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Christmas Symbolism

Why is Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25? How did Santa Claus became part of the holiday? Why do we bring dead evergreen trees into our homes and decorate them? And what’s up with kissing under the mistletoe? Read on to find out the answers.Christmas Day: Dec 25Scholars disagree on the actual date of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior and center of Christian faith. Some argue that Christ was born in autumn; others firmly believe the Bible indicates spring. However, all agree that Dec. 25 in the Julian calendar was the date of a festival honoring Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, and also winter solstice. Dec. 25 is also the date that the Romans celebrated their god of the sun, Mithras, a triumph over darkness. During the fourth century, the Catholic Church and other religious leaders wanted to fight the pagan celebrations and declared Dec. 25 as the official date of the birth of Jesus; hence, a Christian celebration to directly compete with the pagan one.Christmas treeThe Christmas tree originated in Germany where people would decorate evergreen trees using fruit, flowers and paper during winter solstice festivals. During the 16th century, legend has it that Protestant reformer Martin Luther, while walking home through the forest on Christmas Eve, saw starlight shining through the branches of a fir tree. He thought the tree looked beautiful so he cut it down and took it home. To mimic what he saw, Luther placed candles on the branches to reflect his belief that Jesus was the light of the world.MistletoeAncient Druids considered mistletoe sacred: a symbol of eternal life. They used it in sacrifices to their gods at winter solstice. It was hung over doorways to ward off evil spirits and bring health, happiness and good luck. The Scandinavians can take credit for kissing under the mistletoe. The Scandinavian goddess, Frigga, had a son named Balder who was shot with an arrow made of mistletoe. Her son lived, and she ruled that mistletoe should never be used to harm others. Instead, Frigga made it a symbol of love, and anyone standing under it should be kissed. Thus, the mistletoe became a symbol of love and peace. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations due to its pagan origins, and suggested using holly instead.Santa ClausSt. Nicholas was born in Turkey during the fourth century. He was a devout Christian and known throughout Europe as a staunch defender of children and for his generosity to the poor. The Romans imprisoned and tortured him until Constantine, as the new emperor of Rome, freed him. Constantine also became a Christian and made St. Nicholas a delegate to the Council of Nicaea in 325. St. Nicholas was also known as the patron saint of sailors in Greece, Sicily and Russia. They credited him with saving sailors from storms. Known as Sinter Klass in Holland, Dutch children placed their wooden shoes by the hearth and hoped they would be filled with treats on Dec. 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. The modern Santa Claus was taken from the book by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” published in 1823. Renamed “The Night Before Christmas,” Clement introduced the world to the jolly fat man who brought gifts on Christmas Eve to children around the world. Cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1860s renamed St. Nicholas Santa Claus once

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