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Old 12-24-2018, 03:19 AM
Jim B. Jim B. is offline
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Christmas and Secularism.

True story. When my father was still alive, we used to go to this Ram's Horn in nearby Dearborn, MI. In case you don't know, Dearborn (which is a suburb of Detroit, on the southern border) has the highest concentration of people of Arab descent in the country, maybe even world.

Anyways, I did like the menu items that were basically middle eastern. Yeah, the restaurant was definitely frequented by people of the Muslim faith. No problem with that. They even were open all night during the month of Ramadan, because Muslims are only allowed to eat at night then.

Anyways, around Christmastime, they used to put up pine and holly decorations up. Yes, I realize non-Muslims might have ate there too. But it still got me to thinking.

Has Christmas turned into a largely secular holiday? I know many religions still observe it. I was raised a Catholic. How could I not know that.

But still, just by and large, has it become a secular holiday, possibly even more pagan (forgive me for using that word--but I use it to make a point) than Christian?

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Old 12-24-2018, 04:21 AM
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In case you don't know, Dearborn (which is a suburb of Detroit, on the southern border) has the highest concentration of people of Arab descent in the country, maybe even world.

Wikipedia Dearborn area population, arab americans
Quote:
The city's population includes 40,000 Arab Americans.[22] Arab Americans own many shops and businesses, offering services in both English and Arabic.[23] Per the 2000 census, Arab Americans totaled 29,181 or 29.85% of Dearborn's population; many are from families who have been in the city since the early 20th century. The city has the largest proportion of Arab Americans in the United States.[24] As of 2006 Dearborn has the largest Lebanese American population in the United States.[25]
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Old 12-24-2018, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
True story. When my father was still alive, we used to go to this Ram's Horn in nearby Dearborn, MI. In case you don't know, Dearborn (which is a suburb of Detroit, on the southern border) has the highest concentration of people of Arab descent in the country, maybe even world.

Anyways, I did like the menu items that were basically middle eastern. Yeah, the restaurant was definitely frequented by people of the Muslim faith. No problem with that. They even were open all night during the month of Ramadan, because Muslims are only allowed to eat at night then.

Anyways, around Christmastime, they used to put up pine and holly decorations up. Yes, I realize non-Muslims might have ate there too. But it still got me to thinking.

Has Christmas turned into a largely secular holiday? I know many religions still observe it. I was raised a Catholic. How could I not know that.

But still, just by and large, has it become a secular holiday, possibly even more pagan (forgive me for using that word--but I use it to make a point) than Christian
There are probably a couple of things at work here.

First - for those of us out here that are Pagan it's not a bad word. Not sure why you thought that would cause offense but good on you for being considerate of others.

Second - money. Non-Christian business owners who have a sizable number of Christian customers will often cater to them in the interests of, depending on your viewpoint, accommodating their customers or exploiting them for profit. This is especially true of items that are not overtly religious, such as "pine and holly" as opposed to, say, a nativity scene. Even in Dearborn, any Middle Eastern restaurant is going to have a sizable number, if not a majority, of Christian customers. If "pine and holly" do not conflict with a Muslim owner's religion and can help draw in Christian customers said owner is probably going to put up those decorations. Islam has no problem with making a profit.

Third - yes, Christmas, in the sense of a winter holiday, has a secular aspect. A lot of cultures have a winter festival, often incorporating lights, because this time of year (in the northern hemisphere) it's just so damn dark all the time. That's why this Neo-Pagan half-Jewish person has a silver and blue tinsel garland and poinsettia window clings up on the front window of her apartment. I also happily wish a "Merry Christmas" to any customer at the store where I work who is either clearly Christian or who says the same to me. (Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, and unknowns still usually get "have a good day" or "Happy New Year" or "happy holiday" or something along those lines)

There are some Christians who, to me, seem deeply offended that there are people either celebrating other holidays around this time or just enjoying the pretty lights and shiny tinsel without being a member of a Jesus-worshiping sect, but there's not much I can do about them. They seem to be very unhappy people. I'd much rather hang around with Christians who are happy to let other people be who they are, and/or invite me over for a Christmas dinner and a present exchange without requiring those present to pass religious tests.
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Old 12-24-2018, 05:48 AM
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If "pine and holly" do not conflict with a Muslim owner's religion and can help draw in Christian customers said owner is probably going to put up those decorations. Islam has no problem with making a profit.
It is further the case that Jesus is recognized as a prophet in Islam. There is nothing wrong religiously with going along the Christian celebration from this point of view (if you are not substituting for God). It is not like going along with a pagan god celebration.

