Despite the fact that this topic has been long debated - even by the Ancients, when it was broached several years ago in more public forums on the Internet it was considered volatile in many quarters and at the least very controversial. With the ground now broken the debate and scholarship is beginning to be more widely accepted. The Internet is crammed with legitimate sites that appear sensitive to offering substantive information about the real origins of Christmas. The other day I heard an ad on KRLD radio in Dallas where Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller was waxing right on and eloquent on the real origins of Christmas traditions all the while selling his extraordinary Mannheim Steamroller Christmas 25th Anniversary CD Collection.
Mind you, I don’t want to debunk Christmas - no Scrooge or Bah Humbug here. Rather I want to shine the light of day on the origins of the holiday and ultimately straighten our path. I love Christmas and its OK to continue where we are going, but let’s take a peek back at the real history.
In a great irony we have the formerly anti-Christian Romans to thank for the start of the evolution of December 25 as the celebration of the birth of Jesus aka Christmas. Despite the evolution of this holiday there remains significant pagan and secular symbolism. For starters we know (In the Bleak Midwinter aside) that Jesus wasn’t even born in December! No, there was no snow on the ground and modern Biblical scholars and historians who have done the math in an historical context using the Bible and other documentation estimate that Jesus was born anywhere from 4 BC to 2 BC maybe in September though no one really knows for sure. There are many sincere theories though no legitimate sources reflect December 25 as the Nativity.
Pagan cultures all over the world have traditionally celebrated the winter solstice as a feast day, the precursor of the beginning of deep winter and the rebirth of the Sun. Indeed, Bronze Age archaeological sites to include many stone circles/henges like Stonehenge in England, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in the Orkneys in Scotland had their footprints aligned with the sun of the winter solstice.
A significant side note: In a not too surprising coincidence, December 25 was Mithras' birthday before it was Jesus’, Mithras healed the sick, made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead and before returning to heaven at the Spring Equinox, had a last supper with 12 disciples? Hmmmmmmm…
The early Christian Church strictly prohibited the decoration of their houses with evergreen boughs perceived then as “Pagan”. While the modern celebration of Christmas continues to incorporate the pagan symbols of the evergreen tree (the green symbol of the renewal of life), they have long been a pagan tradition dating back to prehistory.
Let this holiday to include embracing the Jolly Old Elf be the catalyst to further our efforts to enhance our commitments to our Families, Friends, Community, Country and the World by being the best that we can be. That means becoming one of those thousand points of light and allowing Christmas to be the occasion for renewal and the hope that better days lie ahead.
PS: The art above was crafted by the very talented fellow Scot and member of the Kingdome of Raknar, Harry Blair of Greensboro, NC. Harry provided the drawings for Santa, Scotty and Christmas Eve Last penned by this writer many years ago featuring Rural Hill Farm in Huntersville, NC and as a tribute to the late Ralph Payne of Glasgow, Kentucky fame. Merry Christmas, Harry!