CELEBRATING LIFE IN COLD WEATHER
All across the United States, families have set up and decorated Christmas trees. But how did a tree become synonymous with Christmas? To find the origins, we look back to the pagan celebration of Winter solstice.
Throughout Europe, different civilizations used evergreen and fir trees to decorate their homes for winter. The greenery of wreaths, garland, and boughs of a tree would serve as a reminder that the cold winter season would come to an end, and the once prosperous land would make a recovery.
In ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice included a week long celebration called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. From the 17th until the 23th of December, many people would partake in a carnival atmosphere that encouraged continual partying, gambling, and role reversal between the various social classes. People also used this time to exchange gifts with friends and family and to celebrate life through general merrymaking.
As Christianity emerged, Saturnalia represented pagan traditions still prevalent in Roman society. To end the association between the time of year and the old ways, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus was placed near the end of Saturnalia, and the practice of using fir trees for decoration continued. Slowly, the once pagan rituals morphed into the traditions of Christmas.
The Christmas tree may no longer represent that the sun will once more warm the land and bring fresh food to the table, but it does hold an honored spot within the household.
In honor of the holiday, our offices will be closed on Christmas Day.