The Original Christmas
Merry Christmas, Christmas is Here, The festival of Christmas trees, Sweets and Santa clause, family feasting and how can we forget Christmas gifts. Christmas is a popular Winter holiday celebrated by large numbers of people all around the world. On this day people have a family get together, sing Christmas Carols, exchange gifts and children hang stockings and wait for Santa Clause to arrive with their gifts.
But ever wondered What was really a Christmas Holiday? When did the really Christmas began? is Christmas originally Christmas? However, the Bible does not mention the celebration of Christmas unlike the celebration of Passover. Then what is the Mystery of its origin?
The Real Christmas Holiday.
Christmas, A winter holiday was actually a Roman Pagan Holiday that was called Saturnalia which was a week-long fest starting December 17 till December 25 in honor of Roman God Saturn. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, followed by a public banquet, private gift-giving and continual partying in a carnival-like atmosphere. That overturned Roman social norms where gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves, Masters, and slaves were on equal status, and the slaves enjoyed utmost freedom from slavery. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days”.
Who is Saturn?
Saturn was a Roman agricultural deity who reigned over the world during the Golden age. He was also said to be a Greek equivalent of Cronus. Cronus was a Greek Titan God that overthrew his father Uranus and ruled the world.
How Cronus became Saturn?
There is a story of how Cronus became Saturn. Cronus married Rhea and their offspring were first Olympians. just to make sure that Cronus was safe He started to eat his own offspring and Rhea was really saddened with the loss of her children. When Zeus was born to Rhea, she tricked Cronus to swallow a rock instead of Zeus. years later when Zeus grew up he revolted and battled his father and titans and banished them to the underworld. Cronus managed to escape to Italy and ruled as a Roman God Saturn during the golden age.
What is Saturnalia?
Not much is known about the festival of Saturnalia in the ancient sources, however certain Roman literature give a brief understanding of the festivals and its customs. Latin Writer Macrobius coined the word Saturnalia to his dramatic multi-volume work. which was then used as a name for the festival. In his interpretation of the festival, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth.
How Kronia became Saturnalia.
Most of the Practices and Rituals of Saturnalia were adopted from the Greek festival Kronia that was celebrated in Honor of Cronus when he was ruling the world.
Kronia was celebrated as a harvest festival and a festival of freedom as well where masters and slaves dined together and played games such as dice, board games, etc. It was this time when slaves were released of their duties and were allowed to participate in the festivities alongside the slave-owners. Slaves could do anything run around the city, have riots, shout, make noise and live free of restrictions. Kronia then evolved to the festival of Saturnalia just as the Greek god evolving to the Roman.
Practices and rituals in celebration of Saturnalia.
The statue of Saturn at his main temple had its feet bound in wool, which was removed for the holiday as an act of liberation. The sacrifice was then officiated by a priest with head covered by a special fold of the toga. Following the sacrifice, the Roman Senate arranged a meal that was offered to god Saturn. The days were supposed to be a holiday from all forms of work, including Schools, the city administration and also law enforcement. It was celebrated as a festival of complete freedom. After the public rituals, observances continued at home. On 18 and 19 December, which were also holidays from public business, families conducted domestic rituals. They bathed early, and those with means sacrificed a newly born piglet, as a traditional offering to the earth deity. The Head of slaves had the responsibility to sacrifice to the god and also to make all the arrangements. when everything was arranged according to annual customs they would then summon the masters at the dinner table and dine with them. Saturnalia also permitted slaves to disrespect their masters without the threat of punishment. Slaves were treated to a banquet of the kind usually enjoyed by their masters. This festival embarked equality among Men, Women, and Slaves. Gambling and dice playing were otherwise prohibited but were allowed during the festival and even slaves could part take. Coins and Nuts became the stake for the Gamble.
Time for Gifts.
Then on 19th December, the Gift-giving Day Sigillaria was celebrated. gifts such as pottery, wax figurines called Sigillaria, candles, or joke gifts were made especially for this day and were exchanged as part of celebrations. Children were gifted toys. Also, there are mentions in poems about Saturnalia about gifts such as writing tablets, dice, moneyboxes, combs, hat, hunting knife, crockery, perfumes, animals, slaves, clothing, and many more. The gifts Whether exotic or not, they were a token of love and friendship the individuals had. along with gifts, verses accompanied them as an expression of feelings and thoughts.
New year celebration in Ancient Rome
The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun”, on 23 December. Sol Invisctus was the sun god of Romans. However, was Sol Invisctus really the refoundation of ancient Roman soar deity sol or not is debatable but in 274 AD the Roman emperor Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. and Sol Invisctus was worshiped as sun god.
Saturnalia and Sol Invisctus connection.
According to Porphyry a Modern Platonic Philosopher, the Saturnalia occurred near the winter solstice because the sun enters Capricorn, the astrological house of Saturn, at that time. In the Saturnalia of Macrobius, the proximity of the Saturnalia to the winter solstice leads to an exposition of solar monotheism, the belief that the Sun ultimately encompasses all divinities as one. Therefore Saturnalia became a prominent winter holiday.
The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, many of its customs were recast into or at least influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.
All the rituals of Saturnalia were transformed to Christmas when Europe came under the rule of Christianity and it was called Christmas. Christmas became a notable holiday during the renaissance period and American revolution. It was during the 1800s when America stared observing Christmas as a popular holiday. Christmas and Birth of Jesus are two different aspects. Jesus was not born on Christmas Eve but it is celebrated as such. the bible gives no written evidence of the birth of Jesus nor does any gospel. then what does the bible say about the birth of Jesus and how did Christmas day become the birthday of Jesus ?. This will be answered in my next article on Christmas.