Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Stories

Photo courtesy of Dedda71
There I was about to hammer out an incisive critique of that cozy Christmas bedtime story you see in your newspapers and hear from the local agnostic each year: It's actually an ancient pagan festival, and when you commemorate the birth of baby Jesus you're actually reveling in heathen Sun-worship. But then a friendly Facebook neighbor to the north put me onto a 2003 article from Touchstone magazine by historian William Tighe that summed up most of what I intended to say, so I'm giving the first few paragraphs below and a link to the rest...


The only point on which I would differ is his assertion that the early Christian Movement selected Christmas Day based on the ancient concept of  "integral age" (i.e, prophets died on the same day they were born). Since Jesus' followers swiftly decided he'd actually been born 9 months after the date they thought he'd died (although they were wrong about that date), there must have been something else influencing them to put Christ's birth around December 25th. I would suggest that this something was a tradition of Jesus' birthday preserved by his relatives, who were still around to chat with well into the AD 200's (Eusebius, Church History1.7.11 and 1.7.13-14).

Be that as it may...

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CALCULATING CHRISTMAS 
William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25 
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals. 
Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance...    Read on! >>

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