Many of the customs that we associate with Christmas come from largely pagan or pre-Christian backgrounds.
- The word Yule comes from an old Norse word for a twelve-day celebration.
- Mistletoe was prominent in the traditions of the Druids and the lore of northern Europe.
- The wassail bowl was first known in Scandinavia.
- Holly was used for decoration in the twelve-day Roman holiday known as the Saturnalia, which was followed by twelve holy days ending on January 1, and is where we get the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Contrary to popular belief, the “X” in Xmas is not an abbreviation for “cross.” It represents the Greek letter chi which looks like our letter “X” and is the first letter in the Greek word Χριστός (christos) which like the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (messiah) means “the anointed one.”
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian