Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

I posted this comment on a Usenet photo-sharing group. All the comments on it were positive, so here it is for your contemplation. The reason for it: Someone had posted a photo of an extremely garish Christmas lights display. Several of the Comments expressed puzzlement that non-Christian neighbours from South East Asia were putting up Christmas lights.

"The notion that Christmas is Christian is erroneous. The Dec 25th date has no biblical authority whatsoever. There isn't even a hint that it was winter. "In those days Augustus decreed a census" is the closest to a date, but Augustus decreed more than one, so Jesus's birth date is anybody's guess. The "Jesus is the reason for the season" mantra is of
quite recent origin, proposed as a counter to the commercialisation of the festival. But Winter Solstice celebrations were/are pretty well universal north of the Mediterranean Sea. Many other Northern hemisphere peoples around the world also celebrate the Solstice.

Dec 25th was the date of the Roman Saturnalia, a celebration of the Solstice marked by all kinds of sensual delights. Around the same time the Norsemen and Germanic tribes celebrated Yule. The essence of these feasts was the return of the light, when the sun reverses its journey into darkness. It was an easy re-interpretation to identify this with the return of the Light of the World, aka Jesus. Hence Christ's Mass, or Weihnachten (= consecrated night), or Feliz Navidad (happy birth), or etc.

The Puritans knew very well that Christmas is non-biblical. They banned it after they cut off Charles I's head. Many Christian sects also know this, so they don't celebrate Christmas. The Scots Presbyterians, a dour lot with a general opposition to anything suggesting that pleasure was a good thing, discouraged Christmas, too, which is why the New Year is more important in Scotland. And is celebrated by grieving for Auld Lang Syne.

I'm all for Christmas, and any other Winter Solstice feast people celebrate. The return of the light, or the Light, symbolises hope. Without hope, we despair.

So Merry Christmas to all. May you be renewed in your faith, enjoy the company of family and friends, and find peace and hope in 2016. Without hope, we despair. So Merry Christmas to all. May you be renewed in your faith, enjoy the company of family and friends, and find peace and hope in 2016."

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