Wednesday, December 21, 2011
CHRISTMAS IS RETURNING TO ITS PAGAN ROOTS: SHOULD CATHOLICS EVEN CELEBRATE IT?
No one knows what day Jesus Christ was born on. From the biblical description, most historians believe that his birth probably occurred in September, approximately six months after Passover. One thing they agree on is that it is very unlikely that Jesus was born in December, since the bible records shepherds tending their sheep in the fields on that night. This is quite unlikely to have happened during a cold Judean winter. So why do we celebrate Christ's birthday as Christmas, on December the 25th?
The answer lies in the pagan origins of Christmas. In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.
In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.
In northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.
Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means "wheel," the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods.
The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.
In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ's birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.
Christmas (Christ-Mass) as we know it today, most historians agree, began in Germany, though Catholics and Lutherans still disagree about which church celebrated it first. The earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany. A prominent Lutheran minister of the day cried blasphemy: "Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ."
The controversy continues even today in some fundamentalist sects.
My Comments: Shouldn't we purify the Church of yule logs, Holiday trees and the date of Christmas? And Easter, what an abomination. Time for Vatican III I think!
Posted by Fr. Allan J. McDonald at Wednesday, December 21, 2011
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Though it is a widely held theory, the suggestion that Christmas Day was sited on 25 December to copy the pagans is far from clear or certain.
The celebration of the Annunciation on 25 March pre-dates Christmas on 25 December, the March date was considered by some to be the date of the creation of the world and of the Crucifixion...thus it was natural to consider it the day of the Incarnation as well. Add nine months, and suddenly we're at December for the birth.
That the feast became popular because a celebration in the middle of the north European winter is desirable is far less paganism, than mere common sense about human nature.
No! Just use it correctly. We should not use it in the Mass anymore than we would Aztec Liturgical Dancers or banjos. But they would be great fun at the parish party afterwards!
Oh, my God! These people do not have enough to do. I'll give up my Christmas tree when they pry it from my cold dead fingers...along with my 1911A .45 caliber pistol that the Constitutional de-constructionists want to take...and my KJV Bible that the so-called Biblical scholars don't like. Please...
PS It is time for Vatican III alright, but not for the reasons in the article!
"In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ's birth would be celebrated on December 25."
"Christmas (Christ-Mass) as we know it today, most historians agree, began in Germany, though Catholics and Lutherans still disagree about which church celebrated it first."
Maybe I'm missing something here, but these two sentences from this article seem incongruous...
Abominations indeed!! Let's purge the church of them, but in the proper time and place. I think they'd show up on the list somewhere down in the 40-50 range of the list, well below Communion in the Hand, Homosexual Clergy, Poor Liturgy; Altar Girls; EMHCs, etc etc
You get the idea.
The idea that shepherds didn't have their flocks in the fields during the time when our season of Christmas falls is crazy. Check out jimmyakin.org, where he has "7 Myths about Christmas."
I deleted the following from "unknown" by accident:
Unknown has left a new comment on your post "CHRISTMAS IS RETURNING TO ITS PAGAN ROOTS: SHOULD ...":
And some of the greatest Catholic Churches (St. Peter's?) were built upon pagan sites. Isn't it the Spirit's task to transform what is wrong and complete what is missing? Maybe we should change the name of the first day of the week to Sonday? In this age of de-Christianization, we should strengthen the Christian "yeast" and not become Catholic versions of Ana-baptists.
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