The History of Christian Holidays
Why do we celebrate Halloween? What is the original meaning of Easter? Was Jesus born on December 25? Why do we celebrate certain holidays?
- Christians Were Told Not To Observe Special Days
- The Brief Origins of Easter
- The Brief Origins of Halloween
- The Brief Origins of Christmas
Christians Were Told Not To Observe Special Days
Pagans did most everything based on the cycle of the sun and the moon. They planted and harvested based on these cycles. Pagans had many holidays which often involved the lunar cycle, or the sun itself.
Christians took this to mean that the pagans worshiped the sun and the moon (indeed many pagans did have sun and moon gods). Christians were told not to have any special days other than the Sabbath itself (which was originally Saturday, the seventh day of the week).
As many people converted from paganism to Christianity they had a hard time giving up the holidays they had come to enjoy for years, namely Easter, Samhain, and Saturnalia (aka Mithras). Early Christian leaders tried very hard to get them to stop celebrating but it was futile and eventually they just reassigned Christian meaning to these days.
The Brief Origins of Easter
Easter still has its original name, a tribute to the fertility Goddess known as Eastre, which could also be spelt Oestre and Isthar. The date is based on the lunar cycle which is why it changes from year to year.
All the traditions associated with Easter, such as bunnies, chicks, and lambs, are fertility symbols that were to honor the fertility Goddess herself.
The Easter bunny himself is male. There are different stories that explain his origins, but one is that he was Ishtar's lover, and was originally a bird, but she changed him into a rabbit and he lays eggs because of his past as a bird.
The Brief Origins of Halloween
Halloween was originally a celebration known as Samhain to celebrate the end of the harvest and preparations for winter.
Bonfires were common, as was playing games of chance. Trick or treating originated as young men would dress as women and collect food from farmers to prepare for a feast. Tricks would be played on those who did not donate food.
Older animals were butchered and their skulls displayed to honor their lives.
The souls of people who had died that year were thought to be able to return at this time to get revenge on those who had wronged them, or to simply say farewell to their loved ones, they were not feared, unless you were a person who had wronged somebody that had died earlier that year.
Christians were determined to stop this holiday too by making claims that it was about devil worship (the pagans did not believe in the devil) and eventually moved a holiday known as All Saints Day from the spring to November 1 in order to assign new meaning to Samhain, and the night before (October 31) became known as All Hallow's Eve, and eventually Halloween.
The Brief Origins of Christmas
Christmas originated as a day to celebrate the return of the sun to the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, or the rebirth of the sun god. In different areas it had different names such as Saturnalia or Mithras.
The date this typically fell on was December 25, but when we adopted the modern calendar system that changed and the winter solstice now falls around December 21, however the celebration remains on the 25th.
In the older traditions manger scenes were made to honor the rebirth of the sun god, who had a virgin mother. Evergreens were brought inside as they were magical (they stayed green even in the winter). Gold balls were used as decorations because they represented the sun.
At one time some areas actually had laws preventing Christians from celebrating Christmas due to its pagan origins and some Christian groups still refuse to observe/celebrate this holidays.
Note if you want to read more I have included a link to each holiday at the start of each section.
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