It is also the case that in the Levant which most of the Michigan muslims are from with its large number of the christians, it is perfectly common for the Muslims living near the Christians to assist in their celebrations in some way. So there is a completely levantine tradition there too.
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Old 12-24-2018, 06:04 AM
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In Japan, Christmas is celebrated as a secular festival, with its own weird traditions.

Last edited by GreenWyvern; 12-24-2018 at 06:05 AM.
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Old 12-24-2018, 08:25 AM
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Of course it's a secular holiday, in addition to being a religious holiday. That's why almost every business, plus the government, is closed. As far as religious holidays go, it's really supposed to be way back behind Easter -- Christmas celebrations were banned by the Puritans. In my non-Christian viewpoint, I'd say Christmas is now taken more seriously as a religious holiday by some Christians than Easter. Here in the US, we don't even get a day off for Good Friday or Easter Monday.

Given the number of Christmas sales and non-religious movies, it seems to be obviously a secular holiday on top of a religious holiday.
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Old 12-24-2018, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
But still, just by and large, has it become a secular holiday, possibly even more pagan (forgive me for using that word--but I use it to make a point) than Christian?

No one knows where and when Jesus was born, but we can be pretty sure that snow and fir trees were not involved. The pagan roots of Western Christmas traditions go back a long way.
Your story doesn't surprise me at all. There is a very large non-Christian population where I live, and a lot of them are in the stores in December and have Christmas decorations in their places of business. It isn't that uncommon for a Hindu and a Jew to wish each other Merry Christmas.
Secular today - kind of.
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Old 12-24-2018, 02:38 PM
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Just note that a lot of Arab-Americans are in fact Christian, including in Michigan.
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Old 12-24-2018, 04:38 PM
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Are there any truly religious holidays in the USA? Even Easter is secular imo, although it's a bit more religious than Christmas. Easter is about presents, dinner and Easter eggs.
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Old 12-24-2018, 05:03 PM
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Are there any truly religious holidays in the USA? Even Easter is secular imo, although it's a bit more religious than Christmas. Easter is about presents, dinner and Easter eggs.
Easter is not 100% a religious holiday but Christmas and Easter are in clearly different categories IMO as to *degree* of secularization. Easter is the No. 1 Christian religious holiday but a relatively minor secular holiday by comparison to Christmas, the No. 2 Christian religious holiday but a huge deal as a secular holiday. They are not really comparable IMO.

And with other religions there are non-secular holidays. For example Hanukkah is a highly secularized holiday where it's commonly recognized at all, ie. in areas with a lot of Jewish people, like my native NY. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur though have next to no secular profile even though important holidays in NY (lots of people off from work). They are pretty much strictly religious holidays.

That's easier to maintain if your religion isn't the main one of the dominant traditional culture. 'No religious holidays' seems to take 'religious' as meaning 'Christian'. Which is a common shorthand in discussions of 'religious' in the US but of course isn't literally the case.
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Old 12-25-2018, 02:03 AM
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If you travel to where there are no or few Christians, you won't even be able to tell it's Christmas. No Christmas market, no decorations, no public holiday, nothing-- just ordinary joes going about their daily grind. This suggests that Christmas is strongly associated with Christianity.

Last edited by DPRK; 12-25-2018 at 02:04 AM.
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Old 12-25-2018, 04:28 AM
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More than half of the population of the UK has no religion, but we still love Christmas.
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Old 12-25-2018, 09:12 AM
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Just note that a lot of Arab-Americans are in fact Christian, including in Michigan.
of course, they are heavily from the Sham in general I understand. By a chance the New York Times has an article on the christmas celebrations in Beirut and you can read about the attitude of even the Hezbullah and Santa...

