The dark history of Christmas tradition

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history of Christmas

Christmas can mean something very different for everyone. For some, it marks the birth of baby Jesus, for others, it’s all about Santa, elves making toys and presents nestled under a decorated tree, but there is also a more sinister side that many people don’t know about the cheerful caroling, holly jolly season. In fact, there are a lot of favorite holiday traditions that actually have dark, more ominous origins when it comes to the history of Christmas.

Christmas coincides with Saturnalia

The Roman Bacchanalia, also known as Saturnalia, was once marked as the 19th of December. It’s was an annual celebration that lasted for about a week (over modern-day Christmas) and consisted of a festive switch up of hierarchy slaves swapped places with their masters — gambling, drinking and public nudity. The celebration was hosted to honor the Roman god Saturn, god of the harvest, who neither resembled a divine haloed figure or a holly red-suited man. It was actually believed that Saturn carried a scythe and devoured children during this ancient ceremony. So, maybe this is where the idea of Krampus, the evil goat demon man, was derived from?

What about Christmas Eve?

According to historical findings, Christmas Eve was traditionally seen as a time for restless spirits to walk the earth, something that inspired Charles Dicken’s when he wrote his famous novel A Christmas Carol. Strangely enough people believed that it was pretty much a guarantee to come across restless spirits after their evening celebrations.

Where did Santa Claus come from?

We all know Father Christmas as this supernatural being who keeps our children from being naughty around the holidays. But why do we hang a stocking out for him? According to legend, a person named Saint Nicholas heard about three sisters who were forced into a life of prostitution to earn enough money to buy food. As a deed of goodwill, he tossed three coins down their chimney to help them out, which in turn, landed inside their stockings that were set to dry.

There is another recorded finding of a St Nicolas, who was traced back as far as 350 AD. Somewhere along the way his name got mashed up with Kris Kringle from 19th century German traditions. That being said, the first illustration depicting a Santa Claus like creation actually showed him wearing green robes perhaps an association to pagan rituals? Needless to say, the Santa that we all know and love today — red robes and white beard — was actually invented by Coca-Cola through the use of branding and ad campaigns.

There is of course a dark side to the history of Christmas when it comes to Santa Claus. While St. Nick rewards good children with presents, Krampus is the anti-Claus of Christmas, torturing children who were naughty throughout the year.

Do you know of any other Christmas traditions that have dark origins? Tell us in the comments section below.

 

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