Letter: Christmas has its roots in a range of winter celebrations

Editor: In recent years there has been some criticism on how the season is being celebrated or observed; one recent example being the plain red coffee cup.

If we take a closer look at the history of the season, maybe it could provide a little insight on this discussion:

Christmas was originally called “Cristes Maesse,” which was a Catholic mass created during the reign of Pope Julius, centuries after the assumed time of the Christian nativity.

It was intended to be a sombre observance of the Nativity.  The date Dec. 25 coincided with the more exuberant and sometimes raucous ancient festivities of the winter solstice referred to as “Yuletide” by northern peoples and “Saturnalia” by the Romans.

This new “Cristes Maesse” brought a Christian presence to an otherwise pagan celebration.

Decorating homes with holly, door-to-door caroling and gift-giving are examples of the many traditions with pagan origins.

Another interesting point, Christmas Day was considered by the Puritans, an excessive pagan celebration with no Biblical authority, and in 1659 a law was passed in Massachusetts requiring a five-shilling fine for anyone caught observing Christmas.

This “war on Christmas” lasted 22 years.

Thankfully, today we are free to celebrate the season with its rich history and many traditions in any manner we choose.

So Merry Cristes Maesse! Yuletide Greetings! And Happy Saturnalia!

M. Matich,


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