The History of Advent They Don’t Teach You in Schools

The History of Advent They Don’t Teach You in Schools

A traditional advent wreath

[This article was published by the Universal Life Church newsletter@getordained.org  and posted on November 20, 2022. I thank them for allowing me to reprint this article here.]

Christmas is often seen as a Christian holiday, but when you know the history, you’ll understand why this isn’t so. We need to give our ancestors the right to claim what was created by them. Some people call these ancestors “Pagans,” but I know they were/are our ancestors. I hope this article enlightens you.

“With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, many Americans are now excitedly preparing for the holiday season. Millions of Christians know this season as Advent (from the Latin word meaning “arrival”), where they spend the weeks leading up to Christmas preparing for the Nativity of Christ.

Wreaths, trees, candles, advent calendars… these are all symbols intertwined with Christmas even to non-Christian observers. But did you know they actually have ancient symbolic meanings that go beyond Christianity?

In fact, many of these symbols are, ahem, “borrowed,” and you’ll never guess who from.

Okay, you got it. Pagans (Ancestors). It’s always the pagans.

A Very Pagan Christmas

You might recall that Christmas itself has some distinctly pagan origins, and that many of the modern Christmas traditions can be traced back to ancient Nordic cultures.

Long, long before Christianity, pagans were celebrating the winter solstice and the end of the harvest season. This was called Yule, and many ancient Yule traditions – singing, bonfires, feasting – are still celebrated today. Still, some, like dousing oneself in the blood of sacrificed animals, didn’t make it to the 21st century.

When you think about it, it makes sense that many Advent traditions are lifted from ancient pagan customs. After all, wreaths, trees, and candles make a lot more sense in a pagan context than in a Christian one.

Centuries-Old Symbols

Mistletoe is a great example of this. For centuries, mistletoe was closely associated with the Norse love goddess Frigga. As a gesture of peace, Nordic warriors used to hang a bough of mistletoe and lay down their weapons underneath of it when they came together for peace talks. As you’re surely familiar, we do something slightly different under the mistletoe now – but the core idea lingers!

Many historians also believe the classic Yule log could have some Pagan connections. It’s unclear exactly when or where the tradition was started, but research has shown that prior to the Yule log being brought into the house and burned by German Christians, yule logs were often burned around the solstice as a symbol of the sun’s warmth, and the ashes scattered across fields as the pagan people believed it would increase the abundance of their next harvest.

A traditional advent wreath
A traditional Advent wreath

Another example is the Advent wreath. An iconic Christmas decoration made of fir branches, decorative ribbons, and holly strung together in a circular shape.

Believers place candles on the wreath and light them throughout Advent, symbolizing Christ’s endless and everlasting grace and love.

While Christians have been making wreaths and lighting candles for centuries, this tradition actually traces back to paganism. In the dark, unforgiving Scandinavian winter, pagans would light candles and place them around a wheel in an appeal to the gods for warmer days ahead, particularly around the winter solstice as a plea for the sun to return.

And long before the circle of the wreath came to symbolize Christian eternal life, it was embraced by many pagan people as a symbol of protection. Some historians even believe hung on doors.

So Advent wreaths and Advent candles are taken from ancient pagan traditions. But what about the season’s most recognizable decoration?

An Evergreen Holiday

Sorry, even the iconic Christmas tree isn’t a Christian original. Evergreen trees were used as a winter solstice decoration thousands of years before Christianity, and ancient pagans decorated their temples with fir branches and their homes with fir trees.

Why? Fir trees represented fertility (of both human and earth) to many ancient European cultures, as did the first ‘Christmas tree decorations’ – flowers, nuts, and fruits.

In fact, when you boil it down to the essentials, just about everything was about sex, warmth, or food. Maybe some things never change.

As it turns out, Christmas trees as we know them now didn’t really exist until the 16th century, when German nobility started decorating royal courts with them, complete with a golden leaf on top.

As late as the 1800s, Christmas trees were viewed as a pagan custom by some cultures – including by many people in the United States. That, of course, has changed.

It turns out even gift-giving could have a connection to some ancient faiths! While many link the annual giving of gifts at Christmas to the story of the 3 Wise Men bringing gifts to the infant Jesus, historians have made an even older link with the ancient Roman festival of Siggilaria.

While the festival was originally set up so that people could visit the market to buy small pieces of pottery with candles in them (called sigilla) as an offering to the god Saturn, over time the festival grew and as the Romans became more wealthy they started buying and selling gifts for one another at the Siggilaria market.

Old Gods and the New

And of course, the entire Advent season culminates in Christmas on December 25th. By now, you surely aren’t surprised to learn that even that particular date has some Pagan connections!

December 25th, history teaches us, was initially selected as the date for Christmas each year because it was also the date that many ancient people had for generations celebrated the re-birth of the god of the sun, Sol.

The early Catholic church figured that by sliding in the birth of the Son of God on the same day as the birth of the God of the sun, it would be a cinch to get people to start celebrating the newer Christian holiday. It took a few years and some occasional chastising from early popes, but eventually, most people got the message and transitioned over.

