Originally posted by Dawnaj
Seriously, didnīt they change it from "Christmas" to something like "Festival of the Tree" - help me out here
A star cult....or sun-worship, became (in the third century A.D.) the dominant official creed, paving the road for the ultimate triumph of
Judaeo-Christian monotheism. So strong was the belief in the Invincible Sun (Sol Invictus) that for example Constantine I (d. 337), himself at first a
devotee of the sun cult, found it, indeed perfectly compatible with his pro-Christian sympathies to authorize his own portrayal as Helios. And in 354
the ascendant Christian church in the reign of his pious but unsavory son, Constantius II, found it prudent to change the celebration of the birth of
Jesus from the traditional date (January 6) to December 25, in order to combat the pagan Sun godís popularityóhis ďbirthdayĒ being December 25. This
is actually just history that for some odd reason, many people do not know
"For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it
with silver and with gold..." -- Jeremiah 10:3,4
As to many of the other trappings of the holiday...
Many customs are Pre-Christian .......Among them is the ever-popular Yule Log. Traditionally, the Yule Log has been of oak, ash or beech, ritually cut
(often at Dawn) and ceremonially carried into the house. It was lit by the head of the family with much ado. Toasts were often drunk with wine, cider
or brandy, in those early morning hours, giving the participants a good head-start on the festivities. A lesser known tradition is that of the Yule
Clog. The Clog was a knobby block of wood, burnt in the kitchen hearth. Household servants were entitled to ale with their meals for as long as the
Clog was kept burning. In many parts of Scandinavia, the object burnt was a fat wax candle, instead of a log. The candle was lit at Dawn and must burn
until Midnight, or be considered an ill omen The Yule Log was said to have many magickal properties Remnants of it, or its ashes, were kept in the
house throughout the year for many purposes. Among these were protection from thunderstorms or lightning, protection from hail, preserving humans from
chilblains and animals from various diseases. Mixed with fodder, the ashes would make the cows calve and brands were thrown into the soil to keep corn
healthy. Women often kept fragments until Twelfth Night to ensure a thriving poultry flock in the coming year. It was customary to pour libations of
wine or brandy upon the Log and to make offerings by scattering corn or bread crumbs over it. Even money was placed on the Log. Those charred "lucky
coins" were then given to children or servants as gifts.
Wassailing is another happy survival of an old tradition. "Wassail" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Waes Hael", which has been translated to "Be
Well," "Be Whole" or "Be Healthy." The proper response to this toast is "Drink Hael", making it a shared blessing, a mutual well-wishing.
Traditionally, carolers went from door to door, singing and bearing their "Wassail Cups", to be rewarded with the drink and fruited breads or other
Even with the Yule Log and the Wassail Bowl, no Yule celebration would be complete without a decorated tree. This custom is thought to originate in
the Roman custom of decorating homes with laurel and evergreen trees at the Kalends of January (the Roman Winter Solstice celebration). It is
interesting to note that, as with many other traditions adopted by the Church, the decorated evergreen (now called a "Christmas Tree") was
originally condemned by Rome. An early Christian writer, Tertullian, spoke of the practice as follows:
"Let them" (the Pagans) "kindle lamps, they who have no light; let them fix upon their doorposts laurels which shall afterward be burnt, they for
whom fire is so close at hand; meet for them are testimonies of darkness and auguries of punishment. But, thou" (the Christians) "art a light of the
world and a tree that is ever green. If thou hast renounced temples, make not a temple of thine own house."
Even as late as the sixth century, Bishop Martin of Braga forbade the "adorning of houses with green trees." So obviously, the Christian adoption of
the evergreen tree as a holiday symbol was another case of "If you can't beat'em, join'em!" In Winter, when all is brown and dead, the evergreens
symbolize immortality. They are reminders of the survival of life in the plant world, a means of contact with the Spirit of Growth and Fertility,
which has been threatened by the absence of Light. Especially good for this purpose are plants like Holly and Mistletoe, which actually bear fruit in
Winter. (Mistletoe, the Golden Bough, the All-Healer, is traditional both at Winter and Summer Solstice.)
Music is a very important part of this joyous festival. Many of the "Christmas" carols are just as suited to Yule, with virtually no change. (It's
a good guess that some of them were ours to start with!) "Joy to the World" and "Deck the Halls" are quite appropriate as is and you can have a
lot of fun creating your own words for some of the others. In some cases, existing old lyrics prove that we are simply "reborrowing" what was
"borrowed" from us!