Ah, Christmas. A time of family, love, and giving. And, if you're not careful, a one-way ticket to eternal damnation! It turns out a lot - in fact, almost all - of the traditions centering around the birth of the lord actually piss him the fuck off.
Christmas is the season of giving, but if your focus on this joyous holiday extends beyond holiday special reruns and takes a cold, hard look at the religion in which it is based, you will discover that almost every single facet of what we call Christmas and the way we celebrate it flies in the face of what it is supposed to represent.
Satan may wear many faces pleasing to the eye, including insecure hydrocephalic whiners.
Not only are half the traditions either modified, co-opted, or outright stolen versions of pagan traditions that were banned by the same Chuch that later adopted them, but the other half blatantly contradict the foundations of same said Church. Imagine celebrating Earth Day in September by driving your Hummer to a once 1000-year-old forest where they built a restaurant that lets you pick your own harbor seal and club it to death before they serve it up to you while starving orphans watch, and you're in the ballpark.
The first thing you'll notice when you come out of your turkey-induced tryptophan coma the day after Thanksgiving is that someone in your neighborhood has already put up their Christmas lights. Usually it's the same house or group of houses owned by people who regularly attend the block association meeting, and who separate their recycling even though they all go in those big blue plastic bins now, and whose plan for picking up after their dog when it leaves a turd on your lawn is something other than an apologetic shrug.
The thing is, they haven't just strung up a string of lights along their gutters. It's not just a light-up reindeer or an inflatable Santa in a globe that they picked up half price from Home Depot last year. These folks have got enough lights to attract the attention of aliens in outer god damned space. Every inch of their property is blanketed with artificial snow, twinkling lights, and wooden cutouts of gingerbread men and candy canes.
You know these folks. As a kid you marveled at how cool that house was, and as an adult you can't help but wonder how much their electric bill comes to each December. Some communities hold contests on who best decorated their houses. They've even made at least one horribly unfunny movie dedicated to nothing but this premise.
Seriously, did anyone, anywhere, pay money to see this movie?
But, realizing that the Yule tide season is upon us, you lug your own Christmas decorations out of the attic/basement/garage where you haven't parked your car since 1997 and get to work keeping up with the Joneses.
Let's see here...Enough lights to burn out the eastern sea board? Check. Spray painted frosting on the outside of the windows that ain't coming off until July? Check. A manger scene staring a Betsy-Wetsy doll because the racoons made off with the baby Jesus six years ago? Check. And so after hours of time and only three falls off the roof (because this weekend ain't the only thing that's wasted, my friend) your house, burning bright enough to break through the time-space barrier and diver the attention of Blitzkreig fighter pilots, stands just as proudly illuminated as everyone elses.
Except then those fucktards next door go and one-up you by decorating the tree in the front yard, the one that keeps dropping those goddamned guava fruits onto your begonias, and make it up like it's a Christmas tree. So rather than be outdone, now you gotta sprint to the store and buy a fiberglass Santa Claus and reindeer to nail onto your roof. But then the folks across the street actually rent real reindeer! So it's back to Boxstoremart for more lights, and some tinsel, and penguins that light up. Why? What do penguins have to do with Christmas? They live at the South fucking Pole. But at this point rationality has all but disappeared, and all that remains is outclassing the neighbors by making your house as gaudy, bright, and declase as possible.
Why You're Going To Hell...
There are lots of rules and stuff in the Bible, but ten of them are sort of really important, in that they are direct commands from God. They're referred to as Commandments, written in stone and so important that they are included twice, in Exodus 20:2-17 and again in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. And the tenth one on there - otherwise known as the clincher - reads as follows: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.." And that is exactly what you are doing by trying to keep up with your neighbors.
It might be surprising, but all that competition to one-up your neighbors is NOT why Jesus went to the cross.
What is Christmas without the traditional Christmas ham?
Why You're Going To Hell...
As rules go, there are more than just Ten Commandments in the Bible. It turns out that, between chronicling who begat whom, them ancient folks wrote down a few other important points of interest, including all of their most important laws, taboos, and beliefs.
The first half the the Bible, referred to as the Old Testament, shares quite a lot in common with Judaism. In fact, it shares FIVE WHOLE BOOKS. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are also referred to by a select group of people iukas the Torah. The Torah makes up the first third of the Tanakh, the founding religious document of Judaism that includes the basis of all the legal, ethical and religious principles by which Jewish people have lived for more than 3300 years. Included within these texts are 613 mitzvahs (literal translation "commandment") which are divided into 248 positive commands and 365 restrictions (one for every day of the year!).
Amongst Christians, the New Testament is generally considered to overwrite previous rules and regulations from the Old Testament. Hence, a vengeful Lord is replaced by a god of compassion and eye-for-an-eye justice is substituted with turning the other cheek.
The Bible isn't exactly like a Torah reboot, but it's cooler to think of it that way.
The New Testament and the Old Testament can therefore be considered to be like Federal and State laws. State (Old Testament) laws are applicable, but only where they are not overwritten by Federal (New Testament) laws.
THEREFORE THE OLD TESTAMENT MITZVAHS STILL APPLY! Including the ones about dietary restrictions, including shellfish, leavened bread, and, of course, anything that came from a pig.
Now, Collosians 2:16-23 gives some justification for allowing the consumption of food previously deemed "unclean," but only if read liberally. The specific wording is "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink." That really sounds more like an argument against being led into veganism than an outright abrogation of previously rigorously-practiced restrictions. And while it does technically goes on to say that it is okay to ignore Jewish dietary restrictions on holy festivals, thus apparently voiding this segment's relevance, keep in mind that Christians have a Hell and Jews do not, so you might do well to substitute the traditional ham with an even more deliciously traditional turducken.
O, you'd better not shout, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!
The big fat man himself! The jolly old elf known around the world. In Spain he's Papa Noel, in italy it's Babbo Natale, and in Brooklyn it's Kris Kringle. So what exactly does he have to do with Christ's birthday?
He died for your sins.
But it turns out that a white man with a long flowing beard who sees everything you do is sort of a central theme in Christianity, so the Scandanavian Sinterklauss was an obvious co-op. Especially since the English mythology of Father Christmas also dovetailed so well with the Scandanavian celebration of Feast Day on December 6, which is otherwise known as, wait for it, St. Nicholas Day. And since the Germanic of that is Niklauss, even the names sound the same.
Why You're Going To Hell
We're not even going to delve in the obvious questions of pedophilia (c'mon, Santa, them kids can't just stand on a stool to whisper into your ear? They gotta sit in your LAP?). Fact is, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about Santa Claus was co-opted from pagan religions, usually with very nasty origins.
Santa Claus himself didn't show up in popular culture until about the 15th century, where he was often accompanied by a helper named Black Pete, a dark skinned character in Moorish dress who was supposed to represent the Devil, thrust into servitude for a day. Sinterklauss was represented by a bearded man giving presents, based off the story of St. Nicholas, a 4th century Greek Christian bishop in the area that is now Turkey, while Black Pete - still represented in the Netherlands as Zwarte Piet - was represented by a guy dressed like the Trickster in blackface. So those cracks by insanely overparanoid fundamentalists about Satan and Santa being in league are not just puns; they actually have a basis in historical records! Racist, racist historical records.
Yes, Virginia, there really is racism.
By the 17th century he'd been made up as a well-nourished man with a long beard and a green robe, and if that sounds a bit like the second spirit in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, that's not coincidence. The Lord of Lies part in the whole story had of course been replaced with indentured elves. A popular image by Thomas Nast refined Santa as a portly, pink-cheekd old man with presents rather than a fat man at a bachannal. In 1843, the invention by Henry Cole of colored postcards that are the forebearer to Christmas cards helped the Santa image to become both refined and cemented. The finalized version of Santa Claus that we think of today, with a red and white suit and a long white beard, owes itself entirely to a 1931 ad campaign by Coca-Cola.
Meanwhile Father Christmas, once a distinctly different entity from St. Nicholas, traces his origins back to Odin, the Norse All-Father.
You have to be pretty bad-ass to get away with looking this gay.
On the holiday of the Yule, Odin would ride across the country in his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, which was able to leap great distances in a single bound and was probably the basis for the idea of eight flying reindeer.
In other cultures, the mythology went in a different direction.
Children would leave candy, straw, and sugar in their boots near the chimney for Sleipnir to eat, and in exchange for their kindness Odin would leave presents with the children. Nowadays, we put stockings over the chimney and leave out cookies and milk.
But WHY does he do this? What is the reason for it? Why did Odin ride across the countryside on his mutant steed?
Well, he has to, or the sun will die.
