Pagan Christmas?

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One of the favorite arguments by the anti-Christmas folk, both the secularists and the ultraconservative, is that Christmas is “really” a pagan holiday. The neopagans I know particularly like it. Of course it ignores the fact that if a group decides to choose a date to celebrate something, whether or not someone else also celebrates something does not detract from its significance to that group or to those associated with that group. The “it’s really a pagan holiday and you Christians shouldn’t be celebrating the birth of Christ” canard is really a distractor for the more general antichristian agenda of removing recognition of Christian faith from public discourse altogether.

But it turns out that a bit of historical effort shows that even this canard is not based on fact. The “pagan origin” argument of Christianity has traditionally been a tool of anticlerics who have ignored the real history. In fact, the Aurelian establishment of the Roman festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” co-opted the already established Christmas celebration, not the other way around.

For an historical account of the establishment of the date, see this article by William Tighe. See also this article, which notes that Hippolytus of Rome also provided an earlier determination of the date.

Hat tip to Get Religion and, again, Jollyblogger.

2 thoughts on “Pagan Christmas?

  1. I thought it was interesting that the “ancients” were trying to figure out someones B-day centuries aft erh fact when even today, with “modern” forensic science you guys and gals have a tough time figuring out the EXACT AND PRECISE time of death a month after a body is found – Oh Yea – ball park – plus or minus a day or two. Anyway – My two cents is that a lot of groups “celebrated” someting” right around this time. For the “festival of lights” (pass the Driedels please) to Christ being the “light of the world” to Hey – look – the days are getting longer kinda light celebration. The same thing for “easter/passover/rights of spring/”. I’m not saying that the ancients weren’t any good as pin pointing EXACTLY December 25th, however if they were that good, then where are they today doing CSI stuff. Oh well, time to hug a tree – the days are getting longer plus I’ve got my Druid drinkin’ buddies in their “JaWa” hoddies getting anxious to start the rituals –

  2. I’m not so sure they were as interested in the “exact” date as getting in the ballpark. If one assumes that conception occurred around a certain date, then the chances are that delivery ocured about nine months later. If you have to pick a date, you might as well use the conventional time periods.

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