Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Reason

Santa on the cross This entry has been percolating for a while now, since I started seeing Christmas decorations in the stores before fucking Halloween.

I'm not a Scrooge, I enjoy being around family and friends during this time, and who doesn't like presents? I love getting presents! Oh, and giving them is fun, too. Haha. However, I grow weary of the rampant commercialism, I don't like sappy Christmas music, and don't even get me started on the constant, annoying Christmas-themed commercials! ("More seasons greetings to you all from Menard's!" GAAHHHH! Someone shoot me!)

What is really rankling me, though, is the continued brouhaha about the "war on Christmas." Just. Shut. Up. There is no "war on Christmas"—it’s merely a bunch of whining fundamentalists who seem to feel that they have bragging rights about Christmas being a Christian holiday. As usual, anyone who doesn't believe the way they do is not only going to hell, they're apparently going there as a passenger in Santa's sleigh. And naturally, everyone is out to get them, and trying to stop others from celebrating Christmas as a Christian holiday. Hey, celebrate however you want to! Bake Jesus a birthday cake! Sing happy birthday to him! Knock yourself out!

There's just one problem with that, though. Christmas is not a Christian holiday, and Jesus wasn't born on December 25.

JC Mithras Winter solstice celebrations predate Christianity by many years, and took many different forms in different cultures, all celebrating the lengthening days and the return of the sun. (The sun…get it? The son?) The Roman winter celebration of Saturnalia is where the tradition of gift-giving began; popular Christmas symbols and traditions such as evergreen trees and branches (the Asherah cult), mistletoe and holly (Norse mythology and Druid rituals), and the Yule log (more Norse mythology) began in pre-Christian Europe. The early Catholic church was having a hard time getting people to give up their pagan holidays and embrace Christianity (go figure), so they decided to co-opt most of the pagan celebrations and hope people wouldn't notice. Such tricksters!

As for December 25, it was the last day of Saturnalia, and it was also the birth date of Mithras, the Persian sun god. In 350, Pope Julius I decided that Christ's birth celebration would take place on December 25, again hoping that everyone would fall in line and sort of get used to the Christian thing while they were singing "Happy birthday, dear Mithras." Most historians put the birth of Christ somewhere in midsummer.

JC Virgo Christianity also doesn't have the market cornered on the virgin birth thing, and they weren't the first to come up with it. Such legends go back to ancient Egypt with Horus the Younger, and again with Mithras. Who was also apparently said to have "healed the sick, made the blind see and the lame walk, cast out devils, and raised the dead." Sound familiar? For an eye-opening read, I recommend this great article by Tom Flynn. (Thanks to Darren for the link.)

I'm not saying that Christmas should be banned; quite the contrary. I say enjoy your time with family and friends, appreciate the joy of giving, and celebrate the fun of the season. I know that I will! If you choose to recognize it as the birth of Christ, that is certainly your prerogative—many in my family do, and everyone should certainly feel free to celebrate in their own way. But pardon me if I disagree with you when you tell me that "Jesus is the reason for the season," because that is not the case. Not at all.

Simple reasoning—and research—shows me that that is the truth of the matter.


  1. I've heard the same info you posted here before through my own searches about the history of Christmas and Pagans, and I agree with your thoughts on the matter- the picture I have never seen before, and it made me chuckle-thanks :)

  2. Well said. There isn't really anything to add. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. Mithras - Merry Christmas, hmmmm :o)

    Glad we have decided to go minimal this year.

  4. I have been over the commercialism of this holiday for eons. I'm so tired of the notion that the more you spend, the more you love your family; that the more in debt you go over this one, non-religious-made-up-birthday, that you are somehow more holy than anyone else.

  5. Hi Beth,
    I think it's possible for people to enjoy what Christmas stands for regardless of their religion ... personally, I enjoy sharing gifts and taking some time to reflect.

  6. I am praying to Jeebus that a bunch of right-wing idiots see this post and leave ridiculous "YOU-ARE-SO-GOING-TO-HELL" comments. And then you could engage in witty banter with them. This is my Holy Christmas wish...

    Happy Christma-hana-kwanza-kah!!!


  7. This is another reason I'd give folks as to my antipathy towards Christian faith... that it took from other faiths and then eliminated them... sorta like the fundamentalists would like to do now ...

  8. Borrowing is the art form of belief systems, all civilizations and cultures have done it and most likely we will continue to do so. I think that it is the spirit of giving that we should emphasize not just at Christmas but as the measure of how we live our lives. I'm afraid that I love Christmas songs, from religious carols to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." I've never gotten overly concerned about the commercialism. We always have a choice as to how much we participate in the buying frenzy. I like the color red,eggnog,and shiny baubles on a tree. I also like to take stock of my life and how I've lived it and commit to being the best person that I can be for yet another year. I don't need Christmas to do that but the timing works out well. Merry Christmas, dear Beth.

