By Ella Angell, Year 8
There are so many different celebrations around the world, but one of my favourite is Christmas. Since Christmas is my favourite celebration I thought every religion would celebrate their own version of it. However, not so long ago I found out that a lot of religions don’t celebrate Christmas, and some don’t even agree with it being celebrated. When I found this out I decided to do an investigation into what religions celebrate Christmas. Some questions that I wanted to be answered were what is Christmas is to them, how do they celebrate it and what is their background story of Christmas.
With those questions in mind, I decided to look up ‘What religions celebrate Christmas?’ and my findings really astounded me. Since I discovered that there aren’t many religions that celebrate Christmas, even if it’s in the littlest way. The religions that appeared to celebrate Christmas were Catholics, non-religious, Judaism with Hanukkah, Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism and Zoroaster. Two of the religions mentioned were Paganism and Zoroaster. I didn’t know what they were, but the other religions I knew a bit about. I then decided to research Paganism, Zoroaster and the non-religious because they were the three that I knew very little or nothing at all about how they celebrated Christmas. Out of all of them I found Paganism the most interesting and here is what I found out.
Paganism came from the Late Latin word ‘paganus’ which was used by the Roman Empire to describe one who didn’t practice Christianity. Paganism is a cluster of religions and spiritual traditions which are based on an admiration for nature. Most pagans believe in the heavenly charm of the world and it is best described as an ‘Earth religion’. Like Hinduism there is no one founder or religious viewpoint, and there is no scripture for the religion. Pagans call Christmas Yule, which is a synonym for Christmas, but nowadays Christmas is not often referred to it as Yule. For Pagans, Yule is an ancient ritual or reincarnation which comes first by a representational pregnancy.
Pagans light 1 red candle, out of the 4 red candles, every week leading up to Yule. The lighting of the red candles symbolises the blood flowing from the mother to the fetus in her body. The reason for 4 weeks and 4 candles is because the number 4 is a representation of the number 40. The number 40 is supposed to represent 40 weeks of the mother’s pregnancy, which is what their Christmas beliefs are formed around. The candle should always be lit by a father and if not, it should be lit by an expecting mother.
Pagans, also sometimes place lions or sphinx figurines around their house, which represent the mating side of the birth of the young child. During this time, Pagans would always have a fire lit somewhere in their household. In Pagan households, if there are children living there, they would then represent the fetus in the mother’s womb. If the family wanted to go all-out with their celebration leading up to Yule, they would dress their children in all red for the time of the celebration. They sometimes they would also wear a red cap on their head.
During this time, they should only be consuming processed products, and eventually the family will stop eating eggs, onions or any roots. They would also not eat any foods that represent sleeping life, because symbolically the fetus is fed only blood. Foods that are good symbols are foods that are sweet such as honey and foods with many spices like gingerbread. From the beginning of their Advent, they would hide a key, and they would only take the key out of hiding the night of Yule.
You can place the Yule tree up at the beginning of Advent, or later on, just dependant on when the family has decided to. On the tree they would put red ball bolls on the branches and would wrap garlands around. To Pagans, the house represents the womb, that carries the fetus which is represented by the tree. The red ball bolls represent the blood and oxygen going to the fetus, and the garlands are a symbolism of the umbilical cord. They also have a star on the top of the tree which must be placed by the father of the family which represents all of the ancestors.
On Yule eve they admire the god, adrenaline. That is because adrenaline is needed at birth, and adrenaline can be made by scaring the children with masks of goats or witches. Children also make small goat figurines the night before Yule. On this night, the children will drink hot wine with spices that have been mixed through in it (don’t worry, the alcohol in the wine evaporates when heat is mixed with it). On this night it is a tradition that every child is dressed in red which represents the blood.
Throughout the evening of Yule eve, the family will choose a large log that they sprinkle hot wine and honey onto. Then they put some money into little bags and throw them into the air. Each child will choose one bag, and touch the bag onto the log. The reason they do this is because money, which is gold, represents knowledge and memory. Once they have done the money bags, they will put the log, that has sprinkled honey and hot wine on it, into the fire, and then tell classic tales and stories, while watching the log burn.
Before the children go to bed, they put their shoes and socks under the Yule tree, and this is where the process of reincarnation takes place. It is with Yule traditions that children under the age of 7 who aren’t weaned and are not reincarnated do not take place in these costumes which is the reason why they do not know the secret of Yule.
The children receive gifts in their shoes during the night and these gifts are wrapped. On the day of Yule, the children are dressed in red and white, which represents the new life of the newborn child. On this day, all the goat figurines must be burn, and all animals with claws, as well as the lions and sphinx are removed from the house. Children should drink milk with honey and sweet foods for that day. Their meals consist of a bird which represents a goose, or beef meat. If lucky they will also, maybe, get a cake in the shape of a wooden log. The wooden log cake can be eaten throughout the process of advent, but most families like to keep it for Yule day. On the night of Yule, they would put animal fur on the children’s bed, which represents the mother protecting her children, and her fetus. The Yule period lasts 7 days, until the new year, which is a representation of the 7 year weaning of a child.
When I discovered these things, I found out that during my research on how Paganism celebrate Christmas, I realised that it has quite a few similarities to Christianity, such as the lighting of candles, receiving of gifts and the setting up of a Christmas tree. But it is also very similar to how Hinduism is connected to nature and the land. Out of everything that I found out during my research, the thing I thought was the most interesting, was about the symbolism of the 4 red candles and what the number 4 means to Pagans during the time of advent. Even though their Christmas has quite a gruesome representation and meaning behind it, I can see the vast differences between our beliefs as they don’t have the connection to God and Jesus that Catholic Church does.