Every December, I get annoyed by all of those cultural warriors that try to re-write history and put their own spin on what this holiday season is truly about. They’ve even gone so far as to change the name of the holiday itself, trying to force us all to use a different greeting than was originally used. Unfortunately, the holiday was named after a person, or a personified deity, so when they change the name, they’re taking it away from the true basis, the true meaning of the holiday season. It’s almost as if they’re trying to eradicate the poor person whose birthday falls on December 25.
Jesus? No, not that charlatan. He was probably born in early spring, by most interpretations.
The person I’m talking about is Saturn, the “Reason for the Season” of Saturnalia.
Oh, we could throw Yule in there, too, but I really don’t if that’s a person or a season or just some other random crazy thing the Krauts came up with.
Oh, you thought Yuletide was a Christian thing? Because Jesus didst spake unto the Rich Corinthian Leathers, “Bring unto me a chopped down tree that is in no way indigenous to the region. Oh, and a log that burns for a really, really long time, like maybe a Duraflame.”
No, Jesus wasn’t born in December and most of the things we associate with Christmas were around long before Christianity. Even if a specific birthdate existed, that date probably would correlate to our current calendar. December, based on its name, was the tenth month of the year. Ever noticed that? September, October, November, and December translate to seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month. But then a couple of Caesars came by and wanted their own months plopped into the middle of the year, so the rest of the months got pushed back. While Julius had already been there by 1 AD, so maybe there was a July by then, Augustus had not shown up yet. I don’t know if there were ten or eleven months on the calendar that year, but I do know that December 25, 1AD would not be the same as December 25. Except that December 25 would not be listed on the birth certificate, anyway.
That’s why Easter changes its date every year. It falls on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring. Had Jesus’s birthday ever been noted, it would have had one of those kooky always changing dates. If he was lucky, “Three Days after the Winter Solstice” would have sufficed. But it probably would’ve been based on the last full moon of autumn, which would’ve been hard for the Apostles to buy him presents.
Oh, and by the way, Easter is named after Ishtar, a goddess of fertility. Hence all the bunnies, eggs, and other fornication references. Wow, another holiday the Christians stole. I would chastise them for ignoring the 7th Commandment, but they stole those from the Jews, anyway.
So who was born on or around December 25? Saturn, the Roman god. But even Saturnalia’s date moved around a bit, as December shrank from 36 days down to 31. Because even Roman gods would have to move their birthdays around as the first day of winter changed. After all, the Solstice is the REAL reason for the season.
Every primitive society had some sort of celebration around the Solstice, be it Yule or Saturnalia or Festivus. I include Festivus because I can think of no better definition of “primitive” than standard def and having to sit through the commercial breaks.
Why the celebration of Solstice? It is the shortest day of the year. So the day after it, the sun begins its return. And if the sun is one of the things you pray to and define your life by, then you celebrate the fact that he/she/it is coming back. I know, it sounds so silly and pagan to say your god was born with the return of the sun. I mean, the son of God being born that day is totally logical. But an actual god? Don’t make me laugh.
Birthdays and gods aside, though, there was a much more practical reason for celebrating the first days of winter. The weather is about to get worse. Food is going to become scarcer. There will barely be enough food for the humans to make it through the next three months, much less the animals. So you keep a male and a female and slaughter all the rest. Then you enjoy them, maybe with some gravy, because it’s the last time you’ll by full before April.
In fact, the Agricultural Revolution was caused in large part by a dude named Turnip Townshend. In addition to playing the guitar with a distinctive windmill motion, he also discovered that turnips replenish the soil better than leaving it fallow. Even better, people now had a whole bunch of turnips that they could feed to the livestock through the winter. Livestock living through the winter equals a more stable food supply equals farmers being freed up (or forced) to move to the cities. Add coal and iron and, voila, instant industrialization.
But back to these solstice festivals. In addition to the culinary element, they were usually marked by gift giving and the upheaval of social conventions. Lords and peasants switching places. Getting drunk and making out with your co-worker. Secret Santas. No wait, that came later.
So early Christians were trying to get converts A Roman guy says, “Gosh, your religion sounds great, what with all the rising from the dead and the turning of other cheeks and whatnot, but it’s hard for me to give up the revelry of Saturn’s birthday.”
So the Christians didst respond, “Oh, hey, our guy was born that day, too. We just call it Christmas. But all the other shit’s the same.”
The Roman looked skeptical.
“Seriously. Just put up this nativity scene, and then you can do all of the pagan pipers piping you want.”
And, lo, Christmas was born.
Then it died.
In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church frowned upon Christmas because it was too tied up with superstition and paganism. The Puritans then banned it, to the extent that December 25 was the only day of the year that British were not allowed to go to church. The Puritans were also the Pilgrims, so the alleged first American colonists didn’t celebrate Christmas. I say “alleged” because the Pilgrims actually showed up thirteen years after Jamestown was founded. But I’ll leave that for another day, because I can only destroy one misconception at a time.
But the next time a “War on Christmas” yahoo talks about the founding fathers being upset at what is happening to Christmas, be sure to tell them that the founding fathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Even though most of them were Anglicans/Episcopalians, not Puritans, Christmas and its debauchery had fallen out of favor with many.
But like any good Christian, Zombie Christmas rose from the dead. Actually, better to call it a vampire, because it was much more intelligent and calculated than the randomness of a zombie.
What brought Christmas back from the dead? The very same thing that defines it still today. Love and joy? Ha ha, good one. No, I’m talking about money, money, money.
Our modern conception of Christmas comes from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. You know the one. Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by some ghosts and learns the true meaning of Christmas and Kermit the Frog and blah, blah, blah. But Dickens wasn’t describing the actual Christmas spirit that he observed, he was making up what he thought it should be.
So think about that. The true “spirit of Christmas” is based on a borderline Marxist attack on wealth inequality. I’m pretty sure Fox News leaves that part out.
The rest of the things we associate with Christmas were mainly marketing ploys. Rudolph? Invented by Montgomery Ward. Santa Claus, the way we conceive him now, was more or less solidified by Coca-Cola ads. Interestingly, the reason Coca-Cola used Santa so much was because they were not allowed to make any ads that specifically targeted or showed children. So they used Santa to market to kids without getting in trouble. Ah, consumerism!
Then there’s eggnog. Honestly, I have no idea where eggnog came from. I only know where it’s going: directly into my belly.
So enjoy your holiday, whatever holiday that may be, because we’re all really just celebrating the same thing. Go ahead and sing along with me the perfect carol for this wondrous season:
“Here comes the sun, do do do do, here comes the sun, and I say…
“It’s all right!”