The American Santa is quite popular I can say as it has a non-religious sentiment about it that is just fun. from the article note even a woman from a village had experience with the Santa idea
Quote:
Ms. Ibrahim grew up celebrating Christmas at school and in her home village, where every year a local man dressed up as Santa, and said they had put up a tree at home. “Christmas is the only time you see everyone together with their family,” she said.
besides the puritanical Salafistes who hate everything fun, music, purely Islamic holidays like the maoulids, people do not see it as a problem. The Salafistes of course will never be happy until no one is doing anything but chanting the approved version of their prayers 24/7 and wearing only their approved puritan clothes.

(the puritans of the two religions, they have a lot in common)

Last edited by Ramira; 12-25-2018 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 12-25-2018, 11:39 AM
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If you travel to where there are no or few Christians, you won't even be able to tell it's Christmas. No Christmas market, no decorations, no public holiday, nothing-- just ordinary joes going about their daily grind. This suggests that Christmas is strongly associated with Christianity.
I'm not certain anyone disputes that.
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Old 12-25-2018, 11:16 PM
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If you travel to where there are no or few Christians, you won't even be able to tell it's Christmas. No Christmas market, no decorations, no public holiday, nothing-- just ordinary joes going about their daily grind. This suggests that Christmas is strongly associated with Christianity.
i take it you have never been to Japan
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Old 12-25-2018, 11:49 PM
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That was mentioned earlier. And yet, Christmas remains not a public holiday in Japan, any more than in Qatar, Mongolia, Israel, etc. Interestingly, January 1 is a big holiday in Japan.

Last edited by DPRK; 12-25-2018 at 11:49 PM.
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Old 12-25-2018, 11:57 PM
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That was mentioned earlier. And yet, Christmas remains not a public holiday in Japan, any more than in Qatar, Mongolia, Israel, etc. Interestingly, January 1 is a big holiday in Japan.
did the OP ask it were a public hiliday?
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Old 12-26-2018, 01:08 AM
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Just note that a lot of Arab-Americans are in fact Christian, including in Michigan.
In fact, I believe the Arabs of Dearborn are still mostly Christians--though the Muslim population is growing.
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Old 12-26-2018, 03:22 AM
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You actually see a lot of Christmas decorations in Israel right now, except they;re not actually Christmas decorations - they're Novy God decorations put up by Russian immigrants. And yes, they do bug some religious Jews a lot, but Novy God is huge in the Russian community, and the Russians insist that they have absolutely no religious meaning. In a way, it's becoming a lot like all the iconography on St. Patrick's Day in the United States. It doesn't mean anything besides "Let's celebrate being Irish/Russian" and "Let's get drunk".
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Old 12-26-2018, 04:55 AM
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A lot of retailers--possibly most of them, excluding grocery stores--make half the money they will make all year between Thanksgiving and New Year's, because of Christmas. This is why Christmas is a legal holiday in the States, and it's the only religious holiday with that distinction. (Easter, a bigger deal to the Church, always falls on a Sunday so there's no point in making it a legal holiday.) It is likewise a legal holiday here in South Korea, where only a quarter of the population observes it religiously, but all the kids expect a present nonetheless. Yes, the secular aspect of Christmas is a force to be respected.
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Old 12-26-2018, 05:20 AM
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A lot of retailers--possibly most of them, excluding grocery stores--make half the money they will make all year between Thanksgiving and New Year's, because of Christmas.
This also applies to the grocery half the store I work in - although slightly greater weight for Thanksgiving week than for strictly non-grocery retailers.

People buy a LOT of food this time of year. And booze.
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Old 12-26-2018, 05:57 AM
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(Easter, a bigger deal to the Church, always falls on a Sunday so there's no point in making it a legal holiday.)
Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in a large number of countries.
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Old 12-26-2018, 08:29 AM
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Over on r/atheism, everyone was wishing each other a merry christmas/ happy holiday yesterday.
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Old 12-26-2018, 07:37 PM
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I was raised Jewish, and my husband was raised Muslim. We're both atheists, but we have a Christmas tree that stays up all year, though it's only lit during the holidays. Totally secular.
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Old 12-28-2018, 03:35 PM
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The weird thing is the movie The Ten Commandments has become an Easter tradition for a lot of people. Yeah, Easter is near Passover but still...
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:41 AM
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perhaps it would be easier for the OP to describe which of the various Christmas rituals are actually religious.

I'm excepting going to church because that shouldn't change through the year (you do or you don't!)

