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Ancient Christmas

The modern Holiday Season has a lot to do with Legend and Folklore that still exists in many cultures – what was their Winter Solstice Celebrations. I love uncovering, as one commenter stated, “dark folklore.” These stories passed down are often considered to be the Old Wives tales or Witch Stories. Each revolves around the Magick of Nature, and if you dig deep enough, you can uncover some of our beloved Avengers tied into these Holiday Tales.

These Legends have existed for so long; one must think they hold some truth. So many of today’s Christmas Traditions come from Yule, Winter Solstice, and the beautiful Legends and Folklore that have long been told. 

So, is this Folklore and Legend, or is it based in some sense in reality?

The foundations for modern Christmas come from the Norse, but the origins are much more antiquated. 

Saturnalia – the Ancient Roman Holiday, celebrated in Mid- December during the Winter Solstice. Described as “the best of times” by the Roman poet Catullus, it was the Jolliest Holiday, dedicate to the God Saturnus who introduced agriculture and the arts of civilized life. 

“In the pre-Christian era, as the winter solstice approached and the plants died, pagans brought evergreen boughs into their homes as an act of sympathetic magic, intended to guard the life essences of the plants until spring. This custom was later appropriated by Northern Europeans and eventually it becomes the so-called Christmas tree.”

— Sheldon Cooper, on the festival Saturnalia
Ancient Roman Saturnalia

Saturnalia is the Roman festival honoring Saturnus, and It was the season when agricultural work was completed with a joyous feast.  

The idea was that Saturn or “the Lord of Misrule” ruled over chaos, rather than the standard Roman order. The familiar holiday custom of hiding coins or other small objects in cakes is one of many dating back to Saturnalia, as this was a method of choosing the mock king, called the Saturnalicius. During Saturnalia, businesses, courts, and schools closed their doors.

The Christian holiday of Christmas, primarily, owes many of its traditions to this Ancient Roman festival, including the season in which Christmas is celebrated. 

The Legend of Tinsel and the Christmas Spider

The Legend of the Christmas Spider

Krampus – In Central European folklore – Austria, more specifically, Krampus is the horned “half-goat, half-demon,” who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. 

In Lienz, Austria, the creature would dash through the streets with a stick, poking bad young children. Lienz’s annual Krampus Parade, also known as Perchtenlauf or Klaubaufe, takes place during the winter solstice. People in town dress up as the mythical creature and parade through the streets in an ancient pagan ritual meant to disperse winter’s ghosts.

Krampus is the foil to Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts.

Saint Nicholas – Nicholas of Bari. He is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker due to his performing of miracles. In one of the earliest attested and most famous incidents from his life, it is believed he rescued three girls from being forced into prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights so their father could pay a dowry for each of them.

This action translated to coming down the chimney with toys for good girls and boys, for our modern-day Christmas.

*source – Wikipedia

Milk & Cookies – There are a few theories, and one is, of course, linked to Odin and the Norse. 

  1. Leaving cookies and milk for Santa could be linked to people leaving out hay and treats for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipner. In hopes, the god would stop by their home during The Wild Hunt of Yule. This tradition was handed down to Dutch children who would leave treats out for Father Christmas’ horse.
  2. Leaving cookies and milk for Santa could be linked to Saint Nicholas. During the traditional feast of jolly old St. Nick, December 6th, children would leave food and drink for the Saint and his attendants. These offerings would be exchanged for gifts overnight.
  3. Leaving cookies and milk for Santa could be directly related to the history of the Christmas tree. In Germany, the people would decorate what they called a paradise tree with apples, wafers, and cookies. This German tradition would merge with Christianity and become the basis for our modern Christmas tree. And Santa would often snack on the delicious decorations. Over time, while Christmas tree decorations changed, the idea of leaving snacks for Santa stuck around.
  4. Leaving cookies and milk for Santa could be linked to the Great Depression. During this time, the belief was that parents wanted to inspire their children to share with others. To help them do this, they would leave snacks out for Santa Claus and his reindeer.

Wreath – has symbolic meaning for the season. Its circular shape represents eternity – no beginning and no end — the evergreen, most frequently used in the making wreaths, signifying growth and everlasting life. In the 16th century, creating wreaths during Yule was adopted by Christians and became a custom in the form of Advent wreaths decorating the entrances to homes. These wreaths, traditionally made of evergreens, which also symbolize eternal life, holly oak, and red berries.

Our modern traditions rooted in Ancient knowledge, wisdom, and life celebrations, should be honored each year. Remembering the roots of our holidays gives us a deeper connection to the history of our planet.

Our connections to the past run deep and blend into everyday pop culture. 

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Published by Roseanne Carlo

Founder at Gypsy Tribe Westchester 69 Westchester Ave Pound Ridge, NY 10576

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