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Author Topic: Strange Family Xmas Tradition = Pagan Memory?  (Read 4258 times)
NibbleKat
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« Topic Start: December 23, 2010, 03:40:12 pm »

When I was little and made a list for Santa, my father would wait until a few days before Christmas, and then he'd take me outside... and in the freezing cold, he and I would burn the letter together so that it would carry the message up to the North Pole on the smoke.

Now, later on in my life, somewhere along the line, I seem to remember reading that some ancient pagan cultures used to do the same thing... only not to Santa, of course, but to their gods, with the 'list' being a prayer, instead.

Could this truly be a holdover of an old tradition my family's unknowingly carried down the line?  Anyone got any thoughts or proof regarding this?  All I know is my family is from the British Isles and from German, waaaaaaay back in the day.
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« Reply #1: December 23, 2010, 04:04:21 pm »

When I was little and made a list for Santa, my father would wait until a few days before Christmas, and then he'd take me outside... and in the freezing cold, he and I would burn the letter together so that it would carry the message up to the North Pole on the smoke.

Now, later on in my life, somewhere along the line, I seem to remember reading that some ancient pagan cultures used to do the same thing... only not to Santa, of course, but to their gods, with the 'list' being a prayer, instead.

Could this truly be a holdover of an old tradition my family's unknowingly carried down the line?  Anyone got any thoughts or proof regarding this?  All I know is my family is from the British Isles and from German, waaaaaaay back in the day.

If so, you are holding onto something for 800 to 1200 years. I'd look to see if there is a more recently extant group that does something similar. Say burning a candle for a saint as Catholics do. Or it could be unique.
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« Reply #2: December 23, 2010, 04:08:26 pm »


Or, and I'm not trying to be a spoilsport here, somewhen some parent in your familiy was asked by the kid, how the letter gets to Santa. And because the kid wouldn't stop asking, the parent came up with the idea of burning it?
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« Reply #3: December 23, 2010, 04:11:21 pm »

Or, and I'm not trying to be a spoilsport here, somewhen some parent in your familiy was asked by the kid, how the letter gets to Santa. And because the kid wouldn't stop asking, the parent came up with the idea of burning it?

That's what I was thinking.  It sounds like something I would have told my daughter.  She'd have believed that way before the 'put it in the mail' bit.
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« Reply #4: December 23, 2010, 05:34:04 pm »



I actually wrote a prayer out for winter Solstice, and burned it for Odin, along with a bottle of Meade as an offer. I don't have anything except UPG to go on for doing it. A friend of mine had us do this at a Winter Solstice event she hosted a couple years ago, and I've taken the idea to heart.

Keep in mind, if this is a tradition stemming from past generations, it can't be all that old. For a long time, the art of reading and writing wasn't taught to the poor and middle classes. Definitely not to the extent it is taught today. Also, the art of writing didn't become that predominant of a form of communication, until within I'd imagine at least the last 1000 years, possibly shorter than that. The production and use of paper played a role in this, as it's availability compared was more scarce compared to the present. Anyone with more knowledge on the subject, feel free to contribute, as this is not a part of history I'm too familiar with.

My point is that if this practice has some history attached, it can't be that old. That doesn't mean t doesn't work. The ancients didn't know everything, just like we don't. Besides, when it all comes down to it, the Gods and Goddesses are the ones who decide who they're going to listen to, and accept sacrifices from.
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« Reply #5: December 23, 2010, 06:04:30 pm »

Keep in mind, if this is a tradition stemming from past generations, it can't be all that old. For a long time, the art of reading and writing wasn't taught to the poor and middle classes. Definitely not to the extent it is taught today. Also, the art of writing didn't become that predominant of a form of communication, until within I'd imagine at least the last 1000 years, possibly shorter than that. The production and use of paper played a role in this, as it's availability compared was more scarce compared to the present. Anyone with more knowledge on the subject, feel free to contribute, as this is not a part of history I'm too familiar with.

I'm going to have to agree.  For the longest time, literacy was reserved for those who could afford an education beyond farming techniques or some skill like metalworking (ie: royalty, nobility and the clergy).  This changed when a middle class started to emerge around the time of the Renaissance but it was probably within the past two hundred years or so that a large amount of the population could read or write.

Could be wrong, though.
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« Reply #6: December 23, 2010, 06:10:23 pm »

I'm going to have to agree.  For the longest time, literacy was reserved for those who could afford an education beyond farming techniques or some skill like metalworking (ie: royalty, nobility and the clergy).  This changed when a middle class started to emerge around the time of the Renaissance but it was probably within the past two hundred years or so that a large amount of the population could read or write.

Could be wrong, though.

Closer to 300 years for basic reading and writing. Still fairly recent compared to the conversion of most of Europe to Christianity.
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« Reply #7: December 23, 2010, 06:18:12 pm »


Did you or can you ask your dad or another family member where he got the idea from. I know when I first read it I thought of Mary Poppins and the letter up the chimmney. It is possible he or someone else picked the idea up quite randomly because it seemed like a good idea.
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« Reply #8: December 23, 2010, 08:15:18 pm »

Or, and I'm not trying to be a spoilsport here, somewhen some parent in your familiy was asked by the kid, how the letter gets to Santa. And because the kid wouldn't stop asking, the parent came up with the idea of burning it?

Well, if so, it's not from me... My dad said his mom did it for him...
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« Reply #9: December 23, 2010, 08:16:34 pm »

Did you or can you ask your dad or another family member where he got the idea from. I know when I first read it I thought of Mary Poppins and the letter up the chimmney. It is possible he or someone else picked the idea up quite randomly because it seemed like a good idea.

Good info, guys, by the way!

I'll try and delve a lot more deeply when I see my Dad this Sat!
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« Reply #10: December 23, 2010, 08:21:01 pm »

Well, if so, it's not from me... My dad said his mom did it for him...

::shrug:: So maybe he asked, and his mom came up with this solution, and he liked it enough that he wanted to continue it as a tradition with his kids.  (Or maybe his mom was the one who originally asked, or one of her parents--you can go back a many generations as you want to with this.)
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« Reply #11: December 24, 2010, 05:32:33 am »

When I was little and made a list for Santa, my father would wait until a few days before Christmas, and then he'd take me outside... and in the freezing cold, he and I would burn the letter together so that it would carry the message up to the North Pole on the smoke.

Now, later on in my life, somewhere along the line, I seem to remember reading that some ancient pagan cultures used to do the same thing... only not to Santa, of course, but to their gods, with the 'list' being a prayer, instead.

Could this truly be a holdover of an old tradition my family's unknowingly carried down the line?  Anyone got any thoughts or proof regarding this?  All I know is my family is from the British Isles and from German, waaaaaaay back in the day.

I'm English and we always sent our letters to Santa up the chimney  Cheesy (we had an open fire).
This could be part of a similar tradition to burning the letter? sending it up 'in smoke'?
I guess this would be a similar principle to smoke (i.e. from incense, candles) going up 'to the gods'?
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« Reply #12: December 24, 2010, 01:13:26 pm »

I'm English and we always sent our letters to Santa up the chimney  Cheesy (we had an open fire).
This could be part of a similar tradition to burning the letter? sending it up 'in smoke'?
I guess this would be a similar principle to smoke (i.e. from incense, candles) going up 'to the gods'?

I mentioned this tradition on another board, and someone else said they sent it up the chimney... so maybe it's a holdover from say... Victorian stuff? Or just something "found" in the past couple of generations. That's cool to know about the chimney thing from you, too!
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