So this Advent season, as you’re hanging the wreath, lighting the candles, and decorating the tree, take a moment to acknowledge how holiday traditions have evolved. These customs we hold so dear grow, change, and even merge with one another over time.

Much has changed during the past millennium, but by the same token, much has also stayed the same – it’s simply been repackaged.”

Seasons Greetings from the Never Give Up Institute!

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. 

In the Beginning There was Chaos

In the Beginning There was Chaos

In the Beginning There was Chaos!

There was nothing but darkness—absolute blackness. No light, no sound, no energy. There were only eternal nights without stars. Many theories have tried to explain the beginning of our universe, so I will begin with explaining the top three: the big bang theory, evolution, and the story of Adam and Eve. These theories lead to my belief that our universe began in trauma and we have come to the decisive moment.

We consider the Big Bang Theory the leading explanation for how our universe began. Through the multitude of discoveries in astronomy and physics, scientists believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that our universe did in fact have a beginning. Somehow, a spark was lit and chaos began. Lightning, explosions, the birth of pristine stars and planets all began at once. Asteroids slamming into each other created atoms of fury and life. The first new day of the universe had begun, but in its wake was destruction and pandemonium. Some scientists believe it took over 13.8 billion years to get where we are today, and our universe is still growing through chaos.

Evolution (also known as the theory of natural selection) is one of the fundamental keystones of modern biological theory. According to an article published on June 7, 2019, by the National Geographic Society:

“The theory of [evolution] natural selection, comprises of organisms who produce more offspring than can survive in their environment. Those that are better physically equipped to survive, grow to maturity, and reproduce. Those that are lacking in such fitness either do not reach an age when they can reproduce or produce fewer offspring than their counterparts. We sometimes sum natural selection as ‘survival of the fittest’ because the ‘fittest’ organisms—those most suited to their environment—are the ones that reproduce more successfully, and are likely to pass on their traits to the next generation.”

Survival of the fittest states that the weak ones die or are devoured by the stronger. “Only the strong survive” is a traumatic proverb.

In the Bible, Adam and Eve are the first human couple created by God on the sixth day of Creation, and are the ancestors of all of humanity. In the perfect setting of the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve they could eat any of the fruit in Eden, but forbade them from eating the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. Satan transformed himself into a serpent and enticed the couple to eat the fruit. This resulted in God’s banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden. He sent them into a world of hostile beasts, poisonous reptiles, and dangerous weather, casting them into trauma.

Whatever theory you choose to believe, trauma started from our very beginning of time and is a well-known concept of biology and science. Even in religious sectors, they cannot deny that it thrust Adam and Eve into trauma.

This research has led me to the belief that all traumas began at the moment a spark flew and ignited our descent into suffering and pain. With trauma living in our cells, bones, organs, and muscles, it is no wonder why we have a conundrum of ways to treat trauma. Medical professionals use medication, psychiatrists use talk therapy and drugs, and religious orders use prayer and exorcism. All are trying to eliminate the effects of trauma, so much so that healing has become a billion dollar business in America.

I am convinced we can do better. This is why I created Your Moment of T.R.U.T.H. (The Road to Unresolved Trauma). We do not need to spend billions of dollars to heal from chaos and trauma. Put your money in the belief that you can, and will, eliminate stress and depression. The key is to focus on yourself and find the fuel to cope, and even wipe away, your doubts. Believe in healing—it is in your hands.

You can purchase my book and workbook by clicking here.  YMT is available on Kindle.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. 

Believe in YOU!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Hello Wellness Seekers:

This is my new post after a long hiatus. I’ve been so busy with writing my next book, Your Moment of T.R.U.T.H., that I’ve sorely neglected my website posts. For those of you who are still checking in on a regular basis for new posts, I want to thank you for your loyalty to this website. Your support means everything to me.

For this holiday season, I want to encourage you to believe. Believe in yourself and believe that you will do wonderful things, such as listening for positive messages, remembering your great memories, doing good things for others, and believing in universal peace. At a time of prolonged pandemics, we need to concentrate on the beauty in our lives, like catching a snowflake on our tongue, seeing all the bright lights of the season, keeping warm against winter’s icy chill. If we forget — we have nothing.

Winters here in Minnesota are long and arduous.

I spent yesterday shoveling our driveway. I stopped at one point to listen to the snow falling. Many people believe that there’s no sound when snowflakes fall, but I BELIEVE I can hear them. It’s a silence so profound that it makes me tear up. When I sit at my computer, all I have to do is look to the right and I can see deer strolling through our backyard. This makes me smile. In my office, I have a very big sign that says, Believe, because this is such a special word for me, and it always will be.

Fall in Canada

I visited Canada this past fall and explored Banff and Lake Louise. I even went on a four-mile hike up the St. Agnes Tearoom trail. It took us two and a half hours to scale and two hours to come back down. There were many times I wanted to stop, but after a rest, we continued. This was the most difficult hike in my life and yet I made it. ME! Me who climbed the mountain, survived Stage IV colon cancer — twice, had two near-death experiences, and have had insulin-dependent diabetes for almost 50 years. I’m not only a believer, I’m also an achiever. I’m proud of my accomplishments and I truly believe in my strength, courage, and love. Yet, I know I’m no different than many of you. As wellness seekers, you’re on a journey to climb those mountain trails, bike across your state, and look for the good in everything.

