December 21, 2006


Caption: There's no need to bug out about the holidays.

This is the third post in a series about the bogus "War on Christmas," which in El Cabrero's mind is a diabolical conspiracy to distract the masses from the real assault on Father's Day.

If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier posts

At the historical level, no one knows exactly when Jesus was born, although most scholars would put their money on any day but Dec. 25. The earliest church didn’t mark the holiday. By the year 200, the church father Clement of Alexandria found that the people who tried to mark the exact day did so “overly curiously.” Early dates from around that period set the birth in March, April or June.

The Dec. 25 date didn’t catch on in the western church until the 4th century of the Christian era. This time of year was already celebrated in pagan customs honoring Saturn, Mithras, and the return of the sun after the winter solstice. A lot of other Christmas customs, including trees, Yule logs, and the exchange of gifts were adapted from Mediterranean, Germanic or Celtic paganism. In other words, there are a lot of reasons for things done at that season.

I think the decision of the ancient church to fill the calendar with sacred days marking key events in the life of Jesus, the early church and the saints was a wise one, even if the days don’t match up exactly. Maybe one reason some people get so weird about Christmas is that they have an impoverished sense of the sacred year. Making do just on Christmas and Easter from this perspective is kind of like playing cards with just two in the deck.

When I buy gas on Jan. 1, for example, I don’t get worked up if the person says “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.” I don’t tell the people I’m taking my business elsewhere if they don’t say “Happy Epiphany” on January 6. I’m even OK if folks don’t wish me a happy Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24th.

These are things you just deal with...


bitsy sue said...

I agree with ya . . . I'm more concerned with the crappy haircut I got yesterday, giving me a "bad hair" Christmas . . . rats!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I am happy that we can, at some level, separate the religious from the secular. Our forefathers, who forbid our creating a state religion, were very wise. Now, if we can just keep it that way!