There is a good chance that Christmas is the earliest holiday that people from all of the world’s cultures celebrate together. The holiday is traditionally observed during the colder months of the year (or even the warm summer season if you count Australia, where Christmas is celebrated as an official holiday). Even before the birth of Jesus Christ took place, people in Europe found reasons to celebrate during the winter holidays long before the holiday we now know as Christmas was ever observed.
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The Winter Solstice Story
The Winter Solstice, which is observed on December 21 in the northern hemisphere, has traditionally been regarded as a cause for joyous celebration since ancient times. After the Winter Solstice, they were able to put the most difficult part of the year in the rearview mirror. At that point in time during the year, the days started getting longer, which provided the people with additional time to spend outside working on their crops and taking care of their animals.
Men and their sons in Scandinavian countries traditionally went into the woods on the Winter Solstice to cut down a tree as a tradition. After the tree was cut down, a log of a suitable size would be cut from it, and the men would then carry the log back to the house where it would be used. This log was given the name Yule Log, and it was used to light the fireplace during the holiday season. The celebration would continue throughout the duration of the Yule log’s burning. It’s not uncommon for the Yule log to stay ablaze for the entire Christmas season. Naturally, as the Yule log burned, it would send sparks flying out of the fireplace, and as these sparks would fly out of the hearth, the family would count them. This tradition continued until the Yule log was completely consumed by flames. And each spark represented a farm animal (such as a cow, a goat, a pig, etc.) that would be born on their property during the course of the year in question. It is essential to keep in mind that having farm animals was a sign of wealth back in those days.
The ancient Roman festival known as Saturnalia took place in honor of the winter solstice and was observed by pagans. The festival known as Saturnalia was held in honor of Saturn, who was considered to be the god of agriculture. The entire Roman empire is thrown into social upheaval during the time of Saturnalia due to the holiday’s celebration. It was unusual for members of lower social classes, such as servants and peasants, to spend time with people from higher social classes and celebrate holidays with them. In Rome, the Saturnalia festival is typically celebrated for a period of time that spans an entire week. At that time, people throughout the territory that comprised Rome were filled with joy. The expression “eat, drink, and be merry” was taken to its logical extreme during this party. During the time that people celebrate Saturnalia, stores and other places of business are closed. The festivalself typically draws to a close at the end of the first week of Saturnalia; however, the Saturnalia period does not itself draw to a close.
In addition to Saturn, who was the Roman god of agriculture, the Romans worshiped a god named Methra who was carved out of a rock and depicted as an infant. Methra was worshiped as a child. People also celebrated and rejoiced on the birthday of Mithra, just like they did during Saturnalia. One of the Roman people’s most important religious holidays was the day that this rock god was born, which was considered to be one of the holiest days of the year. It was a time for festivities, for coming together as a family, and for celebrating.