Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tis The Season Whatever The Reason


Ms. Humbug here, still searching for my holiday spirit I misplaced sometime around Thanksgiving. Well I can't keep pretending I don't notice the decorations on the traffic lights and the chubby Santas leering at me from every store window. There's something a bit unforgiving when you can't feel the joy others do at this time.

Some absolutely adore Christmas! I'm a humbug, but malleable lol. And all that is just better left for me to sort out. I'd like to discuss something about the season, and hopefully you'll remember I only have an opinion, sprinkled with a bit of fact. I'd really like you to read this whole entry, it's interesting:

A friend chastised me saying there'd be no Christmas without Christ. I did beg to remind her of the thousands of years b.c. man has celebrated the Winter Solstice, and in many a differing tradition. By any other name, a time of celebration and worship. So anyway:

As families gather round the mummified tree with gifts asunder, merriment galore, sooner or later someone will whisper, "Let's not forget what this day is really about!"

And with duly bowed heads, we celebrate the birth of a King. If you're of the Christian persuasion, this is the time of year to rejoice in the coming of a foretold Savior, who brought the good news that indeed, our Father God truly is a Living God, who loves and forgives us, and if we just love Him and play nice, things will go alot smoother for Jews, and everyone else if truth be told. Remember, Jesus was a good and obedient Jew with some odd ideas to those who heard them.

How did it happen that we celebrate two occasions on the same day? I'd like to offer that man has celebrated the Winter Solstice for ages unrecorded. Every country celebrates differently, and going back into history I'll just use one little example, the ancient Roman holiday of the Sun, "Saturnalia", also celebrated at this time. We still celebrate the Winter Solstice on the 22nd, the longest night of the year - the shortest day. With the sun at lowest, it's the turning point of the year. The Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis or "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun." For many a modern year we've called it "The Birthday of the Son of God." The birth of Jesus. Isn't that intriguing?

All the traditions of Roman midwinter's Saturnalia are still performed today, depending on your country: it's a huge festival of hearth and home. The Romans took to making merry, halls of their homes decked with the boughs of laurel and evergreen trees, oil lamps were kept burning (we light our candles, in some ages directly on the tree), all meant to ward off the spirits of darkness and death, for many died of cold and starvation this time of year.

Schools were closed, the army rested, and no man was executed. Friends visited each other, bringing gifts of good luck such as incense, fruits, candles, cakes. In each Temple stood an evergreen, symbolizing the continuity of life, and all of this we continue to do. Did you know your Christmas tree has that meaning? Isn't this symbolism nice to know? And there are myriad other traditions for as many countries, but where amongst all this is the place set aside for a child, newly born to the world, Jesus, and why now? Please read on:

In the 3rd century, many dates between December and April were celebrated by Christians as Mistlemas, now called Christmas (roughly translated as "blessed time") and meant to honor Christ's birth. The 6th of January was the most favored as it was thought to be the baptismal day of Our Lord as a grown man. It is still a widely held belief that indeed, it was not the Winter Solstice when Jesus came into the world but October, the basis of which many theologians and bible scholars have determined, as Julius Caesar did add those two months during harvest to the 10-month calendar. Either or. I think anyday is a good day to remember the birth of Christ, anytime a good one to honor Him whether you hold belief in your heart or not. I doubt any God needs our faith in order to exist. I know it's a bit boring but back to the story:

It was c. 350 a.d. that December 25th was adopted in Rome and gradually almost the entire Christian Church agreed to it. The Greek Orthodox Church still celebrates Christmas on January 6th, however. But the 25th coincided with the Winter Solstice, The Yule, and the Saturnalia. All the merriment of Saturnalia was adopted into the observance of the birth of Christ. The mixings are now becoming soup. The tree and the manger are coalescing. By 1100 a.d. Christmas was the peak celebration of the year for all of Europe. Although it went through many changes, especially during Reformation, such as the banning of mistletoe for its pagan connotations (still held by today's Christian church) the mix held fast to this day - the combination of Saturnalia's merrymaking with the celebrations of the Winter Solstice, and the agreed-upon day of Christ's birth (with no historical basis and none really needed).

