Gifts to wrap, recipes to prepare, but above all, an entire house to fill with lights and decorations. The Christmas countdown began, and although this year’s holidays are a little different than usual, the air is full of magic.
While you’re preparing the umpteenth hot chocolate, to be prepared for the big “abbuffata” (“binge”), we want to give you a little curious anecdote about this magical holiday.
Do you know the origins of Christmas? You should know that few people know that it is not a Christian holiday and that the origins of Christmas are prior to the birth of Jesus. Yes, you got it right! Christmas has existed since before the “bambinello”, as they say in Rome.
Get comfortable: once upon a time….
Once upon a time there was the winter solstice
The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs on December 21 or 22: the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, then reverses course and rises again, reborn. The shortest day of the year meets the longest night: the sun seems to “shut down” because of the little light it gives us. From the next day, however, it begins to “turn on” again, and then reaches its maximum “power” (at least for us on earth) in the summer solstice.
Logical that this phenomenon didn’t go unnoticed by the ancients and, in a very primitive way, it was given a religious meaning with its cult.
Thus was born the cult of Sol Invictus. At the beginning it was celebrated in the East, Syria and Egypt in particular, and then reached ancient Rome. Emperor Aurelian adopted the sun as the supreme god of the Roman Empire and it was celebrated on December 25!
Christmas in ancient Rome: banquets and fir trees
December 25 was a day of great celebration in Rome: the Natalis Solis Invicti. In every house were organized large banquets to which everyone was invited (including slaves!). Toasts, good food and, of course, gifts!
Santa Claus wasn’t working yet, with his reindeer and his sleigh, but there was no lack of packages on this day. On the contrary, it was very important to be generous: depriving oneself of something to give it to someone was considered a “good luck” act.
The gift that could never miss? A pine branch. What better wish for happiness and abundance than an evergreen branch! Then of course there were toys for children, while for adults there were clothes, statues and animals.
From pagan to Christian: the magic continues
When Christianity began to be accepted as a religion, the first Christian communities also began to celebrate their own Christmas, which they made coincide no longer with the birth of the “new” sun, but with that of Jesus. But at the beginning they were all a bit… confused!
Well, it was not immediately celebrated in December: there were those who celebrated it in January, who in March, who, even, in April! But from 336 A.D. a common date was reached: December 25th. The date was probably set to replace the feast of Natalis Solis Invicti with the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Christmas is probably the most significant case of the absorption by Christianity of a concept linked to the Roman religion of the time. The “deities” changed, but the spirit of the feast remained unchanged. Until today.
Did we surprise you? Tell us what you think in the comments!
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