The ORIGINs of "christmas" ..

... stem 

from both 

the pagan - 

and Roman - culture. 


The Romans celebrated 

two holidays in the month of December: 

"Saturnalia", a two-week festival 


their god of agriculture 


and, on December 25th: 

the birth of Mithra, 

their sun god. 


The darkest day of the year 

in pagan and Roman culture 

fell in December, 

so bonfires and candles were lit 

to keep darkness at bay. 


As Christianity spread across Europe, 

Christian clergy's inability

to tame this seasonal, 

custom pagan jubilation 

 - and since no one knew 

the accurate date of Christ's birth - 

they adapted the pagan ritual 

into the celebration 

of his birthday. 



As part of 

the solstice celebrations, 

the pagan cultures 

decorated their homes with greens 

in anticipation of spring to come. 


Evergreen trees remained green 

during the coldest, darkest days, 

so they were believed 

to hold special powers. 


The Romans 

decorated their temples with fir trees, 

"clothed" with bits of metal, 

during "Saturnalia". 



the first trees 

introduced into the pagan homes 

were hung upside down 

from the ceiling. 


Records of the Greeks 

decorating trees 

in honor of their gods 

exist furthermore .. 


The tree tradition 

we are accustomed to today 

hails from Northern Europe, 

where Germanic pagan tribes 

garnished their evergreen trees 

in worship of 

the god "Woden" 

with candles and dried fruit. 


The tradition flowed 

into the Christian faith in Germany 

during the 1500’s, 

honouring the trees in their homes 

with sweets, lights, and toys. 



Inspired by St. Nicholas, 

the Christmas tradition has Christian 

- rather than pagan - roots. 


Born in southern Turkey around 280, 

St. Nicholas was known to be 

a bishop of the early Christian church, 

having suffered persecution 

and imprisonment for his faith. 


Emanating from a wealthy family, 

he was renowned for his generosity 

towards the poor and disenfranchised. 


The legends surround him manyfold, 

yet the most famous 

is his saving of three daughters 

from slavery 

when selling them

was their father’s last resort 

as no man was enticed

enough to marry them. 


St. Nicholas is said 

to have tossed gold 

through an open window 

into their home, 

thus saving them from their fate. 


Legend also has it 

that the gold landed 

in a sock 

drying by the fire, 

so children began 

hanging stockings by their fires 

in the hopes that 

St. Nicholas would toss gifts 

into them too. 


In honor of his passing, 

December 6th 

was declared „St. Nicholas Day“. 


As time matured, 

each European culture 

adapted versions of St. Nicholas. 


In Swiss and German cultures, 

the "Christkind" or "Kris Kringle" (Christ child) 

accompanied St. Nicholas 

to deliver presents to well-behaved children. 


"Jultomten" was a happy elf, 

delivering gifts with a sleigh 

drawn by goats in Sweden. 

"Father Christmas" evolved in England 

and "Pere Noel" germed and cultivated in France. 


"Sinter Klaas" (Klaas, a shortened version of the name Nicholas) 

ripened as legend in the Netherlands, 

Belgium, Luxembourg, Lorraine, France 

and even in parts of Germany. 



originally resembled a bag of colours. 


Many with Puritan beliefs 

banned Christmas 

because of its pagan origins 

and the raucous nature 

of their celebrations. 


Other immigrants 

arriving from Europe 

continued with the customs 

of their homelands: 


the Dutch 

brought "Sinter Klaas" 

to New York in the 1600’s, 

the Germans 

carried in their tree traditions 

during the 1700’s, 

each celebrated in their own way 

within their communities. 

It wasn’t until the early 1800’s, 

that the "American Christmas" 

began to shape. 


Washington Irving 

wrote a series of stories 

about a wealthy English landowner 

who invited his workers 

to have dinner with him. 


Irving liked the idea 

that people of all 

backgrounds and social status 

come together 

for a festive holiday, 

so he told a tale 

which reminisced about old, 

"gone lost" Christmas traditions 

that had been restored 

by this wealthy landowner. 


Through Irving’s story 

the idea 

began to take hold 

in the hearts 

of the American poeple. 


In 1822, 

Clement Clark Moore wrote 

"An Account of 

a Visit from St. Nicholas" 

for his daughters, 

which to this day 

is famously known as 

"The Night Before Christmas". 



the modern idea 

of Santa Claus 

as a jolly man 

flying through the sky 

on a magical sleigh 




in 1881, 

the artist Thomas Nast 

was hired 

to draw a depiction of Santa 

for a Coke-a-Cola advertisement. 

He created a rotund Santa 

with a wife named Mrs. Claus, 

surrounded by worker - elves. 


After this, 

the image of Santa 

as a cheerful, 

well - nourished, 

white-bearded man 

in a red suit 


in American culture. 



After the civil war, 

the "America" opened 

for ways to look past differences 

and become united 

as one community. 


In 1870, 

President Ulysses S. Grant 

declared it a federal holiday 


while Christmas traditions 

have adapted with time, 

Washington Irving’s 

desire for unity 

lives on. 


The thought 

survives to this day 

as a time of year 

where we wish others well, 

and give presents 

with a joyful spirit .. 





wherever you may be 


whatever traditions you follow: 


may we live to .. 

"BE the refinement 

we wish for the world". 

(from the lyrics of: 

"I'll be home for this Festive Season" 

(my 2022 Christmas Single)




Mark Eliah