Christmas has a reputation for being a very popular and religious holiday. Often, relatives come to visit and share in the holiday spirit. The 25 of December, Christmas Day, is thought of  by people of Christian Faith as the day that Jesus was born. However, the origins of Christmas are not one hundred percent certain. What is known is that this holiday and celebration has been around for thousands of years.

Christmas is a very festive holiday. The word ‘Christmas’ has many definitions. The name comes from the ‘Mass of Christ’. The name can also mean, ‘Christ festival,’ however, this holiday is originally based off a Roman festival called Saturnalia.

During Saturnalia, the festival was in worship of the sun and tied to the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice holds significance in many religious festivals and holidays. Pagans and sun worshippers have celebrated this event for thousands of years. When the Winter Solstice happens, the days slowly became longer, which means that spring and harvest season is around the corner. Early Christians and pagans had different beliefs, which were eventually assimilated into the holiday we celebrate today.

Saturnalia is a pagan holiday that honors the Roman God, Saturn, who is the god of sowing and seeds. It took place between December 17 and 24. The festivities of this holiday included drinking, eating luxuriously, and giving gifts. The festival began as a rural farmer’s way of marking the end of planting season and midwinter. During this time, there was lessened sunlight, and sun and stargazers would see the change in the suns’ position. They were now relying on their summer stores of food such as grains and other crops to get them through the winter. This was almost a halfway mark, to give them dedication to make it through the darkness of  winter in order to make it to a lush and plentiful growing and harvesting season.

There are many pagan traditions that modern day humans still practice. Even before recorded history, pagans would worship trees in the forest and bring them home to decorate, which is believed to be the origin of a Christmas tree. Mistletoe was believed to protect people from thunder and lightning, and a piece would be cut off and distributed amongst the people for protection. Mistletoe was considered a symbol of peace and joy, and meeting under the mistletoe was a call for a truce between enemies.

When one says the word Christmas, the first thing to come to mind are the colors red and green. These two colors represent fertility and burning a yule log as a representation of the returning sun as the days began to get longer again. During Medieval times in France, a log of wood would be brought home and put in the fireplace, where it functioned as the center of each activity. This was then called a Yule Log, and the tradition continued over the years. Some ingredients would be sprinkled on top, and then it would be lit on fire. If the log was lit on Christmas Eve, it had to burn for 12 days before being put out.

Commercial shoppers and religious people can thank the ancient traditions and pagan history stretching back thousands of years as they celebrate the holidays. Christmas is a holiday about traditions and family, but now it is more based on shopping and, for some, religious practices. Today, more than two billion people in more than 160 countries consider Christmas to be the most important holiday of the year.