The Origin of Christmas
Though Christmas is celebrated around the world on December 25, different accounts about Jesus’ real birth date still circulate around the globe. According to stories, the date December 25 was celebrated by the ancient Romans as the birthday of the sun god Mithra, a pagan deity. Devout pagans, Romans adopted the date as the rebirth of the deity Saturnalia during the winter solstice. Thus, December 25 became associated with celebrating the winter deity. A week before December 25, a festival characterised by feasts, evergreen boughs, gift-giving, and singing was held. This festival thrived until 336 AD, when Emperor Constantine converted it into a Christian holiday called Christmas.
Just like today, ancient Christmas celebrations involved four key elements: Christmas trees, gifts, mistletoe, and Santa Claus. Christmas trees are said to have originated from the pagans' worship of trees. They brought these trees into their homes and decorated them. Minus the worshipping, this tradition is still practiced today all over the world.
The mistletoe’s origin and its association with kissing are far from romantic. In Norse mythology, the mischievous Loki fashioned an arrow out of mistletoe wood, and deceived the blind god Hoder, who shoots and kills his brother Balder with it. The practice of kissing under mistletoe is a combination of ancient Druidic rituals, and the sexual license of the ancient pagan festival on December 25th.
Gift-giving during Christmas started as a mere order in pre-Christian Rome, where despised citizens were obliged by the emperor to bring gifts and offerings. It soon grew as a general practice among the populace and was turned into a tradition associated with Santa Claus.