|The real meaning of Christmas?|
Tis nearly Christmas and Christians throughout the world will celebrate Jesus’ birthday on the 25th December. For many in the Western nations, the date is a secular holiday without religious devotional overtones and this trend appears to be gathering apace with the passage of time. What many folk, religious or not, don’t realise is that the date of Jesus’ birth is unknown and is almost certainly not the 25th December. Some scholars attest that Jesus was a fictitious character invented by the early Christians. The argument is based on the lack of corroboratory written evidence outside the Bible for Jesus’ existence together with a remarkable concordance of the ‘Jesus story’ with pagan mythical figures such as Horus and Heracles. To be honest I don’t find this thesis particularly compelling and find it difficult to believe that the seed of Christianity took root divorced from a true historical figure.
From internal biblical evidence, the consensus amongst scholars is that Jesus’ birth took place in the spring of 7BC to 2 BC. To be fair the real birthdate of Jesus is now unobtainable especially as early Christians seemed more concerned with ‘Jesus the Divine’ and appeared blissfully/blithefully uninterested in the contemplation of the man as flesh and blood. So that being the case why do we celebrate the 25th December as Jesus’ birthdate? For this answer, we need to contemplate the reinvigorated Christian Church of the 4th century AD.
Christianity’s prospects became exceedingly favourable following adoption of the faith by the Roman Emperor, Constantine, in 312 AD. But the early Christians faced a problem. While the Empire’s inhabitants seemed happy to embrace Christianity, over time, they seemed reluctant to relinquish their pagan festivals. And so, as a matter of expediency, the Church supplanted the pagan ‘Birthday of the Sun Festival’ with a made-up date for Jesus’ birthday. Once the Church took hold in the northern Teutonic lands it faced a similar problem. For the heathen celebrated the 'Mid-Winter Festival of Yule’. Twas a time of feasting and a celebration of the coming spring. It was also a time when the Teutonic god, Woden, (Odin in Norse) came forth with his hunting host of Elves and other supernatural entities to ride the ‘Wild Hunt’.
The vestige of pagan belief can still be seen in the celebration of modern Christmas where a fusion of heathen symbols exists with Christian veneration. Both the giving of gifts and the Christmas tree are symbols of the pagan base for Christianity. Although indoor trees only became popular about 500 years ago.
Of course, this was not the only pagan festival overridden by the Christians. Consider good old Easter, the supposed festival of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As a digression, it is worthy to note, that coming back to life after biological death is an absolute impossibility as it violates the Law of Entropy- enough said, for now; more in a subsequent post. The early Christians, for pragmatic reasons, added the Christian festival to the pagan celebration of spring, a time of bounty and renewal. The name ‘Easter’ is a derivation from Eostre, a Teutonic fertility goddess. And this is why we associate Easter with eggs and the obvious fertility symbol, rabbits.
Christmas means many things to many people. For some, it is simply an excuse for excess. For others tis a rest from work’s labour. And let us not forget the folk who genuinely celebrate the birth of their Saviour. For me, it will be a rare time when our family comes together. I would like to say: ‘together in harmony’ but to be realistic, this is unlikely to be the case.
|The real meaning of Christmas?|