Almost everything else, I would contend are actually Victorian era things or later and almost all involve no Jesus.
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:01 AM
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I was raised Jewish, and my husband was raised Muslim. We're both atheists, but we have a Christmas tree that stays up all year, though it's only lit during the holidays. Totally secular.
I was raised Jewish, my wife Catholic. Before we married I never had a tree or Santa anywhere in my house. To me it's all religious, and I don't celebrate except where it's polite and helpful to my wife. It may all be cultural vs religious, but it's never been part of my culture. That's why I don't consider it secular.
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Old 01-04-2019, 08:14 AM
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The three wise men (Magis) to welcome baby Jesus were : Indian (Hindu), Persian (Zoroastrian) and Arab (not sure Muslim or not).

Why is then secularism touted as something modern ?

In India, I grew up in a Hindu family (not very religious) wishing Merry Christmas to Christians and non Christians. We never looked at it as a secular thing. In a country where there are 1000s of festivals based on everyone’s belief, it was no big deal.
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Old 01-04-2019, 08:22 AM
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The three wise men (Magis) to welcome baby Jesus were : Indian (Hindu), Persian (Zoroastrian) and Arab (not sure Muslim or not).
Islam didn't exist until several hundred years later.
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Old 01-04-2019, 08:48 AM
Great Antibob Great Antibob is offline
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Christmas in its modern incarnation has always been heavily secularized.

The big jolly red suited Santa is the result of an advertising campaign (the original not having a set color for his suit).

ETA: Actually, the US concept of Santa Claus himself is a strange amalgam of Christian and non-Christian traditions from several different countries and is a fundamental example of how we've mixed secular and religious traditions in the US.

As mentioned above, Christmas trees, Yule logs, lights, gift exchanges, etc are all not really originally Christian in the first place.

Even as a religious holiday in the US, it wasn't originally widely celebrated in the US (we're originally Protestant and were against anything that smacked of Catholicism) and it was the success and popularity of the secular aspects that turned it into a major holiday here.


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And yet, Christmas remains not a public holiday in Japan, any more than in Qatar, Mongolia, Israel, etc.
Halloween isn't a public holiday in the US and is still essentially a religious holiday. One that is widely, widely observed. It would be a grand stretch to assert most Americans treat it as primarily a religious holiday.

And while St Patrick's Day is a religious holiday, it's not a public holiday in the US and the vast majority of Americans who observe it even in part would not associate it with organized religion, at least as we observe it here.

Point being?

Last edited by Great Antibob; 01-04-2019 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 01-04-2019, 09:31 AM
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pickin' them nits...

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The three wise men (Magis) to welcome baby Jesus were...
According to various traditions they might have been many things. According to the only Biblical source, however, they were simply "from the East."

As noted above, Islam did not exist. And "magi" is already plural, the Latin "magus," derived from Greek.

Happy eleventh day of Christmas, all!
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Old 01-04-2019, 09:48 AM
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The three wise men (Magis) to welcome baby Jesus were : Indian (Hindu), Persian (Zoroastrian) and Arab (not sure Muslim or not).

Why is then secularism touted as something modern ?

In India, I grew up in a Hindu family (not very religious) wishing Merry Christmas to Christians and non Christians. We never looked at it as a secular thing. In a country where there are 1000s of festivals based on everyone’s belief, it was no big deal.
In the Catholic tradition they were all Zoroastrian astronomers. Their presentation of gifts is celebrated this coming Sunday, it is called Epiphany, and also known as The Revelation To the Gentiles (the Magi prefigure the spread of Christianity beyond the Jewish community).

There is nothing in the Gospel to say where they were from (or how many there were) except that they were from "the East".

The history of Christmas shows that it always had a pagan origin (wassailing long predates the celebration of Jesus' birth). Christianity laid a thin veneer over the Winter Bacchanal, and the combination of the Knickerbockers in the US and Dickens in Britain tamed it into the family/feast/capitalist greed orgy we know today. The religious aspect was always a countercurrent, unlike Easter/Passover.
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Old 01-04-2019, 11:12 AM
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The fact that the secular aspects of Christmas correlate precisely with a religious holiday and celebration, and that even many/most secular celebrations incorporate religious iconography, nomenclature, and music, make Christmas a most definitely religious holiday.

