Tis the season to be jolly and decorate with evergreen, candles, and flowers. A time to invite friends over and give gifts. Eat together, laugh and enjoy life. Yes. This sounds like Christmas time. However, that was a how Romans celebrated Saturnalia. They loved to party–any excuse would do. They loved to decorate their homes and give gifts even to the poor so they, too, could give gifts. I know that doesn’t sound like the Romans you’ve heard about, but its true.
But were the Romans the only ones who loved to celebrate? Naw. We all did, do, and will continue to celebrate life. We are people and we love living and making it…special for loved ones and others too.
As I said, I love history and where and why we do things. So, here are bits of the history of Christmas and how we make this time so special…
This is a winter ritual that centers on the dead of winter and the promise of a new year. Winter Solstice. The Norse honored the Thor’s oak tree but it lost its leaves come winter and looked rather dead. So missionaries pointed out that the fir tree NEVER looked dead but was EVER GREEN. And since it pointed to heaven, it became the symbol of the Trinity and everlasting life
Interesting enough is that the Druids preferred NOT cutting the tree down but decorating it outside with religious decorations as baked goodies shaped like fish, birds and other animals as an offering to Woden. Cutting trees down started around the 16th century in Germany as the ‘paradise tree’ in honor of Adam and Eve. I think it was too cold and they brought it inside to stay warm by the fire. Other historical plants are red Amaryllis, Christmas Cactus, Holly and mistletoe and speaking of mistletoe…
Balder’s Mistletoe or as the Celts called it ‘All heal”
The Norse god Loki is said to have made an arrow of the mistletoe wood to kill the untouchable Balder. At his death, t Norse goddess Frig cried white tears, which brought her son back to life. She blessed the plant and started the tradition of kissing under its sprigs. Mistletoe then became the symbol of peace and joy because the Druids ordered anyone who met under this plant to lay down their arms and swear a truce until the next day. Not only did the Norse honor this plant, so did the Celts, North American Indians and Romans.
Around the 18th century a kiss under the mistletoe meant a promise to marry. Plus, a girl who passes under it could NOT refuse being kissed for, if she did, she wouldl never find a husband until the next Christmas.
Now holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and it was strewn throughout Roman houses and adorned their statues of Saturn and in the temples. It is said that this plant was the Crown of Thorns that Christ wore to the Cross. Thus is a symbol of His sacrifice or gift of salvation…to Christians.
Red, Green, and Gold — Candles, Balls, and Ivy
Winter had been conquered and a new year was coming. Since Saturn was considered the sun and the sun came to destroy the dark of winter, candles came to represent the renewal of light and the coming of a new year. Thus Saturnalia became the ‘festival of light’ and thus Romans filled their homes with candles to ‘the birthday of the unconquerable sun.It wasn’t long before the candle represented the ‘Unconquerable Son.’
Red of course became the blood of Christ, green for the evergreen and everlasting life, and gold is one of the gifts of the kings as well as the color is the sun.
Gifts, Songs, Cards, and Shopping
And speaking of gold and gifts, gift giving was a big part of the Romans’ Saturnalia. But to think that gift giving was only done by the Romans is to believe that people around the world didn’t enjoy making people happy. In fact they did, do, and will continue to celebrate together.
They sang and still sing favorite songs all around the world and for all occasions. Thus we have Christmas carols, and singing through the streets… ‘caroling.’
Another part of history…commercialism. Retailers today make most of their income during Christmas holiday as did the merchants of Rome and everywhere else where people made thing to help celebrate.
We share lots with the history through out the world. It proves it can be filled with love and happiness, peace and good will to all men and women and children. Together, we can make the world a blessed place to be for all eternity.
Now be sure to stop by this weekend December 21 and visit Casting Light in the Darkness because if you think I have shared my love of history, think again. Lots of other authors who love history are sharing things they’ve learned about Christmas and things about their favorite periods of history that you may not know. Don’t miss it.
art work by Avalon Graphics.org
Be sure to check back here on December 21st in for my last post on ‘
“Santa and his Elves.”
HO HO HO and Merry Christmas!
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