Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Christmas Traditions and Pagan Origins
There is no Scandinavian god called Yule; the earliest records of the word Yule all refer to a time or season.
Wiccan "traditions" of holly and wreaths seem to be back-engineered through Christian traditions with origins from the Celts.
While Druids and many other cultures revered the mistletoe for it's supposed fertility powers, the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is first recorded in the Sixteenth Century.
Though decorating houses with boughs and other greenery during the Saturnalia was a Roman tradition, there is no record of so-called "Saturnalia trees."
There is no tradition of Thor or Odin bringing gifts at night.
There is no tradition of listening for Sleipnir's hooves on the roof; although there is the legend of hearing Odin leading the Wild Hunt through the winter skies. The tradition of "eight tiny reindeer" seems to begin with Clement Clarke Moore's poem.
The Mithraic Mysteries are no more ancient than Christianity itself.
From Wikipedia: "With regard to a December religious feast of the sun as a god (Sol), as distinct from a solstice feast of the (re)birth of the astronomical sun, some scholars have commented that, "while the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas". "Thomas Talley has shown that, although the Emperor Aurelian's dedication of a temple to the sun god in the Campus Martius (C.E. 274) probably took place on the 'Birthday of the Invincible Sun' on December 25, the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days, as one might expect." The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought remarks on the uncertainty about the order of precedence between the religious celebrations of the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun and of the birthday of Jesus, stating that the hypothesis that 25 December was chosen for celebrating the birth of Jesus on the basis of the belief that his conception occurred on 25 March "potentially establishes 25 December as a Christian festival before Aurelian's decree, which, when promulgated, might have provided for the Christian feast both opportunity and challenge". "
Truth saves, yes, and is not served by serving fudge as facts.
Possibly the point of this message is to embarrass or discomfit Christians with the "pagan origins of Christmas." If so, this could be a mistake, because instead it points to one of its glories: the redemption and even consecration of Nature; of men and customs, "whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise" in them. So, it is true that many Christmas traditions have pagan origins, but Christmas--"Christ's Mass"--has its origins in Christianity itself. Jesus was possibly, even probably, not born on December 25, but that is the day, established by long tradition (not dogma) on which we celebrate it: the truth that Jesus was indeed historically born into the world, and took on our human nature to raise it to the divine.
And so, a Merry Christmas indeed.