[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Merry Christmas

PHUEV at aol.com PHUEV at aol.com
Wed Dec 21 11:14:59 PST 2005

Hello to all of you on the list.
With this I would like to Thank You All for the help I have got from you  all 
on my research.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Now a little story to the History of Christmas:
Eveline Tiefenbach
The history of  Christmas dates back over 4000 years. Many of our Christmas 
traditions were  celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The 12 
days of Christmas,  the bright fires, the yule log, the giving of gifts, 
carnivals(parades) with  floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, 
the holiday feasts,  and the church processions can all be traced back to the 
early  Mesopotamians.

Many of these traditions began with the Mesopotamian  celebration of New 
Years. The Mesopotamians believed in many gods, and as their  chief god - Marduk. 
Each year as winter arrived it was believed that Marduk  would do battle with 
the monsters of chaos. To assist Marduk in his struggle the  Mesopotamians 
held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's  festival that 
lasted for 12 days.

The Mesopotamian king would return to  the temple of Marduk and swear his  
faithfulness to the god. The traditions called for the king to die at the end of 
 the year and to return with Marduk to battle at his side.

To spare their  king, the Mesopotamians used the idea of a "mock" king. A 
criminal was chosen  and dressed in royal clothes. He was given all the respect 
and privileges of a  real king. At the end of the celebration the "mock" king 
was stripped of the  royal clothes and slain, sparing the life of the real king.

The Persians  and the Babylonians celebrated a similar festival called the 
Sacaea. Part of  that celebration included the exchanging of places, the slaves 
would become the  masters  and the masters  were to  obey.

Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and  trolls. As the 
Winter Solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short  days, many 
people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and  celebrations were 
held to welcome back the sun.

In Scandinavia during the winter months the sun would disappear for many 
days. After  thirty-five days scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to look 
for the  return of the sun. When the first light was seen the scouts would 
return with  the good news. A great festival would be held, called the Yuletide, 
and a  special feast would be served around a fire burning with the Yule log. 
Great  bonfires would also be lit to celebrate the return of the sun. In some 
areas  people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that 
spring  and summer would return.

The ancient Greeks held a festival similar to  that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea 
festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle  the god Zeus and his Titans.

The Roman's celebrated their god Saturn.  Their festival was called 
Saturnalia which began the middle of December and  ended January 1st. With cries of "Jo 
Saturnalia!" the celebration would include  masquerades in the streets, big 
festive meals, visiting friends, and the  exchange of good-luck gifts called 
Strenae (lucky fruits).

The Romans  decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit 
with candles.  Again the masters and slaves would exchange places.

"Jo Saturnalia!" was  a fun and festive time for the Romans, but the 
Christians though it an  abomination to honor the pagan god. The early Christians 
wanted to keep the  birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, 
not one of cheer  and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia.

But as Christianity spread  they were alarmed by the continuing celebration 
of pagan customs and Saturnalia  among their converts. At first the Church 
forbid this kind of celebration. But  it was to no avail. Eventually it was 
decided that the celebration would be  tamed and made into a celebration fit for the 
Christian Son of God.

Some  legends claim that the Christian "Christmas" celebration was invented 
to compete  against the pagan celebrations of December. The 25th was not only 
sacred to the  Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of 
Christianity's  main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was 
successful in taking the  merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturanilia festival 
and bringing them to  the celebration of Christmas.

The exact day of the Christ child's birth  has never been pinpointed. 
Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the  year 98 AD. In 137 AD the 
Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ  Child celebrated as a solemn 
feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I,  choose December 25th as the 
observance of  Christmas. 

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