Christ Is NOT the Reason for the Season
Yet despite early Christianity's attempts to wipe out the Pagan celebration, the people enjoyed it too much and kept practicing it. Eventually the church decided that instead of fighting it, it would be smarter to assume power over the festival and slowly Christianize it. But Christ was not born at this time of the year. The American Presbyterian Church puts Christ's birthday sometime in the autumn.
A 5th century Syrian writer had this to say about the change: "It was the custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same 25th of December the birthday of the Sun, at which [time] they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true nativity [of Christ] should be solemnized on that day."
Of course, the irony is that this church edict is against the dictates found in biblical passages. Christians should be familiar with prohibitions against Pagan practices. The Bible states: "Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel. This is what the LORD says: Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good" (Jer. 10:1-5).
Eventually, the church did try to crack down on these Christian pagan elements. During medieval times they banned gift-giving because of its Pagan origins. But Pope Paul II revived some of the most depraved customs of the ancient pagan festival and spun them with a Christian anti-semitic tradition. Those traditions were now used to target the Jews who were forced to run naked for Christian entertainment, and to the laughter of the pope. By the time we reach the 18th and 19th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church forced rabbis to wear clownish outfits while they were force-marched as the Catholic crowd pelted them. In 1881, Polish church authorities riled up the masses to anti-semitic riots across the country leading to the racist murders of Jews, as well as other physical and sexual assaults against others. The riots were so severe that millions of property was lost in addition to lives.
Most of the Christmas traditions that exist -- gift-giving, the hanging of the evergreens, Christmas trees, feasting, Santa, caroling -- all originated from Pagan practices. While I can understand that to some Christians this is a holy time of reflection as they celebrate their God, Christ, let us remember we were here first. And Christ is not the reason for the season. He's just a latecomer to the party.
So to the Christians, who do claim that Christ is the reason for the season, would you please consider the history and context before you get upset next time when someone doesn't wish you a Merry Christmas. If you Christians want to wish Merry Christmas, that's fine, but don't be surprised when I wish you a Joyful Yule back, or someone else wishes you a Merry Solstice, Happy Chanukah, the politically correct Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays. But to expect by default you will always be greeted at retail with a Merry Christmas is hubris, and there are many verses in the Bible that speak about the fallacies of pride. "When pride comes, then comes disgrace . . ." (Pr. 11:2). It is also arrogant to fight so that your local city hall has a nativity display, but then fight against other religious displays because they are "inappropriate" to your worldview. We are just as entitled to fair and equal treatment as you are, whether you believe in the validity of our religious worldview or not.
But to those Christians who aren't trying to cram your religious rights or worldview down my throat, or the throats of others who are not of your religion, I say "Thank you." May you have a Merry Christmas for letting me enjoy my Joyful Yuletide!
K.C. Hulsman is a gythia of Urdabrunnr Kindred and an active member of her local Asatru community.