So Christmas is truly not really one or another, but a combination of many. Merriment, joy, and respectful honor. A most important day of the year no matter how you honor it.

In 1647 England, Parliament passed a law abolishing Christmas altogether, how bout that?! Even though Charles 2 revived it, the feasting and merrymaking were more worldly than religious. Bit of a dark time.

It's clear our Christmas traditions arose from what some would call "pagan" ceremonies but which we all still perform and take great joy in following, such as decking the halls and setting up our tree, having family gather, friends visit, exchange gifts, all the favors this greatly evolved time brings. It's the Winter Solstice. A duly recognized time of year. It's Saturnalia, the time to get a little nutty and just live to the fullest with those you love under the sun, which orb is honored. It's also the time the Holy Mother Church, founded on the life of Christ, has declared to be the recognition of the birth amongst us of a Savior and King, humble, loving, 100% human, 100% divine, the anointed One, whose destiny was the foundation of the Christian faith. Why not celebrate anytime we want? you may ask. Why can't we chose another date? Well, you can. This is simply the time other feasts come together and join in one great day of joy and protection from the cold and dark, love of family and neighbor. Those in more educated places who know the byways of historical fact have spoken and so was it writ. Who knows what the 30th century will bring.

I have always been a person of science. I have found no science to disprove a man Jesus Christ was born on earth and died here as well. After that, it's my personal choice as to what I embrace in my heart. Yours too. No one can take that from the human soul and its need for something higher, something finer and Divine.

When you celebrate with joyous merrymaking your Saturnalia feast, and meditate on the mysteries of the Winter Solstice, as you gather at the fireplace and Yule Log for warmth, take a moment at the creche, the manger we all know so well, and pay your respects. If you don't believe it means anything, it can't hurt you I promise. (If I don't believe there's a monster under my bed, it can't hurt me.) Christmas seems to be, indeed, a combination of ancient traditions, and the Church declared it would also be the best time to recognize the Savior's birth. Whether the concept of such a Man is within your ethic or not, the way I see it and in my humblest of opinions, God requires no one's belief in Him to exist.

So to every dear soul in Blogtown, I wish you:

WARM WINTER SOLSTICE

SWEET SATURNALIA

A CHERISHED CHRISTMAS

and to Jesus,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY !

22 comments:

MISSY said...

That was a very interesting post. I noticed that a lot of Christian holidays stem from pagan traditions.

*M*

MISSY said...

By the way .. I learned something new about the mistletoe! Thanks. *M*

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Nice entry, interesting to learn the history of the holiday season. I share a lot of your thoughts :o)

kelly said...

very interesting point.. loved reading this.. no matter how one celebrates..it's a time of giving.. and being with those you love... I was impressed with your words...great entry..
Kelly~

Lisa said...

Very interesting entry and thought provoking as usual. I am never in the christmas spirit so this year it is shocking those around me I am actually feeling festive, for the most part.
I wish you a happy holiday season!
xxx

Trees said...

Hello my dear friend, as always you have written a wonderful entry full of interesting knowledge of which you always amaze me. I have read this very carefully and indeed our traditions stem from thousands of years and possibly before Jesus was born. Whatever the actual truth of our celbrations and there are many with different cultures and religions, it is my belief that wherever we are or whomever we are to celelbrate once a year our beliefs of which we ourselves hold dear is a very special time, for caring, for giving and for spending time with those we hold dear and remembering those we cant be with. I thank you for your friendship, you wonderful entries which I always look forward to and God bless you my dear friend. I have a manger with the wise men and Mary and joseph and all around it i have snowmen and angels and santa clauses, I shall spend extra time this Xmas morning observing the creche. Again thank you for a very interesting entry.

Beth said...

Thank you for this entry, Cathy. I've also read that early on, the Church was dismayed that they were unable to suppress the pagan celebrations around this time, so it seemed to be a pretty good date to pick for their own celebration. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Enjoy your celebrations!

Beth

Heli gunner Tom said...

