There was an article on Salon a couple of days ago about recent scholarship on witch hunts, and how the popular feminist reading of persecutions being motivated by a patriarchal Church authority trying to extinguish “women’s knowledge” is not supported by the evidence. The article included this phrase in passing:
I’ve heard this enough times from enough sources that I’ve come to accept it as true. But it prompted a detailed letter in reply, a few choice nuggets of which are (trying to stay within fair use limits here):
Huh. I’ve never heard of any of that. I admit my biases make me pretty easily disposed to believe stories about church corruption and mendacity—is it possible I’ve been sold a bill of goods? Can anyone with knowledge of this area chime in?
(Those with Salon subscriptions, or who don’t mind watching an ad, can read the entire letter here.)
Oh, Jesus! I have in hand a petition from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to the SDMB Hamsters seeking to bar this topic!
Fact: Pagan and other pre-Christian holidays tended to center on the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days.
Fact: For good and sufficient reasons, so did many Christian holidays. A few appear to have been assigned to usurp the pagan events. Others fell on the date they did for historical or theological reasons.
Logical inference from fact: People moving from a pagan celebration to a Christian celebration tended to keep the elements of the celebration they enjoyed – feasts, dressing up in costume, decorating something and dancing, etc.
Answer to question: You can argue it either way, depending on whether you want to focus on similarities or origins. Candlemas falls on yesterday for logical reasons based on the assignment of Christmas and Jewish ceremonial law; Imbolg fell on that date as a cross-quarter day. Such little celebration of the day as is popular owes as much to Imbolg as to the original Candlemas feast. Same thing for All Saints and the pagan feast of the day before (Samhain?). Christmas and Yule have pretty much become synonymous (almost nobody celebrates *Festa Solis Invicti * any more). Did one appropriate the other? No. Did the Christian holiday take on many characteristics of the pagan one? Absolutely, in many if not most cases.
…and the Feast of the Resurrection, which in English-speaking cultures is called by the word “Easter”, was already a Spring schedule closely (but not quite) matching that of the Jewish holiday of Pesach because it was picked up from there, or at least the Christian Scripture itself claims so – and the European pagans who DID celebrate “Eastre” or whatever it was, brought into the Christian holiday such things as bunnies and eggs and the word, as a holiday of rebirth was quite appropriate to match the holidays of the start of Spring.
December the 25th was the day on which the birth of Mithras was celebrated. Considering that the myths and associated rites of Mithras have so much in common with Christianty - to the point where many authorities say the two religions merged in early Christian history - this common date is unlikely to be just a coincidence.
I always assumed that bunnies just happen to be particularly reproductive at the time of easter (it being spring in the Northern hemishpere) and that eggs were hatching into chicks because eggs were not eaten during lent. Both are, of course, symbols of renewal. Is that right?