Decorating evergreen trees, exchanging gifts, and adorning your home in winter did not originate with Christmas, but rather ancient traditions celebrating the winter solstice. Last year I wrote an 800-word essay on “Why My Muslim Family Celebrates Christmas”. That essay shares my research on why some Christmas traditions existed before Christianity. The facts are the same, but this year I made it a quick read. Here are the top three Christmas traditions that originated before Christianity.
December 25th Celebrates Winter Solstice
Before Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, December 25th marked the celebration of the winter solstice on the Julian Calendar. A celestial event where the sun seems to stop declining in the sky for three days. Then it begins to rise on the 25th of December, the sun’s rebirth. The winter solstice celebrations in 274 A.D. fell on Dec. 25. The beginning of winter is a significant time for humankind, our survival depends on a community, trust, charity, and winter solstice cheer.
Decorating Evergreen Trees Is #WinterSolsticeVibes
Ancient Chinese, Hebrews, and Egyptians viewed evergreens as symbols of eternal life. It was and continues to be a lovely way to bring green into your home during the chilly winter months. Interestingly, most 18th and 19th-century Americans thought the tradition of decorating trees was pagan and it was even outlawed in Massachusetts.
Giving Gifts Began As A New Year’s Eve Tradition
Gift exchanges are an essential part of Christmas morning but that wasn’t always the case. Ronald Hutton, a historian at Bristol University in the United Kingdom, shared with LiveScience that during winter solstice presents were shared for New Years. Queen Victoria shifted the tradition in the 1800s when she gifted her family on Christmas Eve.
Culture Is Ever Evolving
I believe you can celebrate the season without celebrating one religion. Evergreens, gift giving, and celebrating the end of harvest is part of a greater story about humankind that began thousands of years ago. Though the most common “reason for the season” is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (a prophet of Christianity and Islam). Seasonal cheer is timeless, much-needed, and weaved through all culture and religions.
Peace & Salam,