One can appreciate it in a secular or "just cultural" way, of course, and in the comfort of one's own home anything can be anything you want it to. But, walk out into the streets of America, and Christmas even at its most secular is a specifically-Christian cultural celebration.
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Old 01-08-2019, 07:29 PM
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I'm an atheist and consider Christmas to be a wholly secular holiday, having been wrested away from Christmas by business interests and others trying to make a buck. Sure there are residual elements of christain religion still attached to it, the same way there are still residual elements of pre-christian germanic winter celebrations attached to it (like the yule log). But as holidays go, it's the jolly fat man's holiday now.
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Old 01-08-2019, 09:50 PM
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perhaps it would be easier for the OP to describe which of the various Christmas rituals are actually religious.
.
A creche.
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Old 01-08-2019, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Great Antibob View Post
Christmas in its modern incarnation has always been heavily secularized.

The big jolly red suited Santa is the result of an advertising campaign (the original not having a set color for his suit). ...
And while St Patrick's Day is a religious holiday, it's not a public holiday in the US and the vast majority of Americans who observe it even in part would not associate it with organized religion, at least as we observe it here.

..
True.

Actually Thomas Nast*, not a ad campaign, per se.. He took it from A Visit from St. Nicholas aka Night before Christmas but made Santa human sized.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,


*https://longislandwins.com/columns/i...oks-civil-war/

*https://www.google.com/search?q=thom...MV9M_GlwbZk5M:
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Old 01-08-2019, 09:57 PM
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The history of Christmas shows that it always had a pagan origin (wassailing long predates the celebration of Jesus' birth). Christianity laid a thin veneer over the Winter Bacchanal, and the combination of the Knickerbockers in the US and Dickens in Britain tamed it into the family/feast/capitalist greed orgy we know today. The religious aspect was always a countercurrent, unlike Easter/Passover.
Not at all, as I pointed out in a earlier thread:But the date has nothing whatsoever to do with any ancient Roman Pagan holidays.

As Wiki points out:The earliest source stating 25 December as the date of birth of Jesus is likely by Hippolytus of Rome, written very early in the 3rd century, based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox which he placed on 25 March, and then added nine months – festivals on that date were then celebrated.[42] 25 March would also roughly be the date of his crucifixion, which ancient Christians would have seen as confirming the date of his birth, since there was a notion that the great prophets were conceived into the afterlife on the same date they were conceived into the world. John Chrysostom also argued for a 25 December date in the late 4th century, basing his argument on the assumption that the offering of incense in Luke 1:8–11 was the offering of incense by a high priest on Yom Kippur (early October), and, as above, counting fifteen months forward.

Honestly, these were nothing more than educated guesswork. I certainly wouldnt count on them as solid by any means.

But yes, the ancient Romans had a big bash around the Solstice, called Saturnalia.

The holiday started on Dec 17th (but note that the ancient Roman calendar was anything but precise) and went on until the 23rd or so. Gifts giving, feating, merrymaking, costumes, etc. A real blow out.

Mithras and Sol Invictus, both of whom only lasted for a short time, also has holidays associated with the Solstice. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was even celebrated one year (at least) on Dec 25th, not the 21st the usual solstice, but again- remember the ancient Roman calendar was pretty fluid.

So, why couldnt Christmas have been picked on Dec 25th to compete? Well, two things:

1. If you wanna compete with a big party, you dont put yours after they have one, you put on the same day or before. You dont want everyone partied out. Saturnalia was the 17th, and the other two mostly on the Solstice.

2. But the most important one is that Christmas wasn't a party day. It was just another Saints Feasts day (which doesnt mean you have a big feast). Until the Middle ages*, it wasnt celebrated with parties, gift giving, boozing and general merriment. I mean, if you're gonna compete, you better have something better than "Go to church and light a candle".


So, it's another case of someone putting a couple of coincidences together and coming up with a hypothesis that has existed as a meme.



* and even then, Epiphany or the end of the twelve days, was the big holiday on January 6th.
https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=867798
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Old 01-09-2019, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Great Antibob View Post
The big jolly red suited Santa is the result of an advertising campaign (the original not having a set color for his suit).
If you are referring to the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, that's not true. It's a modern urban legend. Santa Claus in his distinctive red-and-white suit was a well-established image before the Coca-Cola ad campaign.
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