Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Origins

This may be the most festive time of the year, but it is also the darkest, meaning less daylight. The sun is the farthest from the earth than at any other time. It's what scientists call the winter solstice. Modern man understands why we have less daylight, but ancient man did not, so he created joyful festivals to lighten up the dark mystery.

The Christmas tree, originally German in custom and called the Tannenbaum was decorated with brightly colored objects and candles. It was symbolic of bright light in a dark time. Modern man, of course, has replaced the candle with LED bulbs. There is also the old Teutonic custom of hanging holly branches around the house to shelter the sylvan or air-spirits from the cold of the outdoor winter.

In Roman times the great feast of Saturn was held in December. People would exchange green boughs as a token of friendship and then decorate their homes and temples with them. That custom may have been transferred to the early Christians, who celebrated Christ's birth, to them the light of the world.

The Holly or Holy tree is called Christ's thorn in Germany and in Scandinavian countries. The evergreen branches became symbols that while all other plants and trees around us appear lifeless and leafless, the light of all that is will see to it that in the spring, life will return. 

Interesting how it all works.  A marvel!

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