mahabis christmas // christmas lights & the winter festival

as the holiday season is coming to an end, we thought we would do a themed blog post on the history of festive decorations and lighting.

you might already know that a lot of a christmas imagery predates christianity and a lot of the symbolism goes back to the pagan winter solstice.  the origin of the winter festival is the roman tradition of saturnalia, a festival honouring the god of agriculture, saturn.

instead of abandoning their favourite festival, early european christians adapted it to the new religion. 

the modern christmas tree differs greatly from its roots. the original elements were evergreens symbolising immortality and fortitude during the cold winter when people lived off of mostly stored food and waited for the spring. the evergreen was also known to have represented similar values in other cultures, including the egyptians, chinese, and hebrews.

trees were put up in december to ward off the devil and also allow a safe place for birds during the winter. early decorations included apples which during the middle-ages evolved to represent the tree from which adam and eve snatched the forbidden fruit. 

the first big push for a community tradition of christmas trees came from german craftsmen's guilds during the renaissance after the protestant reformation while catholics continued to gather around nativity scene.

the tradition of christmas lights harks back to the use of candles to decorate christmas trees in the homes of aristocrats in 18th century germany.

by the mid-20th century it became customary around europe and north america to display strings of electric lights along streets and on buildings. the custom had also been adopted with great zeal by non-western countries such as japan and hong kong.

today scientists using satellites have collected data on climate change have detected that the glow of lights in cities and towns worldwide increases by 20 to 50% during christmas and new year's. the next move might be more energy efficient festive lighting!

all photos are courtesy of various flickr photographers. click on them to go through to their source.

seasons greeting from mahabis

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