Today is Super Duper Double Christmas

…since it remains Christmas in the West while now also being Christmas in the East too, I have two points. First, there’s this sinister revelation:

Second, the fact that today is Christmas in the Eastern Church demonstrates yet again that Fundamentalists and atheists (but I repeat myself) perpetually demonstrate their Protestant provincialism with the eternal refrain about Catholicism being warmed-over paganism and Christmas “really” being the solstice, etc.  It’s like the entire eastern Church doesn’t even exist.

Dudes: January 7 is not the solstice.  And you will notice that the ultima prime feast of the Church–Easter–is even more dubiously located on the Equinox.  Indeed, it’s almost impossible to get it near the equinox since it is tied to the first full moon *after* the Spring Equinox (placing it, this year on the ridiculously unequinoctial date of April 20).  You will also notice the fact that the summer solstice, while it celebrates the birth of John the Baptist (get it?  Forerunner of the True Light?) six months before that of Jesus, does so without a huge amount of fanfare in the Church. Similarly, the Autumnal Equinox passes without much fanfare, despite the fact that the Hebrew calendar gives it a fair amount of importance. If Christianity is “really” just a cult of the seasons, than why is Christmas alone what stands out as sketchily tied to a solstice, and only in the Western Church?

Nope.  What drove the dating of Christmas in both east and west were local traditions on when Jesus died, not when he was born.  The theory current in Jewish piety was that a prophet died on the day he was born or concieved.  In the West, that date was assumed to be March 25.  In the East, April 7.  Add nine months and there you are.  There is no evidence that paganism provided the basis of the Church’s thinking here.

And, by the way, this goes for the whole silly “Easter=Eostre worship” thing.  Attention English speakers: you are not the center of the universe.  Easter  only has that name in tongues descended from Germanic language groups.  Look at Romance languages and you will discover that the same feast is named for Passover.

Moral: if I ask you what day of the week it is and you say, “Saturday” that doesn’t make you a worshipper of Saturn.

  • wlinden

    If you cross the border to Quebec, you will find an IMMENSE amount of fanfare for “Saint Jean-Baptiste”.
    Looks like you are demonstrating Usanian provincialism.

    • Brian Niemeier

      It’s good to hear about my patron being honored.

    • chezami


    • Marthe Lépine

      Just a bit of clarification here. St. John the Baptist has been designated by one Pope (I don’t recall which one right now) as the patron saint of French-Canadians, wherever they live in Canada, not only in Quebec. However, Quebec separatists have decided to usurp the feast and call it the Fête nationale.

    • Rosemarie


      He’s also popular in Puerto Rico, being one of its patron saints. His feast is a big deal there. St. John’s Day also survives in a secularized form in Scandinavia as the Midsummer festival

      • Mark.

        Is it true that the island was supposed to be named for John the Baptist and its main city named Puerto Rico but the names got swapped somehow?

        • Beadgirl


  • Dan

    My understanding is that it’s December 25th on the Julian calendar, so to say that the Orthodox celebrate Christmas on January 7th is not quite correct, is it?

    • chezami

      Whatever date on whatever calendar it is, it’s not the solstice, which is my point.

      • wlinden

        That’s because those no-good Christians not only “stole” the solstice from poor oppressed “pagans”, but have the nerve to do it on the wrong day! So I am assured.

      • Jon W

        I was under the impression that the non-alignment of the Julian calendar with the seasons was not an original feature but rather the result of it drifting over the centuries. So by that theory, originally the Julian Dec 25 was closer to the solstice.

        And when the East gets off its anti-papal rear end and admits the Julian calendar needed the Gregorian reforms, it will be again.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The pagan Romans were not big on solar festivals. Saturnalia, which is the closest Republican festival, only makes it because, depending on how many days were included (it varied over the years) it might bracket the solstice. Otherwise, they were more lunatic than solarian: the Kalends is the new moon, Nones is the half moon, and Ides is the full moon. Naturally, this meant the calendar creeped about like the muslim one, and Julius had to bitch-slap the thing back into shape, which resulted in social unrest because of the “lost days.” Compilations of Roman festivals show no particular affinity for Solar markers.

