Photo courtesy of GreekReporter.com
Christmas is the most important – and perhaps the most treasured – celebration of Christianity filled with joy and love. Countries around the world celebrate with different customs that have deep roots within history and tradition. In Greek tradition, we can find a variety of similarities in the commemoration of the birth of Christ and Dionysus between ancient and contemporary Greece.
In December, the Ancient Greeks celebrated the birth of Dionysus, calling him “Savior” and “divine infant.” According to Greek mythology, his mother, Semele, was a mortal woman and his father was Zeus, the king of all Gods. The priest of Dionysus held a pastoral staff as did the Good Shepherd. On December 30, ancient Greeks commemorated his rebirth.
The most well-known custom throughout the Christian world are the Christmas carols, songs dedicated to the occasion. Also in Ancient Greece there were specific “carols” for the rebirth of Dionysus. Specifically, Homer — during his stay on the island of Samos, along with a group of children — composed the carols. In ancient Greece, carols symbolized joy, wealth and peace, and the children sang the carols only in the homes of the rich. Children would go from house to house, holding an olive or a laurel branch adorned with wool (a symbol of health and beauty) and different kinds of fruits. The children brought the olive branch to their homes and hung it on the doors where it remained for the rest of the year.
The Christmas tree appeared for the first time in Germany at the end of the 16th century. It became globally known in the 19th century to symbolize the rejoicing of the birth of Jesus Christ. The tree was adorned first with fruits and later with clothes and other household objects. Ancient Greeks also used to decorate the ancient temples with trees, symbolizing the divine gift offering. The Christmas tree tradition made its way to Greece for the first time in 1833, when the Bavarians decorated the palace of King Otto.
Santa Claus, who travels around the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, is another impressive similarity. A similar tradition also existed during the celebration of Dionysus in ancient Greece who resembled light. Then, the chariot transformed into a sleigh and horses transformed into reindeer.
The New Year’s cake also holds resemblance of an ancient Greek custom. Ancient Greeks used to offer Gods the “festive bread” during the rural festivals, like the Thalysia or the Thesmophoria.
- See more...
Courtesy of GreekReporter.com