Happy Holidays! I love this time of year, and I’m not Christian.
December 25th is the day some celebrate the virgin birth of the son of God. His name was Mithras and he existed 500 years before Christ. Saturnalia was a week celebration to honor the God Saturn, also before Christ. Shabe Chell is an Iranian holiday that celebrates the light and goodness over darkness and evil. Pancha Ganapati (December 21-25) is a Hindu festival that honors the god Ganesha. There’s also Yule, Kwazna, Boxing Day, Malkh, Hanukkah and oh, some celebrate Christ’s birth too.
This is why I think it’s hilarious when people like Sara Palin are so offended by people trying to take Christ out of Christmas when it was religious fanatics like her that inserted Christ into this holiday. People like her usurped this holiday. This festive time, no matter what you call it, isn’t monopolized by a single religion. Look at the traditions:
The Christmas Tree
In Scandinavia, people of the Norse religion (Tyr, Odin, Thor, Frigg, you know the Gods we named the days of the week after) hung apples from evergreen trees during the winter solstice. They did this to remind themselves that winter wouldn’t last forever and that spring and summer will come again. The evergreen tree the tree of their fairest God, Baldr. Baldr was a son of Odin who died and then came back to life. Later on the Christians would rewrite many Norse stories to make Baldr a Christ-figure in order to easier convert those who believed in the Norse Gods. Ancient Egyptians decorated their houses with trees and plants during this time of year because this was the time that their sun god Ra to symbolize his defeat over death. The Romans decorated their houses with trees as well around the winter solstice to celebrate Saturnalia. Candles and ornaments were places on the limbs of these trees. Saturn was a God of agriculture among other things.
When Baldr was born his mother made him invincible to everything, everything except the smallest most insignificant plant: mistletoe. Of course Loki fashioned a spear from mistletoe and killed Baldr setting in motion the end of the world. Mistletoe has been considered a divine plant and it’s been used to celebrate Winter Solstice for hundreds of years, if not thousands of years, before Christ was born.
The Yule Log was started by Germanic Pagans. Originally the tradition was to burn an entire tree to provide maximum warmth to your family and guests during the above mentioned festivities.
Christmas as a holiday didn’t start at 0 AD. It wasn’t celebrated until 336 years later Christmas was created in AD 320 while Constantine was emperor. Pope Julius 1 declared December 25th Christmas as a way to convert more people to Christianity. Constantine was the first Christian Roman Emperor and he decided to smother the other religious celebrations. Like it or not, that’s history. Mithraism was very popular with the Roman soldiers so the day they celebrated Mithras birth, December 25th, was chosen as the day Christ was born. Christmas was the new state sanctioned holiday and the safer choice. Also, it kept most of the traditions of all the other holidays.
Now Santa Claus is the most Christian part of this holiday. There was a St. Nick. Nicholas was actually born in Parara, Turkey in 270 AD and grew up to become the Bishop of Myra. Nicholas was one of the senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. This council created what is now the New Testament. St. Nick died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century his bones were moved from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There, the Mediterranean-featured Nicholas started to gather a following. Most of the followers came from a deity called Pasqua Epiphania, a grandmother figure who would fill the children’s stockings with her gifts.
This Nicholas following spread north until the German and Celtic pagans adopted it. They had worshiped Odin who had a great white beard, mounted a flying horse, and for one night a year he would travel around the world. St. Nich adopted these features.
Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary wrote the famous poem , “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” and in the poem he used the obscure Christmas hero St. Nicholas.
St. Nick took off around the world, but didn’t come to the United States until 1931 when Coca Cola hired Haddon Sundblom, a Swedish commercial artist to paint a Coca Cola drinking Santa Claus. Coke execs are the ones who decided that Santa’s outfit be “Coca Cola Red”. Born from a man, warped by the traditions of other religions, and finally popularized by a multimillion dollar corporation. I’d say Santa is the best representation of modern Christianity’s Christmas.
The Festive Spirit
Just about every major civilization has had a big festival or celebration during the time of year we now call December 25th. The Greeks celebrated Brumalia, Zoroastrians celebrated the birth of Mithras, Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the Jews have Hannukah, the Pagans have the Winter Solstice, and all this happened before the birth of Christ, who according to biblical verse was born when the “shepherds abiding in their fields, keeping watch on their flock by night.” This didn’t happen in the dead of winter. So when these talking heads are going crazy that atheist or the media is trying to take Christ out of Christmas realize that they’re only borrowing the holiday. Maybe someday someone else will be using it, but none of that is important. The important part is the potential of the holiday. Give gifts, help people, eat, drink, and be merry. Happy Holidays, no matter which one you celebrate.