It may surprise you to discover that many Christian traditions were originally (and still are) pagan traditions. When I first started my path, I was amazed at all of the holidays, traditions, and customs that have roots in pagan history. In fact, everything from holidays like Christmas and Easter to the Devil can, technically, be related back to pagan myths, traditions, archetypes, and rituals, but I digress. Instead of overwhelming you with too much history, I thought I would share just a few.
Christian Traditions that Have Pagan Roots
The Christmas Tree
In pagan tradition, namely the Germanic paths which celebrate Jul or Jol (pronounced like Yule or Yole), trees were seen as being inhabited by the gods. Because of this, they often brought a tree into their home during the winter season to keep their god(s) warm and protected. This tradition spread with immigration throughout time. It actually wasn’t until the turn of the century that Christmas trees began to take root as a holiday tradition due to vast popularity.
Holly, Ivy, Evergreen, Pine, & Mistletoe
There are many myths surrounding these winter plants in paganism. In Norse mythology, Frigga’s son Baldur is poisoned by mistletoe (thanks to the mischievous Loki), but then resurrected by Odin. Frigga then declares mistletoe a symbol of love (not death). In other myths, namely British and Celtic, the Holly and Oak King battle during the winter and the Holly King is defeated (then rises again at Beltane). Holly and ivy were also widely used during the Roman Saturnalia celebrations as well. There are many more, but you get the gist!
Lights & Yule Log
Pagans cannot rightly lay a claim on “lights” or “candles,” but candles have certainly played their part in winter rituals for thousands of years. Many religions place value on light in darkness during this cold time of year. Because our ancestors heavily depended on the sun to grow their crops, the fear of darkness and the long dark days certainly held great weight to them.
Yule logs are a massively popular symbol among several pagan paths. It stems back to the whole “Christmas tree” as being a tree inhabited by the gods. Largely, the Yule log is recognized as being derived from Germanic pagan traditions, but it’s widely practiced these days. The burning of the Yule log symbolizes the return of the Sun God.
Various Christmas traditions have pagan origins to them.
Gifts & Santa Claus
Gift giving during this time is a very pagan rooted tradition. In many paths, there are gods whom travel around gifting children with candies or presents during this time. Many historians suspect Santa Claus is a mixture of Saint Nicholas (Christian bishop in 4th century Turkey) and the Norse god, Odin, and his mighty horse, Sleipnir (sound suspiciously like a reindeer).
For Christians, Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but for pagans, it celebrates the Germanic goddess, Eostre, whose symbol was a hare and representative of spring. Moreover, resurrection stories are quite common in pagan mythology throughout the centuries and are often associated with spring. Chocolate rabbits and colored Easter eggs are all pagan traditions from those celebrating Eostre. Also, rabbits and eggs are common symbols of fertility which many pagan paths celebrate during spring as well. Hot cross buns and exchanging eggs are both extremely old traditions throughout many cultures.
Other things that have pagan origins include:
- The Devil – There are many horned gods which we don’t consider evil as that’s mostly a foreign concept in paganism
- Candlemas has origins with Imbolc
- Halloween takes much from Samhain
- Crucifixes, Crosses, and God figure resurrections
- Candles and incense during religious rituals
- Holy water
- The zodiac and/or astrology
- MUCH MORE!