Howdy. I should have mentioned that I’m also an ex-Christian in addition to being a Pagan, I was 30 when I stopped being a Christian and I’m 56 now, so you can do the math.
I’m going to start off by saying Jesus was born on March 25th, not December. You can figure this out by looking at the Gospels and the story of Jesus’ birth. The shepherds were out in the fields with their sheep and it was cold, this puts the date somewhere in early Spring with the ewes out of the village for lambing, getting all the blood and smells away from town so that you don’t get predators prowling the streets. It was considered prefered to lose a few lambs than a few townspeople, sheep being somewhat less important than people.
Why, then, do we celebrate the birth of Jesus so far away from the actual date of His birth? Politics. December 25th was the birth date of Mithras, the deity of the Roman Legion, and Sol Invictus, the deity of the Roman bureaucracy. Celebrating Jesus’ birth on this day allowed Christians to infiltrate both groups and suborn them to no longer persecuting Christians. Since this took several generations the actual date was lost to the “official” date. This took a life of its own, to the effect that a 19th Century cleric “calculated” that Jesus was born on December 25th. 😉
Why the tree? There are several legends about the origin of the Christmas tree. One was that germanic tribes executed prisoners on the solstice so they were not a drag on the local economy during the time of living on stored food, leaving the bodies hanging in the trees until the ground thawed in Spring to bury them. That led to hanging things in trees during the winters when there were no prisoners to kill, according to the legend. Another legend was that Martin Luther saw the light of the full moon glistening on ice crystals in a pine tree and wanted to share what he saw by placing candles in a pine tree he brought indoors. After rebuilding the house he burned down (j/k) the fashion spread to other households and across the country in a flash. Which I find implausible considering the speed this supposedly crossed the many Germanic states with limited interaction because of borders and a total lack of mass media. Well, at this point all we really know is the Christmas tree has Pagan origins, but not exactly what those origins are.
What about Santa Claus? Turns out the one thing that most people think is totally Pagan is Christian in origin. There was a St. Nicholas from the 3rd Century in what is now Turkey who gave gifts to poor children. How closely related this saint is to the Dutch Sinter Klaus is a matter of conjecture, but the connection between Sinter Klaus and the modern Santa is nearly direct. The connection runs through upstate NY and the famous poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”…
Gifts at Winter Solstice are a tradition that goes back into the far mists of time, so that is definitely Pagan in origin. That means we Pagans are indirectly responsible for Black Friday. Sorry. 😦
As far as food and Christmas Dinner is concerned there are long histories of feasting at the Winter Solstice, but that bloated feeling is not something else you can blame on us Pagans. I’m not apologizing for anyone’s inability to stop before they get full. That’s all on you.
Everything else that gets blamed on Pagans is either a modern invention or not easily identifiable as to origin. Wreaths and other greenery may have been connected to Solstice or maybe later attempts to make a house more festive by putting a bit of green in it during the Winter. And the huge collections of lights decorating the outside of structures are strictly a modern invention, late 20th Century to be precise.
So for all the hooraw about a “War on Christmas”, some of us are just trying to take back what is ours. And as I posted to a Facebook status update, there are a bunch of other religions with holidays in December that have zero to do with Christians. In fact, this year there are a total of 5 days in December that are not celebrated as a holiday by someone, with several days having more than one group claiming that day. The days with the most are the 23rd, 24th, and 25th with 2 modern each, or the 25th with 2 modern and 2 ancient, and the 21st with more than a dozen modern and ancient religions all claiming a piece of the date.
My neck is starting to complain about the amount of time I’m spending on this computer. So I’m going to call this one finished at this point, mainly because I think I have made mine.