man with a white beard and a red suit, you know, the one Coca-cola created for us. Well even that man has pagan roots. Santa Claus actually originates from Norse god, Odin, a chubby old man with a white beard who wore a long flowing cloak. Odin was also depicted as leading a hunting party through the skies, during which he rode his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, which has now become the sleigh and reindeer.
Children would also put their boots near the chimney and in their boots would leave carrots for Odin’s Sleipnir, and Odin would reward them by dropping gifts in their boots.
So there. These are just 5 and there are a lot more Christmas traditions that originated from Pagan practices. When Yule comes around you can look at each tradition with a renewed sense of appreciation and be happy that we somehow celebrated Yule in much the same way our ancestors did.
Do you know of more Christmas traditions that have Pagan origins? We’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below. :)