Last October 31, I wrote an article about the origins of Halloween. This time, I wanted to take a moment to explore the meaning of this much awaited Winter celebration. It is one of the wonderful time of the year (or so we hear again and again through songs), if you live in a Christian influenced … Read More
Last October 31, I wrote an article about the origins of Halloween. This time, I wanted to take a moment to explore the meaning of this much awaited Winter celebration. It is one of the wonderful time of the year (or so we hear again and again through songs), if you live in a Christian influenced country, it is also the time to spend money, the time to give, unfortunately means also the most important time for commerce. So what does this day really represent? I present to you my findings. I know a number of people in my entourage who have a rather negative outlook on the holiday, the main reason is because for a capitalist society it is perhaps also one of the most capitalistic times ever, nearing Christmas we have the already predefined shopping times such as Black Friday and now Cyber Monday, these allocated shopping times are the times where merchants create promotions and deals to hike up shopping on the eve of the December tradition of gift giving. Following the end of Christmas, we have of course more allocated times with Boxing Day and then Boxing Week, as the year ends the story is merchants are looking forward to empty their inventories and therefore create all kinds of sales and ‘clearance’ sales with discounts advertised to be of up to 90% off at times. A spree in discounts often times creates a frenzy among shoppers looking to save a few dollars, many times on items they really don’t need, but become justified to get because of the seemingly good deals. Following the desire to get things, comes a behaviors resembling that of stampedes or mass impulse among herds. In the process, causing physical damage to store (things) and often times to people themselves. For instance, last year one man was shot in the leg in a fight for a television and another was stabbed in a parking lot outside a Walmart.1
But how did this special holiday come about? Some say we are celebrating the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ, some associated the holiday with Santa Claus, who vaguely refers to Saint Nicholas, a believed Greek saint from the 4th century who had a reputation for gift-giving and thus have become the direct reference to Christianity in the form of Santa. Another religuous refences has been linked to the use of the name itself, Christmas or Christ-Mass, which means the time to workship the Christ. Although only 2 gospels mention the birth of Jesus to be fall on December 25, this was enought evidence for the celebration of December 25th to be the accepted birth of the Christ. The fact the real birthdate of Jesus is not clear, by now it is even a consensus believed that although the date is not known, it is very likely that Jesus was not born in December 25, part of the reason is in the detail provided in the bible that contradict the date. For example, the gospel of St. Luke (2:2) descries Jesus’ parents travelling to Bethlehem to register for the census for the purpose of Roman taxatuon, historical accounts show the dates describes in the story of Jesus do not match those of the historial record, so nevermind a day of the year, we are not sure about the year or even century. So, it is probably safe to say we do not really know the birthday of Jesus. 2
When it comes to Santa, the story of the reindeers, the north pole tale of helping elves, contrary to popular belief and to the idea that Coca Cola invented it all is not very true, the idea of Santa originated from the description of Saint Nicholas in a 1823 poem titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” as it depicts a jolly wearing read hat white beareded man, black lethere belt and boots carring a bag full of gifts. 3 The image was widely popularized in the United States and Canada in the 19th century. It would not be accurate to detail the origins of Santa and if we don’t mention the Germanic roots of the image. Odin, the father of Thor, was often depeicted as an old white bearded men who rided the skyes in air on Sleipnir (a white horse with 8 legs) and surrounded by servant elves. In reality, the depiction of Odin in Norse literature resembles more of that of Tolkien in Lord of the Rings for the Gandalf character. There are more similarities, but perhaps the part of history that makes the idea of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas more plausible is that in around the time Christinism was being replaced to old pagan believes, the idea of Santa was being introduced and what do you know, Odin and Santa’s story seemed to be very similar, so it was adopted, thus the story of Santa originated from ancient Germanic Vicking origins.
There is another important point in which the Vikings believes brought to our current Christmas celebrating and that is the Yule celebration, or also known as the celebration of the wild hunt, a homage to the God Odin, a celebration that peaked around December 25th. Odin, the Vickings and other Nordic peoples were not the only ones who celebrated December 25th marked a day of celebration. After all, an important cosmic event, also known as the Winter Solstice, before there were religions or even civilizations, men where following the stars in acknowledging the existence of something greater than themselves.
The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon which marks the longest night and shortest day, after this important day the days will progressively being to be longer all the way to the longest day or summer solstice, which also happens to be the time we celebrate Easter Day. 4 Therefore, the celebration of the rebirth of son of God, happens to also be the day after the rebirth of the ‘sun,’ a time ancient religions like the Egyptians did actually using Sun symbolism and with names of Horus or the God, son of God, the Egyptians celebrated the rebirth of Horus on December 25th centuries before Christianity came into the picture. Other religions that venerated the Sun as their God, as the Incas and the Aztecs had similar celebrating marking this day. I think the it should be in our interest to understand the significance of these times, to realize first and foremost, what we are celebrating, because it is better to bring consciousness into what we do. For many, these are the most wonderful times of the year, or at the very least it is a time to spend more time with our loved ones, I believe it only strengthens the meaning of what we do in this time if we can reflect on it.