The Origin of Christmas

The idea that Santa is only red and white cos of Coca-Cola (he was represented as mainly brown before I think) still gets me every time

I’ve always had my own theory that simple logic would demand a party at the beginning of winter. Way back when, a lot of people would die in the winter from cold and/or starvation. Before central heating and groceries. They ahd a big party at the beginning because you wouldn’t be seeing some of these people living in the future, and a big party after as sort of a re-birth for getting through the cold, dark, starvation season (hence Easter).

Later these parties evolved into religious festivals, and later still Festivus (Yeah, Ben & Jerry’s).

I’ve heard this usually explained by some combination of “its close enough,” “Roman’s weren’t great astronomers” and “calendar floating.” There may also be something mystical about three days after solstice (three being a mystic number to a lot of folks and solstice falling generally on the 21st but sometimes on the 22nd).

My guess is that calendar floating is the closest to the truth.

First, it’s important to remember that thre is a very basic reason for putting all sort of time, effort, and social weight into keeping the calender more or less straight: setting a proper planting time. Planting crops before a hard frost is a pretty major tragedy, and if you don’t have a written calender, it can be easy to fall for prematurely warm weather–hell, many plants fall for it. Going back to the earliest agricultral societies, there were good reasons for making a big deal of those calender days that are recognizeble and making sure that everyone is
on track as far as the date goes: just making notches on a stick is prone to human error, and you need the number 365.24 to make it work, anyway.

That, plus the fact that late December is a good time to have a party–less work to do than in the hectic warmer months, and rapidly rotting meat to eat–explains why virtually everyone has a party around the New Year. It also make allegations of who “stole” what from who pretty meaningless: I’d be willing to bet that a great many of our mdern Xmas traditions can be traced back to the extremely primitive pre-Indo-European peoples whose culture has been totally erased.

Laurange, this is later than the dates people are talking about, But Pope Gregory I (590-604), in his Pastoral Care, explicitly advised missionaries (who were going to places like England and Ireland) to incorperate local religious customs in order to win converts.

Izzardesque:

What is even more amazing is that Coke has managed to convince everyone that they invented the modern Santa, just by saying they did:

Just in case this was a dig at me for perpetuating an urban myth, you will note I said that the ‘IDEA’ was what made me crack up. I admit, having re-read my post that the comment about being mainly brown kind of confuses what I meant, tho. I just meant that he was usually depicted in brown before he changed to red and white- I have no idea how that happened. :slight_smile:

First off, wrong Joseph. Mary’s husband was a carpenter of, probably, Nazareth (but there are scholars who argue that he lived in Bethlehem until Herod got feisty, and then trucked for a place where he’d be safer). Joseph of Arimathea was, strangely enough, from Arimathea, a pious Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, who became a follower of Jesus. Legend says he came to Brittania, bringing various relics of Jesus, and settled at what is now Glastonbury, though those are not part of Christian belief but more-or-less Arthuriana.

Second, absolutely nobody thinks Jesus was born on 12/25. Plentiful evidence exists that it was in the spring, when shepherds watch over flocks all night due to it being lambing season. December 25 was a convenient time to place it, for the very good reason that most cultures had a midwinter festival of the gift of new life, often using the metaphor of the gift/sending of a divine child.

As for why 12/25, not 12/21 or 12/22, remember that the feast was Sol Invictis – the unconquered Sun. 12/25 is the first day on which the length of day is noticeably longer after hitting a minimum at the Winter Solstice. That made it the appropriate time to celebrate the Sun triumphing over darkness – and the Son of God coming to relieve our darkness, in Christian metaphor, as well.

Hmmm… don’t have my sources in front of me. Here’s an excerpt from the Catholic encylopedia site from delphica’s link, tho:

That’s not quite what I claimed, is it? I’ll check and see if I can find anything else.

Ok, I’m a non-believer who hasn’t even touched a bible since he was made to go to Sunday school 20 years ago. I couldn’t remember where he was supposed to have come from, so I picked the first Joseph that came to mind. Just a note saying it was Nazereth, not Arimathea would have sufficed! Sorry

I kind of thought that this was the point of the debate. We all are pretty much agreed that he wasn’t born on that day exactly – I thought we were debating WHY it was moved. Whether it was a cynical attempt to stamp on pagan toes or whether there was a legitimate reason for doing so.

OK, I found the quote:

I had forgotten how late this was - making it pretty useless for determining the real reasons. Unless Bar-salibaeus had access to sources that have since been lost, this is just his WAG.

Here’s what we know:
1)From the Catholic encyclopedia site ( http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm ):

2)The earliest reports of Christmas celebrations are on a wide variety of dates: Jan 6, May 20, April 20, March 28, as well as Dec 25. Many of these dates are known to have been pagan festivals in pre-Christian times.

  1. Some Christians celebrated pagan festivals (from same site):

Kore (=Persephone) was central to one of the pagan religions.

  1. When Christians start celebrating Christmas it is associated with the Sun’s birthday (see quote in my previous post).

You can draw your own conclusions.

I’m curious, though, LaurAnge, what is it that you find “outrageous”?

Interesting stuff, of which I knew almost nothing about.

The red and white for Santa though…I had thought that this followed a Norse tradition of wearing a reversed deer pelt (ie. guts on the outside, yuk), although I have no cite for that other than my own notoriously unreliable memory.

Lots of interesting stuff here.

What I was saying was outrageous was the contention that the Christians deliberately chose that day in order to appeal to the Pagans, and not as a reflection of their belief of when their faith could be best expresed, that’s all.