If you’re feeling depressed or anxious during this time of year, remember to believe in yourself, because if you believe you’ll experience the very good in this life. Happy holidays!

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illnessclick here, or her newly published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.

 

Minnesota’s Author Fair

Minnesota’s Author Fair

Hello Never Give Up Institute Seekers and Followers:

I’m going live at the Minnesota’s Author Fair on Saturday, November 13, 2021, in beautiful Stillwater, MN. I’d love it if you could stop by and visit with me. I can tell you about all the BIG PROJECT I’m working on at the Institute. It’s going to be amazing. I’ll have all my books and workbook to sell on that day. These would be great gifts for the holidays. Many of the authors who will be there that day are from my Women on Writing (WOW) chapter. They’re wonderful women with their own award-winning books. Stop by if you can. Thanks!

May be an image of one or more people and text that says 'The Historic Lowell Inn Invites you to a splendid event! In Lovely Stillwater Minnesota Author FAIR Shop early for the holidays! Νου. 10am-4pm 4pm at the Lowell Inn at 102 2nd Street Ν. in Lovely Stillwater, MN We are thrilled to visit Stillwater for an Author's Gathering. You will have books to pur chase and get signed and talk to the authors about their inspiration. If you have questions, you may call Lisa Green at (952) 466-3364 This event is free and open to the public but there is Mohan fee for books.'

How to Safely Move Out of an Abusive Home

A woman holding a smiley face balloon

GUEST BLOG by Nora Hood

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Nora Hood, a blog writer and today’s guest. Her blog below includes critical information on how to move out of an abusive relationship and home. 

 

(Image courtesy of Pexels)

Find more inspiring articles like this at The Never Give Up Institute’s Blog.

How to Safely Move Out of an Abusive Home

 If you are a victim of domestic abuse — escape might feel hopeless. It can be hard to leave, especially if you have developed a form of codependency with your abuser. No matter what fears you have, leaving an abusive home is the best choice. Once you leave, you will finally be able to start your journey towards being mentally healthy. In order to make it out safely and find a new home, you’ll need to make a good plan.

Be Prepared

Before you leave an abusive partner or family, you should have a plan. You probably won’t be able to take all of your belongings, but you should make a checklist of important things to pack. You will need identification information, personal documents, any money you’ve saved, keys, prescription medicines, etc. You’ll also want to take anything of personal value to you.

If you want to file for a permanent restraining order in the future, then you’ll likely need evidence of the abuse. This could also help you send your abuser to jail. According to WomensLaw.org, evidence could include anything from pictures of your wounds, a personal diary documenting the abuse, objects broken by the abuser, medical reports from the abuse, and testimony in court from you or other witnesses. Having evidence will help protect you in the long-run.

While you will eventually need to purchase a new home, your best option for getting away as soon as possible is by finding a temporary place to stay, whether that is at a friend’s or a family member’s place. You could also stay at a shelter while you’re getting things together.

 Make Your Escape

When you actually leave, you will need to move quickly so you don’t get injured. Don’t try to confront your abuser before you leave because this could make your situation worse. It’s tempting to stand up for yourself, but the safest option is to leave without saying anything. If your abuser has a regular routine, plan to leave when they are out of the house.

In the worst-case scenario, your abuser will catch you leaving and try to confront you. In this case, you should call 911. If you know that a confrontation is likely, you should consider calling 911 as a precaution. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help from the police, you could also ask a friend to be there with you. Abusers are usually less likely to attack if there is a witness.

Find a New Home

It can be hard to get your life on track, but one of the best ways to get a fresh start is by putting down roots with your very own home. This will give you the sense of independence and control that you crave. As a domestic abuse survivor, your life was in someone else’s hands. Purchasing your own home is just another step of the healing process.

But buying a new home won’t be easy. You’ll need to have a regular source of income and good credit. If your abuser didn’t allow you to have a job, you’ll have to find one, which can be hard after experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse. Another important part of the home purchasing process is determining what you can afford. You’ll need to consider your annual income, the down payment, how much you spend each month, what kind of loan you’ll be taking out, and the location of the home.

Once you’re financially stable enough to buy your own home, take your time to decide which one is best for you. Make sure you do your research on the area and look for a neighborhood with low crime rates so that you can feel safe. After you’ve found the perfect home and moved in, you should make connections with your community. Niche recommends checking out the town calendar and joining local organizations.

Escaping from domestic abuse is hard. The relationship can become addictive, and it can feel like there is no way out. But you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life. Just make sure that you’re prepared to leave, so you don’t end up injured. If you want to learn more about surviving trauma and healing, The Never Give Up Institute offers a wide variety of information and healing tools that can help you start fresh.

Find more inspiring articles like this on The Never Give Up Institute’s website.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way numerous times. She survived and now shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her tools for healing trauma book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, click here. If you would like to read her 2020 published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between, click here.