December 12, 2003
Still more on the pagan Christmas
The Ever Changing Selection points to an article in Touchstone magazine arguing that the dating of Christmas had nothing to do with pagan festivals. In those days it was believed that prophets were born or conceived on the same day they died, so the Annunciation would have fallen on Good Friday, hence birth on Dec. 25.
From this whole discussion, however, I've gathered that there's very little primary source material on this, so pretty much every conclusion involves speculation. In the old Julian calendar Dec. 25 was the day of the winter solstice, so probably a lot of cultures had festivals on that day (on top of Saturnalia, there was also the birth of Mithras), and certainly the way we do Christmas today is also a celebration of winter. So I doubt we can be 100% sure about the origin of Christmas, but I don't think it's worth a whole lot of worry.
Posted by Camassia at December 12, 2003 08:12 AM
If the point of the "Christmas is pagan" argument is that Christians have been more than willing to reap where pagans have sown, then I'm not sure who has been denying the point. Set Christmas aside; we've got St. Paul doing it in Athens.
If the point is that *Christianity* is pagan, then it would need to be explained why Christmas didn't become a culture-defining feast until centuries (at least) after its alleged pagan origins were forgotten.
The dating of Christmas has Everything to do with March 25th, on which is still celebrated the Annunciation (sometimes called the Feast of the Incarnation) in the Catholic and some Orthodox Churches today. Christmas is simply 9 months later. A similar phenomena is seen where the Catholic Churc celebrates the Conception of Mary on Dec.8, and then celebrates her birth 9 months later on Sep. 8.
March 25th was a very important date for people in the middle ages. They steadfastly believed that all of the following happend on March 25:
the creation of Adam,
the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
the fall of Lucifer,
the passing of Israel through the Red Sea, and
the immolation of Issac.
these beliefs can be documented as far back as the 3rd century.
Interesting. Of course, March 25 was the spring equinox, another important day for pagans (actually, wasn't that the Roman New Year?), so that doesn't really disprove the thesis.
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