  9. Don't forget the celebration of the Winter Solstice also falls in late December (usually the 20th - 22nd) - but at least you can always find a bunch of Wyndam Hill Solstice albums, and the odd Jethro Tull song, too! :D

  10. I happen to love Christmas, despite not being a religious person. It just feels good. For me, it's mostly nostalgic. I absolutely loved my childhood Christmases and enjoy being reminded of them each year. I love the lights, the songs (which is saying a lot for me, since I don't care much for music in general), the gift-giving, the warm feeling, and I still believe in Santa Claus. The commercialism can get annoying, but that's part of the nostalgia, too. In my hippie days, I denounced the commercial aspects and the secular exclusivity of Christmas, but now I just sit back and enjoy the fact that I'm around for another one of these crazy seasons.

  11. so those 'christmas in july' sales may be a little closer to the truth then a lot of folks would want us to believe????

    i am not a fan of the christmas. any of it. this year i am waiting for it to be over quick so i can begin celebrate something that really matters to me on a daily basis: my married life with mr. m.

    my dad's half of the family does not celebrate at all. in fact, i think i am the only one of the three kids on our side who had a christmas tree growing up and without going into long family drama, it didnt end well when my dad had had enough of it.

    my mother's family was all about christmas overkill. come to think of it they were all about christan values overkill too, in hopes that all that hoity-toity goody goody behavior would make up for their true evil, abusive natures. it didnt.

    i do like the songs. it does piss me off when people misbehave at our practices because seeing them sing does mean something to many of the parishioners and i dont think it's right to disrespect the jesus in his own damn house.


  12. While we don't celebrate Christmas for many of the reasons you stated above, I did grow up with the holiday and loved it. My mum worked hard to keep what she believed to be the true meaning. I still listen to songs, even have the tapes from when I sany in Christms concerts. It is a warm, caring, happy time whatever holidy you celebrate. Mark and I celebrate Hanukkah and respect the fact that most of our family doesn't.

  13. I agree with David, that would be pretty damn funny! I would sit and watch those comments. A very true post though. We don't even really do many gifts either. We just spent time together eating and having some cock-a-tails!

  14. You know something Beth, no amount of swearing or hanging Santa on the cross is going to change a thing. I agree with you but It will just get earlier every year. You need to just lighten up and enjoy Christmas. My son who has been dead for soon to be 20 years loved Christmas and if he could have had those extra 20 years he would never have complained but just have gone on celebrating his Christmas during December as usual.

  15. I think Mr Costanza had the right idea...

    Festivus...for the rest of us (or ya'll since I'm Christian).

    Really there are two "Christmases". The secular one that carries all the gathered up pagan holiday traditions and the religious celebration of the Mass honoring Christ's birth.

    As a Christian (albeit a liberal one)I take part in both the secular and Christian celebratory traditions. I think that knowing where those traditions came from makes Christmas a richer holiday. To me those ancient Norse and Druid symbols interwoven in don't detract from Christ at all. It forms a mystical tapestry of faith that I find enriching. Those Druids and Norse were my ancestors. Their symbols tie me back to them. Christ is the Savior of the world. I believe him to be the savior of ALL the world. Not just the "church". There would be no Christmas without Christ. There would be something this time of year but it wouldn't be Christmas.

    I look at it as the secular christmas is the price we Christians pay for usurping the pagan winter holidays, but it does not negate my Christian Christmas in my view. That being said, if Christ isn't the reason for your celebration perhaps you should consider not calling your celebration "Christmas".

    You're dead on with the TV commercials though...I am about to puke from the Cotton Patch Cafe commercial that uses the Halleluiah Chorus to hawk their chicken fried steaks.AAAKK!

  16. Beth great job on this post! It is nice to see someone put some perspective on the season.

    I'm very unhappy with fundamentalists trying to rewrite history and place greater importance on themselves, so it is nice to see someone providing the correct information. We celebrate most of the pagan rituals,to honor my spirituality, though we do have a creche to honor Stan's religion. We are also very anti-commercialism. The best gift is having a friend over.

  17. Well, I'm an out and in-your-face atheist, but I love Christmas. I love the decorations. I love the food. I love the music - I own almost two dozen albums of Christmas music - I even love the religious music. I love getting together with friends and family. I love giving and receiving gifts. It's by far my favourite holiday.

  18. It reminds of years ago when I first left home and was flat sharing after a few bottles of wine ..hic..we decided to have our own Christmas as we would be at our repesctive families, anyway we were on Oxford street just killing time in the stores in Debenhams we went to the 5th floor and it was all decked out for Christmas...lol and this was in June!!!!

    Take care



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