This Friday, many stockings will be hung by the chimney with care and trees adorned with garland and ornaments. Carols will be sung, and fires lit with Yule logs burning bright. Christmas will finally be here, and all of its traditions celebrated. Many will go to midnight mass and hear about Christ and the “true meaning” of Christmas. They might be surprised to know of the Pagan influenced that created this well-known holiday.
The date of Christmas, December 25th, is the first way we see the holiday shadowing paganism. Due to contrary belief, this was not Jesus Christ’s birthday. According to historians, Jesus was likely born around autumn as opposed to winter. The reason Christmas is celebrated on the 25th is based on the pagan festival, Yule, which honors Winter Solstice. This is the time of year where the day is at its shortest, and pagans would celebrate the return of the sun and the daylight in the coming days ahead. Around this time, many pagan gods had birthdays. The Roman God, Mithra, had a birthday on December 25th. Known as the God of the Sun, his birthday was celebrated with an exchanging of presents. When Christianity emerged in Rome, it was a fairly new religion, so to gain popularity and followers, they placed Christmas at this time to convert the pagan Romans.
Another way we see pagan practices in Christmas is through the many traditions and symbols of this holiday. The Christmas tree is a well-known symbol of Christmas, and each year, around 25-30 million trees are sold for the holiday (which sparks huge ecological concern to be discussed later in depth). Trees for Pagans were sacred, especially in Scandinavian societies. They believed spirits resided in the trees, and bringing them into the home was a way to bless the house of the supernatural powers the spirits possessed. Evergreen trees represented sex and fertility, and during the winter solstice, trees were chopped down, brought inside the home, set up, and decorated as idols of worship. The Yule log is another Pagan tradition that has been upheld throughout the centuries. In Scandinavia, the Norse would honor Jul, the god of sex and fertility. For twelve days, a large, single log was kept burning. The Yule log was a fertility symbol in Norse religion, and on each of the twelve nights, a sacrifice (animal or human) was thrown into the fire as an offering. Other ways pagan traditions are seen in today’s Christmas holiday are mistletoe, Santa, and his reindeer.
So, with a little Religious history lesson on the origins of the holiday, I have taken to celebrating Christmas in a spiritual manner, as well as from an environmental standpoint. It is an EcoSpiritual lifestyle, and the holidays are no different, in fact, they should be a time of heightened spirituality, for all the blessings that Mother Nature provides at these times. So here are some ways to have your own EcoSpiritual holiday:
Be Environmental this Season – As previously stated, an enormous amount of trees are cut down annually for the holiday. This is a huge concern, considering these trees are in our homes solely for the purpose of decoration. The alternative is plastic, which I don’t consider much of an improvement, since plastic is not biodegradable. I have discovered a couple alternatives. One is collecting fallen pine debris and crafting your own little holiday alter, using pine cones, fir, Yule, and other winter foliage. If you have your heart set on a traditional Christmas tree, here are 14 Faux Christmas Tree ideas, which are a little more eco-friendly. Another environmental concern for the holidays is the amount of waste we produce. According to Standford, on average, we produce 7 million more pounds of waste from Thanksgiving until New Years. This is seen primarily through excess wrapping. There are a few ways to reduce the amount of waste caused by this holiday. One is reusing gift bags instead of wasting all that paper due to wrapping. Reusing wrapping paper is another idea. I am re-using brown butcher paper with jute for my holiday presents. Topped with a sprig or other festive decoration, they still have that holiday cheer with an eco-chic flare. Even better, a simple brown box with fun ribbon can make a beautiful presentation for any present.
Celebrate the Season of Giving – On the path to enlightenment, we learn that it is better to give than to receive. It fills our hearts with warmth to brighten someone else’s day. Celebrate the Season of Giving by volunteering, donating a gift or food to a local drive, giving money to a charity or non profit organization, or finding your own ways of giving back to the community. Also, due to this time being Winter Solstice, it is important to give back to Mother Nature as well. Honor her by having a ceremony or ritual, building an alter or shrine, or simply thanking her for a blessed year.
Recognize the Full Moon – The full moon falls on Christmas this year, which provides heightened magical energies. The full moon is a good time to practice divination and to cleanse your crystals. The full moon symbolizes things coming full circle and completion, so it is also a good time to recognize matters in your life coming to an end, such as the end of the year, or things being complete and whole in your life, such as a happy home, loving family, and wonderful friendships, as well as spiritual healing. This year, the full moon will fall in Cancer, which is a sign associated with the home and family, perfect for the holiday!
Keep the Holiday Traditions Alive – Sing carols, decorate the tree, drink eggnog (Vegan of course), and do all of the other wonderful things that make this holiday special. Maybe there is a favorite family tradition that you and your loved ones can participate in. If not, perhaps it is time that your family begin a new tradition that brings everyone together.
As we grow spiritually, we learn to accept all religions and ways of life. We appreciate the similarities and respect the differences. Christmas has many ties in other religions and practices, and now knowing the origins of this holiday, hopefully there is more of an appreciation to Christmas and it’s spiritual roots. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, however you choose to enjoy it!