The origins of Christmas

An ornament takes its place on the Christmas tree.

An ornament takes its place on the Christmas tree.

Jason Pierce, Staff Writer

Everyone knows of the Christmas holiday, but most don’t know the history behind it or its origins. Nowadays, it is associated with the birth of Christ and the Christian religion. While this is mostly true, that is not only where the tradition starts. Some of the traditions of the holiday come from two pagan holidays and others are from more famous stories today.

Saturnalia was a holiday in Rome that took place around the time of the winter solstice, and it was a holiday in honor of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. It was the time of the year in Rome when food and drink were plentiful as winters there were never harsh. 

This holiday lasted around a month, and it was a month where the order of society changed temporarily, and enslaved people were given freedom and treated equally to everyone else. Schools and businesses would close during this time as well. During these, the Romans also celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the Roman god of the sun, on the day Dec. 25.

Yule was another holiday celebrated during this time by the Germanic tribes of Europe, the most famous, being the Vikings. Yule was a midwinter festival of the winter solstice, also known as the halfway point of winter. This holiday is where Christmas gets traditions such as decorating a tree and gift-giving. This is also where the burning of the Yule log comes from, and during the festivities, there would be a whole tree that would be burned.

Additionally, the story of Santa is based on the true story of St. Nicholas, who was a man who lived in the fourth century in the region that is now Turkey. His story starts with a poor man and three daughters and could not afford the dowry for them to be married. So one night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the man’s chimney and into a stocking over the fireplace to pay for the dowry. He would soon go and spread his joy around his town. Then word got out on what he was doing for people. These actions eventually immortalized him as the Santa Claus, we know today.