Ultimate Christmas Quiz – Answer #9

9. Which of these traditional Christmas elements were originally pagan?

         a. Christmas Trees, Christmas Wreaths, and Yule Logs
         b. Caroling, Christmas Ham, Christmas candles
         c. The Birth of the Savior
         d. Boughs of Holly and Sprigs of Mistletoe
         e. All of the above

Note: Are you really surprised? There aren’t too many fir trees in the holy land, but they were revered in pre-Christian northern Europe for thousands of years. Their pagan midwinter fest, Yule, gave us Christmas trees, wreaths and yule logs, and the Yule Boar, now our Christmas ham. There’s still a Yule Goat tradition in Scandinavia, though they are now straw ornaments and decorations, instead of sacrificial meals. The practice of door-to-door Christmas caroling came from wassailing, which has pagan Anglo-Saxon roots. Originally a blessing of the harvest, in some periods it was more like a drunken version of trick-or-treat.

         Holly and Mistletoe were sacred plants to many ancient peoples, including the Celtic Druids, the Saxons and Scandinavians. Both were venerated for their ability to stay green during the winter, the symbolic colors of their red and white berries, and other traits such as mistletoe’s golden hue and holly’s prickly leaves. The 3rd century church Father Tertullian, who could be fairly prickly himself, actually condemned the practice of decorating the house for the holidays with boughs or lamps, comparing it to dressing your house up like a heathen temple or a new brothel!

         And as we already saw earlier, the winter solstice marked the birth of many savior gods – So many, in fact, that early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr and Firmicus Maternus insisted that the Devil must have foreseen the coming of Christianity in advance and created all the counterfeit Christianities centuries before the real Christianity arrived(!), fuming “The Devil has his Christs!”

David Fitzgerald is (among other things) a historical researcher and the author of the book NAILED: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (recently voted one of the Top Five Atheist/Agnostic Books of 2010 by About.com)
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One Response to Ultimate Christmas Quiz – Answer #9

  1. Rose says:

    Interesting. I am familiar with the idea that many of the Christmas traditions had pagan roots, but you ramped it up a bit. Nonetheless, the holiday has a wonderful impact on me, one that I could not easily explain.

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