It's a breath of fresh air for me to meet someone educated enough to know how Christmas came to Dec. 25th ! I knew all this info 40 years ago. I am happy that Jesus was born but all the materialism and greed turns me off in Dec!
thank you for joining my 'blog followers' and I hope to hear from you sometime soon, so I can pick you beautiful brain..lol.

Cordially,
Tom S
tschuckman@aol.com

Jeannette said...

Will we every truly know. I have read often that Christ was born in September. It was easier for those concerned in days gone by to use the winter festival to celebrate the birth of Christ. I only know that we need to believe in something. My faith has sustained me through so much.

Malagutigrrl said...

Happy Solstice! As usual you dared me to think! But I confess to knowing a bit of this already.
Great Entry!
xo
MJ

Jeanie said...

I am alway gauranteed food for thought whenever I visit your journal.
A very interesting post. So informative and full of historical fact.
Hope you get the holiday spirit soon.
Spring follows winter so thre is that to look forward to. Our fist snowdrops show their heads on New Years day. Wonderful little harbringers of life to come.
Sending you the compliments of the Season.
Happy winter solstice..
Love
Jeanie xxx

Gerry said...

Well, I like the idea of Christmas being a celebration of a lot of things, but mostly it is a celebration of our families' special traditions on Christmas. I thought my dad was just a little too pagan to get drunk on Christmas so he could not open his presents from his children. Or he might even pass out under the Christmas tree. I thought that was a terrible disrespect but not necessarily of Christ but family which I think of Christ as always protecting. When Xmas turns into drunken celebrations there is bound to be violence, wrecks, fights, and that is definitely not what I like to see transpire on Christmas! I used to look forward to Christmas with dread as well as anticipation. So I appreciate you reminding us of pagan tradition and possibly it was thought that intermixing the birth of Christ into the proceedings might result in a little less pagan drunkeness! Gerry

Femin Susan said...

How awesome! Thanks for sharing!
Wishing you "A Merry X'Mas and A Happy New Year''

Shelly said...

Merry Christmas to you too Cathy and a very happy New Year as well. Love, Shelly

MISSY said...

Ms. Luddie

I'm just stopping in to say Merry Christmas! (((HUGS)))

Winivere said...

Merry Christmas, Luddie! Love you!
XX

ladymagnolia said...

Hi Cathy,

I read your post. What I love about good friendships on line and off,is that we can learn to agree to dis-agree. I wish you did have the Christmas spirit with you.

But I hope however you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a wonderful one my friend.

Big HUGS~Donna

Patrick @ Caregivingly Yours said...

You left out the basic NEED to pull tacky lawn ornaments out of storage and Christmas songs. I do not think any pagan or religious roots can explain "Dominic the Donkey"! It is just fun.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick
http://caregivinglyyours.blogspot.com/

Connie said...

............
I found this very interesting reading,not boring at all.
connie

Jude said...

I very much enjoyed this entry. Hello, dear freind, it's been a while. Busy with my Christmas dealings. Although they're not altogether over, I am attempting to catch up with my blogger friends in my spare time.

Once again I agree with you. God does not need us to celebrate in order to exist. And I thought he was born in August. No matter.

My take is the same and again slightly different. Once upon a time ancient Egypt was conquored by Alexander the Great. When he died, Ptolemy, a general in Alexander's army, took control of Egypt. Under his control, Egypt was as strong as it ever was. When he died, his Greek descendents continued in power. They did one thing that made them great and continued to make Egypt great. They didn't change a thing. Rather than make Egypt Greek, they, the Greeks, made themselves Egyptians. Their rule was not challenged or overthrown by Egyptians.

I think when the original theologians developed what would become Christianity, they followed the same idea. The changes Christianity brought were not that much different from what the people were already living. It was a wise policy.

Merry Christmas, Happy Saturnalia, and Happy Mithra celebration which is also celebrated at the same time.

ADB said...

As always a riveting post, Cathy. Can tell you that Xmas was not celebrated in the Isle of Lewis some 50 years ago!

Hope your Xmas was great, and wishing you all that's good for 2009

Guido

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