The Pagan Trappings Of Christmas

Before it was “Christmas”, it was “Yule”. Interestingly, many of the trappings of Christmas are really the trappings of pre-Christian European religions based on the worship of nature.

I got this little bit from a friend who emailed it to me from MSN in the 90s:

When jingle bells hang on the bank door and the local bakery is handing out green and red reindeer cookies, you know what time of year it is. But what are these images? Why are stockings, of all things, hung by the chimney with care, and why is everyone handing out peppermint sticks?

Here’s how some of the most familiar icons may have found their way into the holiday:

Santa Claus:
An amalgam of ancient pagan idols, elves and heroes, Santa is one of the most universal symbols of Christmas, celebrated in one form or another from Australia to Europe to China and the Philippines. The American Santa Claus is said to trace his roots primarily to St. Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop, and Father Christmas, an English character inspired by the Roman god Saturn. The image of Santa as a jolly old bearded elf was popularized by the late 19th century illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Nast. He’s the same guy who came up with the donkey and the elephant as symbols of
Democratic and Republican parties

Stockings:
As legend has it, St. Nicholas was a shy man who tried to be discreet about his charity. Once he climbed onto the roof of a poor family’s house and dropped a purse of coins down the chimney, and it landed in a sock a girl had hung to dry by fireplace. Hey, it could happen again!

Candy canes:
These confections were created as a tribute to Christ. The pure white candy in the shape of a staff refers to Jesus as the sinless shepherd; a broad red stripe symbolizes blood shed for the sins of the world, and three thinner stripes represent lashes from the Roman soldiers

Flying Reindeer:
Clement Clarke Moore, a New York professor and poet, spread this notion with his 1823 hit poem “Visit from St. Nicholas” (“‘Twas the night before Christmas “).

Mistletoe:
According to Druid superstition, mistletoe was a divine branch that grafted itself to an earthly tree actually, it is a “parasitic” plant), and it was used for casting spells and curing ills. The Druids believed that mistletoe, when held above a woman’s head, rendered her incapable of resisting a man

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