As the year draws to an end, the holiday spirit is in the air (quite
literally we are waiting for the actual ‘holiday’ to start) Well,
jokes aside Christmas is surely just around the corner and the spirit
of Christmas is once again present among us. But what is this ‘Spirit
of Christmas’? In fact what is Christmas?
When a person thinks of Christmas, the first thing that most probably
comes to mind is the Christmas tree or Santa Claus or even presents.
Christmas can be described in many ways but it is usually celebrated
by millions of people according to tradition. Tradition dictates to
put up a Christmas tree, decorate the house for ‘Santa Claus to come
and visit’ exchange gifts with one another and the list goes on. There
are other ancient traditions that have become part of many families
around the world. But have you ever wondered how these traditions
The tradition of the Christmas tree has certainly come a long way
dating back to the ancient Egyptians who were part of a long line of
cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter
solstice arrived, the brought green date palm leaves into their homes
to symbolize life’s triumph over death.
There have been festivals of every sort around the winter solstice
going back to the Romans. But it was the Emperor Aurelian who fixed
the actual date. He called December 25th ‘The Birthday of the
Unconquered Sub,’ and put it right in the middle of the feast of
Saturnalia in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. This was
always a time of great merry making. There were big dinners, halls
bedecked with laurels and green trees, people carrying lighted candles
through the streets and the giving of gifts was common practice. In
fact, you might say that the Christmas spirit is really the spirit of
Saturnalia passed on over time.
Centuries ago in Great Britain, wood priests called Druids used
evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The druids used
holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen
branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen
trees inside their homes or just outside their door to show their hope
in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from
these early traditions.
Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating
trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year
1500, he was walking through snow covered woods and was struck by the
beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with
snow shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little
fir tree indoors so he could share the story with his children. He
decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honour of Christ’s