December – a Religious Holiday Extravaganza!

For billions of people in the world, this month celebrates many key religious holidays.

On December 5th is Ashura – which Muslims celebrate the day that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) fasted in solidarity with Jews as they celebrated Yom Kippur.

On December 6th is the feast of St. Nicholas, which in all probability because the root of the legend of Santa Claus.

On December 8th, Buddhists celebrated Bodhi Day, which remembers when the Buddha presented the Four Noble Truths.

On December 12th  is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where Catholics  celebrate the vision of the Virgin Mary.

On December 20th is Hannukah, the Jewish festival of lights.

On December 21st, people of Earth based religions celebrate the Winter Solstice – the birth of Winter. The first day is called “Mother’s Night” and is celebrated for 12 days which ends on “Yule Night“.  Yule is  when the Sun God Lugh is reborn in human form to rejoin his wife Eriu.

On December 25th, Christians celebrate Christmas, where they remember the birth of Jesus Christ.

On December 26th, many Black Americans have Kwanzaa which celebrates the seven principles: unity, self-determination, working together, sharing, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Also on December 26th, Zoroastrians observe Zarathosht Diso -the death of the prophet Zarathushtra.

Whew!  Quite a lot of celebration this month!

Of all these holidays, the history of Christmas is one that fascinates me the most.

Why December 25th?

There is no clear information on when Jesus was born.

Some scholars think it was September.

Others think it was in November.

My personal belief is that I align with those scholars who think it was in the summer time – around August.

So why December? and why the 25th?

During the time of great Christian growth, the Roman Religion celebrated the God Of Saturn – Saturnalia.

On these days, they danced in the street, sang songs and exchanged gifts.

It started on December 17 and lasted until after the Winter Solstice.  Probably around, oh, lets just say the 25th of December.

As Christianity spread throughout the world, it encountered resistance from many who did not want to give up their religious traditions which have become so much of their cultural heritage.

The church tried to ease the migration path to Christianity for the local Romans by – in essence – offering them a deal – the locals could continue to celebrate the cultural aspects of Saturnalia if they agreed to worship Jesus instead of Saturn.

The 12 days of Yule became the 12 days of Christmas.  The rebirth of the Sun God transformed into the birth of the Son of God.

The Mistletoe was important in ancient Norse religions. Frigga (Odin’s wife and the mother of Baldur the Brave) made all the plants and trees promise not to harm her son.  Unfortunately, she forgot to bless the Mistletoe.  Loki, the god of Evil, shaped a spear made out of Mistletoe and used it to kill Baldur.  Since then, it was agreed the Mistletoe would stand for peace and love, instead of hatred and death.

I could go and on.

A lot of Christmas origin stories are rooted in ancient Norse, Greek, Roman, and Earth based religions.

All of these synthesized with the Nativity story of Christianity to give us the current holiday called Christmas.

In a way, Christmas is really an interfaith tradition – celebrating many diverse religious influences.

Fascinating, ain’t it?

So, to everyone..

Happy Ashura!

Happy Bodhi day!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy Hannukah!

Happy Zarathosht Diso!

Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Happy Kwanzaa.

Happy Saturnalia.

Happy Mother’s night.

and Merry Christmas!

(and any other religious holiday I may have missed!)



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