No matter how many times people may proclaim Jesus is the reason for the season, it simply is not that cut and dry. The history of the holiday and the traditions that have become apart of the normal celebration in a lot of cases pre date the birth of Christ and should not be dismissed.
It’s not to say that Jesus plays no part or isn’t the centralized figure of what has come to be known as the holiday season in modern times. But if we face the pretty widely accepted facts here, Jesus wasn’t born around Christmas time in most scholars educated opinions, and it is known that the Pope Julius the first in 350 placed Christ’s Mass (Christmas) around the same time as several pagan winter celebrations. Some say it was because they wanted to stamp out the celebrations pagan roots in favor of Christian ones while others claim it was because the Church thought it would be easier to convert Roman pagans to Christianity if they placed the celebration closer to their own. Still others (mainly Christians) have claimed that the celebrations were placed there to actually keep Christians from partaking in worldly celebrations by giving them their own at that time to prevent the distraction.
Yule, The Feast of Isis, and Saturnalia are just some of the pagan festivals that were celebrated at or very close to December 25th. Most of them revolved around the winter solstice, and included feasts and heavy drinking.
Many of the secular aspects of Christmas that few people are able to readily explain their relation to the religion of Christianity have pagan roots.
Some historians claim that the Mummers who were entertainers who traveled door to door during the Roman festival of Saturnalia are the forefathers to Christmas carolers and that is where that tradition comes from.
Christmas trees as we understand them have been traced back northern European pagan celebrations where they would cut down trees and decorate them to put in their homes in the winter as a symbol of a reminder that the spring was to come in some explanations of the practice. The Romans would put 12 candles on their tree in the memory of their sun God Bacchus.
The Yule Wreath, and evergreen boughs are also tied to Paganism.
This isn’t to say that Jesus is not an integral part of the season, but it is this belief that there is an attack on the religious aspects of Christmas that has brought me to write this post.
In all actuality, Christianity placed itself in a tough situation when it decided to place its celebration among pagan ones. Things have certainly gotten absorbed and become apart of the customs of the season to the point where we must admit to ourselves that Christmas is not a purely Judeo Christian religious holiday in most ways anymore because it has become the mixture of too many different customs for us to make such claims.
The very placement of the holiday is a reaction to paganism, many of the aspects that are most closely associated with the holiday have origins that are before the existence of the actual person the holiday celebrates, and many who do celebrate don’t exactly consider themselves to be practicers of the faith.
The secular aspects of Christmas are unfortunately just as much under attack as the religious ones. It should be accepted that in almost all cases Christmas is now a secular holiday. Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and boughs of holly have little do with the idea that God was born as a man and they shouldn’t be under attack as religious items when they aren’t. As I have stated before these types of festivals and activities predate his birth and beyond nativity scenes, carols directly referencing his divine birth and church services there isn’t very much religious about Christmas anymore anyway. It is perhaps one of the most secularized holidays with religious roots that we have, well except maybe St. Patrick’s Day.
As much as Christian should be less sensitive to the so called “attacks” on Christmas, the non believers should be less vigilant in finding forced religious exposure in every symbol of a holiday that has evolved greatly over the years.
Christmas has become so diverse in meaning to so many people we should be able to acknowledge its religious roots while also giving equal acknowledgement to its secular roots and traditions as well. And celebrate it as we see fit without judgment or trying to force religious implications on the portion of the season that has little to do with the Virgin birth.
So here’s what I say, put down your dogmatic spears of war, Christians and non believers. Christians should thank Pagans for giving them an awesome time of the year to usurp, and pagans and non believers should thank Christians for consolidating a bunch of pagan’s religious traditions into one wonderful time of the year. And most of all, malls and all the other stores of the world should thank them both for giving them a reason to guilt people into buying a bunch of crap they wouldn’t otherwise bother to buy for their families. Everyone wins!