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Today’s History Lesson

Fresco of Mithras and the Bull from the mithra...

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I have a similar reaction to K.C. Hulsman (the writer of the below web post) when I am confronted with accusations of being an agent of the “war on Christmas”.

Christ Is NOT the Reason for the Season

A pagan who is tired of Christian indignation over the alleged assault on “their” holiday, he explains:

Many Pagan cultures have had various forms of celebrations around this time of year. In Ancient Rome, the celebration of Saturnalia spread in popularity. Saturnalia was a time to eat, drink, and be merry while honoring the Roman God Saturn. The festival was characterized with a modest type of role reversal where slaves could get a little taste of what it might be like to be at the other end of the social ladder. The one-day festival spread into a multi-day affair lasting for about a week, roughly correlating to our December 17-23….There was also another celebration around this time of the year in the ancient Roman Empire. Mithraism worshiped a Sun deity (Mithras), and his key celebration was on December 25th, an observance called the “Nativity.”

When Christianity grew from a small cult to a major religion, it’s adherents (especially heads of state and the church hierarchy) went on an unrelenting campaign to destroy the pagan holidays. Unfortunately for them, some of the observances were far too popular to be stamped out.

In fact, many Christians were partaking in the festivities.

So the church decided to observe the nativity of Christ on the day of the most popular of these pagan shindigs — Saturnalia.

There’s a great book by Stephen Nissenbaum called “The Battle for Christmas” that details how the holiday traditions have been passed down from the pagan originators. Hulsman explains:

Most of the Christmas traditions that exist — gift-giving, the hanging of the evergreens, Christmas trees, feasting, Santa, caroling — all originated from Pagan practices. While I can understand that to some Christians this is a holy time of reflection as they celebrate their God, Christ, let us remember we were here first. And Christ is not the reason for the season. He’s just a latecomer to the party.

So Christmas isn’t exactly Christian in it’s origins, and there’s a deep history of tradition that gives license to anyone to observe this festive time of year in whatever way they wish.

Hulsman concludes:

So to the Christians, who do claim that Christ is the reason for the season, would you please consider the history and context before you get upset next time when someone doesn’t wish you a Merry Christmas. If you Christians want to wish Merry Christmas, that’s fine, but don’t be surprised when I wish you a Joyful Yule back, or someone else wishes you a Merry Solstice, Happy Chanukah, the politically correct Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays. But to expect by default you will always be greeted at retail with a Merry Christmas is hubris, and there are many verses in the Bible that speak about the fallacies of pride. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace . . .” (Pr. 11:2). It is also arrogant to fight so that your local city hall has a nativity display, but then fight against other religious displays because they are “inappropriate” to your worldview. We are just as entitled to fair and equal treatment as you are, whether you believe in the validity of our religious worldview or not.

But to those Christians who aren’t trying to cram your religious rights or worldview down my throat, or the throats of others who are not of your religion, I say “Thank you.” May you have a Merry Christmas for letting me enjoy my Joyful Yuletide!

Well put!


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December 6, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, History, Religion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment