Christmas Trivia - Pagan Origins
Upon what pagan festivals was Christmas partly based?
Many of the customs, traditions, and symbols of Christmas have pre-Christian origins. But what exactly were these Pagan festivals?
Saturnalia. One such festival was Saturnalia, which was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the deity Saturn held on December 17 and later expanded with festivities through December 23. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at theTemple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms. For example, gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves.
Sol Invictus. The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun," on December 25. It was traditional to light candles to represent the return of light, and to feast.
Kalends. Although Calends generally refers to the first day of any month in the roman calendar, Kalends was also the celebration festival of the first day of the new year -- January 1st. Traditionally, the festival would continue through January 6. The Kalends celebration included many familiar traditions, such as exchanging gifts, decorating with greenery, and eating sweets.