The history of Christmas is not new and the history dates back to 4000 years. Before the birth of the Christ child, Jesus, many of the traditions and customs of Christians were there. The bright fires, Yule log, exchanging gifts, 12 days long Christmas celebrations, parades with floats, the holiday feast and many more traditions were already preexisting.
Mesopotamian tradition of celebrating New Year was the prime origin of many of these interesting traditions. Believers of many Gods, Mesopotamians, believed that their main deity, Marduk, fought for them against the monster of chaos, during the winter. To stand beside Marduk, Mesopotamians celebrated the New Year festival which was known as Zagmuk. The celebration of this festival continues for 12 days.
The emperor of Mesopotamians used to get back to the Marduk temple according to their tradition and pledged his truthfulness to the important Almighty. It was his wish to come back with Marduk to the battle field after death.
To spare the original ruler, Mesopotamians, used a mock king who was given the honor of wearing royal attires of the king. The respect and tribute given to the mock king was like the real king. The crown of the mock king was given to a criminal. At the end of the ceremony the kingly attire was taken off and the criminal was killed. It spared the life of the real king.
Sacaea, the similar festival of Persians and Babylonians, was also celebrated during the winter. During this festival the slaves were honored with the crown of the master and master had to obey the orders. Exchanging gifts was also included in the list of the celebrations.
During winter Solstice, many Europeans, wanted to see the sunlight back and to do that special rituals and celebrations were held. Early Europeans were firm believers of evil spirits, ghosts, witches and trolls. They were afraid of the dark cold nights and short days of prolonged winters.
Sun used to hide him somewhere and was out of vision completely during the winter in Scandinavia. After thirty five days of majestic celebrations, scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to search the sunlight. When the first light was seen the scouts would return back with the good news. A striking festival was held around the burning Yule logs. To celebrate the return of sunlight the bonfire was lit. It was also important to remember that the spring and summer would return again. They used to tie apples to the tree branches for that.
To assist their God Kronos in the battle against the God Zeus and his titans, old Greeks used to celebrate another festival which was quite similar to the Zagmuk or Sacaea.
Saturnalia, held between the mid December and 1st January, a Roman festival, was celebrated when they used to worship the God, Saturn. The list of celebrations used to include big festive meals, visiting a friend’s house and exchanging gifts called strenae.
Green trees were lighted and the Roman homes were well decorated with garlands of various aromatic trees. The slaves used to sit on the master’s place and vice versa.
Even though the festivity was celebrated with lot of fun and interests but Christians thought it in different way. Christians thought that it was an abomination to honor the Pagan God. Christians always wanted to celebrate the birthday of the Christ child as a serious religious festival. They did not like to celebrate the festival like that of Saturnalia. Saturnalia festival was full of fun and excitement.
But gradually it was found that the celebration of Pagan traditions and Saturnalia were going on. Christians were anxious and alarmed by that. Firstly, these kinds of celebrations were forbidden by the church as Christianity started to spread. Churches decided to control the celebrations of Saturnalia and also decided to celebrate an occasion to honor the Christian son of the God.
If you look into the history, then you would see that Christians used to celebrate Christmas to compete against the pagan celebration of December. Religion Mithraism of Persians was one of the chief rivals of Christians at that point of time as well. So, it proves that it was not only the Romans against whom Christians fought. Eventually, the church successfully included the tradition of lights and exchanging gifts in the list of Christmas celebrations.
It was sad that the exact birthday of the Christ child had never been identified. However, according to the history it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. The birth day of the Christ child as a somber banquet was celebrated since 137 AD to honor the order of the Bishop of Rome. Julius I, the Bishop, decided to celebrate Christmas on 25th December.