Here’s a curation (or “buffet") of not-so-common ideas and information about Christmas for your holiday enjoyment. For each piece of information, I included some links to encourage further research and conversation. Linking a source doesn’t mean I endorse the ideas contained within. Each link is simply something I found through a very basic internet search. Also something to put in the “interesting” stack that may/may not be used later.
The intention of this post was to stretch my imagination about what could possibly be and share my findings with you. This is NOT a post implying that we should get rid of Christmas, Frosty, Santa and replace it with something else (even though I would not be opposed :-)).
Cheers to exposing our awareness to a diet of various perspectives that challenge and encourage growth, including ideas that we may initially disagree with. May we have the strength to look beyond the veil and maintain an open, yet skeptical, mind.
(1) Jesus Shares a “Birthday” With Many Pagan Celebrations
Many years prior to the advent of Christianity, groups in the Northern Hemisphere used evergreen plants to decorate their homes and celebrate the Winter Solstice (December 21/22). The evergreen plants served as a reminder that the “Sun God” (masculine) would shine again. The ancient Romans also marked the Winter Solstice with the Saturnalia feast, celebrating the God of agriculture and also decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.
Saturnalia was the most important celebration in Roman culture. During this festival (approx. 12/17 - 12/23), no one could be prosecuted for injuring or killing people, raping, theft. This was also a time for kindness via the exchange of presents (source). During the 4th century, when the Roman Catholic Church decided to recognize Jesus' birth as an official holiday, Pope Julius I chose December 25 for the Feast of the Nativity (source).
(2) Early American Christian Churches banned Christmas because of its “unbiblical” associations.
Many statesmen and clergy condemned the association of Christmas with the celebration of the birth of Christ. Johann von Dannhauer, for instance, complained that the symbol distracted people from the “true" evergreen tree (Jesus) (source). They also condemned “pagan” customs associated with Christmas such as the Yule log, holly and mistletoe. Oliver Cromwell, the influential 17th-century British politician, preached against the “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event” (source).
3) Jesus was most likely not born in December and was probably a Leo (Lion) or a Virgo (Virgin).
Even though, with our current information, it is impossible to discern the precise date of Jesus' birth, many people agree that it probably wasn’t in December based on astronomy, history and cultural practice (source).
4) Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah.
5) Many symbols of Christmas are more “woo-woo” and secular than Christian.
For example, according to Celtic and Teutonic legend, mistletoe is magical — it can heal wounds, increase fertility, bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe didn't begin until the Victorian era. (source). A quick internet search on the origins of the Christmas Tree and ornaments will yield similar results.
6) Americans Celebrating Christmas with Christmas Trees is a Relatively Recent Phenomenon
Before the arrival of Christianity, Germans decorated evergreen trees to brighten the dark, gloomy days of the winter solstice. The first "Christmas trees" appeared in Strasbourg in the 17th century and spread to Pennsylvania in the 1820s with the arrival of German immigrants. When Queen Victoria married Germany's Prince Albert in 1840, he brought the tradition to England. Eight years later, the first American newspaper ran a picture of the royal Christmas tree, and Americans outside Pennsylvania quickly followed suit (source).
7) The magical St. Nicholas to Santa Clause connection is most likely false.
Nearly all Santa researchers agree that some traits of Santa was borrowed from Norse [Scandinavian] mythology. Even today in Sweden, Thor represents Santa Claus. Thor was probably history’s most celebrated and worshipped pagan god. His widespread influence is particularly obvious in the fifth day of the week, which is named after him – Thursday (a.k.a. Thor’s Day).
Thor’s symbol was a hammer. A hammer is also the symbolic tool of the carpenter – Santa Claus. It is also worth mentioning that Thor’s helpers were elves and like Santa’s elves, Thor’s elves were skilled craftsman. It was the elves who created Thor’s magic hammer. In the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, author Francis Weiser traces the origin of Santa to Thor: "Behind the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan Germanic god Thor.” (source).
8) Santa Claus Could Possibly Be an Agent of the “Dark Side"
Old Nick is a well-known British name of the Devil. Actor Adam Sandler and New Line Studios are obviously aware Nick is an alias for Satan. Their movie Little Nicky is about the son of Satan named Little Nicky. A teaser for the film says, "If your mother was an angel and your father was the devil you'd be messed up too."
St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas, Christkind, et. al.) also had an unusual helper or companion. This mysterious sidekick had many names or aliases. He was known as Knecht Rupprecht; Pelznickle; Ru-Klas; Swarthy; Dark One; Dark Helper; Black Peter; Hans Trapp; Krampus; Grampus; Zwarte Piets; Furry Nicholas; Rough Nicholas; Schimmelreiter; Klapperbock; Julebuk; et. al. Some other well known titles given to St. Nick’s bizarre companion is a demon, evil one, the devil and Satan. One of his dark duties was to punish children and "gleefully drag them to hell.”
Black Pete, the ‘grandfather’ of our modern Santa Claus. Known in Holland as Zwarte Piet, this eighteenth-century German version, is—like his ancient shamanic ancestor—still horned, fur-clad, scary, and less than kind to children. Although portrayed as the slave helper of Saint Nicholas, the two are, in many villages, blended into one character. This figure often has the name Nikolass or Klaus, but has the swarthy appearance of the Dark Helper (source).