      • R. Howell

        It was on the solstice (or as near to the solstice as Western Christmas is now) when it was first established. The fact that it has drifted over the centuries is irrelevant to any discussions of the origin of the date of Christmas. The “Christmas is pagan” tale is bogus but your point completely fails here, sorry.

  • jacobus

    This argument really isn’t very good. The churches in the east used to celebrate Christmas a lot closer to the solstice, but the inaccuracies in the Julian calendar have sent the celebration later and later over the centuries.

    Secondly, the feast of John the Baptist is actually a pretty big deal outside of the US in traditionally Catholic countries. Can we not be so loud with our provincialism, at least?

    Thirdly, if we make big deals out of the solstices, who cares? God created the Heaven and the Earth.

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      jacobus, Mark Shea (or chezami) raised some very fair points. A few Church Fathers have written on the dating of Christmas. It’s also about a SYMBOLIC nature. Right before the Winter solstice of December, the days are the shortest in the calendar, the days are as DARK as they can get, but after Christmas (which is around the Solstice) Christ is born & the LIGHT enters the dark (sinful) world at which point in the calendar the days get a little bit longer each day as the sun sets AFTER the solstice. DARKNESS (sin) cannot confine the LIGHT (Christ), Light wins out. This is the SYMBOLIC (Greek word) nature of the Christmas dating, which both Roman/Eastern Catholics & Eastern Orthodox recognize.

      The placing of St. John the Baptist’s feast day close to Christmas around Dec./Jan. is also symbolic in his utterance of his words in the Gospel: “HE (Christ, the Light/Lumen) must INCREASE, but I must decrease.” This effect happens, again, symbolically with the light of daytime around the solstice. The beauty of the Church’s genius, even in astronomy.

      • Catholic Fast Food Worker

        Also, Mark Shea (chemazi), You will also find writings explaining the Church’s symbolic use of nature’s Light coming from the EAST (with the rising sun) in writings supporting the Church’s worship in “Ad orientem”. This symbology of Light/East/Sun/Moon is used in Church liturgy, art (such as Monstrances shaped like Suns or Mary with the Moon on Book of Revelation) & even architecture (such as Church buildings built facing the East of the rising sun as well as Jerusalem) to enhance the beauty of worship in a purely symbolic manner. “Modern” people with their iPhones & apps & distractions might not care as much to look at the Sun, moons & stars & find meaning in them, but our Ancient human ancestors did care about stuff like that. So the Church baptize this ancient human intrigue by condemning the pagans’ worship of Astronomical objects, but saying we should embrace the use of Astronomy’s beauty (in a symbolic manner) to enhance Christian worship & art. Happy 2014, thank you for your blog.

  • Mark R

    Eastern Christmas is Dec. 25, it is just that for those on the Julian Calendar Dec. 25 is 13 days later. Most Orthodox and Greek Catholics in the U.S. are on the Gregorian Calendar. Some Ukrainian Catholic parishes, ostensibly Russian Orthodox and Serbian jurisdictions and Old Calendar Greeks are Julian.
    America was Julian Calendar, as was a great part of Protestant Europe, until the early 18th Cent. Hillbillies still supposedly observed a “little Christmas” until the early 20th Cent. on Jan. 7.

    • wlinden

      No “supposedly”. Jean Ritchie’s family called it “the real Christmas”. (Source: my ears.)

  • wlinden

    Next you’ll tell us that Roodmas and/or Michaelmas is not the equinox.

  • Elmwood

    What’s wrong with celebrating the solstice anyways? God created the universe, wouldn’t it be appropriate to pay attention and enjoy his creation?

  • Roki

    Moral: if I ask you what day of the week it is and you say, “Saturday” that doesn’t make you a worshipper of Saturn.

    Indeed, it simply makes you incapable of reading a calendar. Today is Tuesday!

    (Tuesday, of course, being named after Tiw or Tyr, who is equated with Mars/Ares [hence the French "Mardi", etc.], which also in no way makes us worshipers of Tyr today, nor even particularly warlike.)

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      I’m sorry. I had a tyr in my eye, weeping with delight.