For that to make any sort of sense, we go back even earlier. It turns out that the Yule, or Julloferfest, was itself rescheduled a bit to tie into the Christian holiday. It originally happened on the winter solstice. This occurs on the twenty-first or twenty-second of December, when the Earth's tilt is at its maximum, the days reach their shortest, the nights get their coldest, and the first days of true winter begin.
Or, as primitive idiot priests cried out, the sun began to die.
Historically speaking, we don't have a lot of written records of anything in Europe from back before the time the Egyptians started abandoning normal square-shaped buildings in favor of their better known monolithic triangular architectural scheme. We don't even have actual names for a lot of what went on in culture and religion, just anthropological monikers and reoccuring archetypes. Two of these are the rebirth of the Sun God and the Great Hunt.
In the Great Hunt archetype, ghosts, gods, spirits, or other intangible creatures ride across the countryside on, you guessed it, a great hunt. The rebirth of the Sun God is an equally self-explanatory story. Basically, the sun god dies, and so the sun goes away, and when he is reborn the sun comes back. Early astronomers noticed that the days were getting shorter, and realized that at this rate in a year or two the sun would go away entirely forever, and then they'd be even more fucked than they already were living in caves and huts made out of mud. So they made a sacrifice, usually by going out on such a hunt to bring down a goat, boar or deer, and killed it and burned its body as sacrifice to help bring the Sun God back to life. Often while the animal was still alive. Even earlier in history they probably hadn't even combined the hunting archetype and just grabbed a handy virgin.
So, to sum it up, Santa Claus equals pagan baddass deity riding mutant reindeer equals ritualistic blood sacrifice.
Ho Ho Ho.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
That's Christmas Tree in German!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
We don't know the rest of the lyrics!
There are literally thousands of Google results for "Beer Bottle Christmas Tree"
During Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ by cutting down an evergreen tree, taking it inside, and decorating it with shiny baubles and lights. Because that makes perfect sense. Popular myths holds that Protestant reformer Martin Luthor was the first to decorate a tree, and that it is done represent the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden, despite the slight hinderance that fir trees have never once produced any sort of fruit, forbidden or otherwise.
Why You're Going To Hell
The Bible specifically forbids Christmas trees. Jeremiah 10:2-4, "Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen; and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven. For the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain. For one cutteth a tree out of the forest. The work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold. They fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not." So why do we do it?
If you didn't laugh at the idea of Superman and Blitzen having the same foundation in mythology, you won't laugh at this either, but the the custom of a winter celebration centering around a tree has the same basis as that of Santa Claus: bringing back the sun.
The Christmas Tree did not even appear in Europe until the 15th century and didn't even make it to Britain, the homeland of Father Christmas, until 1858 when the idea was imported by Prince Albert from his native Germany. Before that, the more common celebration in England was to burn a Yule Log, a tradition which died out because more people had coal-burning stoves to heat their homes than large, inefficient fireplaces.
Yule, as you may recall, was a Nordic celebration, and for the purposes of Church dogma anything Nordic almost automatically equals pagan and therefore damnation-worthy. At some point in European history some priest was dumb enough not to realize that the days get longer on their own, but smart enough to realize that hunting was hard work and the gods typically didn't seem that picky what got sacrificed to them. In Southern Scandavia burning a tree came to be replaced with burning an animal sacrifice.
The closest surviving tradition is the Serbian badnjak, in which a young and straight oak is felled, a log cut from its trunk and burned, all with much ceremony and ritual. The festival is tied to Jesus in which, to quote Wikipedia, "the badnjak may also be seen as a symbol of the cross upon which Christ was crucified, the warmth of its fire symbolizing the salvation which, in the Christian belief, the crucifixion made possible for mankind." Which is basically a whitewash of Christian beliefs over older Slavic religion in which sacrifices and prayers are offered for the fertility of the fields. When you get low enough equatorially farming becomes more important than hunting, and for ancient farmers the ties of the sun and next year's harvest were very obvious. And there must be a Jungian super-conscious archetype stuck in human memory about burning firs during the solstice, because the first thing people did when the Christmas tree reappeared in popular culture was to decorate it with candles.
In modern times, a similar effect is achieved with too many bulbs and no smoke detector.
If you thought Christmas trees and Santa Claus as metaphors for bringing back the sun were stupid, you're a racist dick. But you're also right. Yet as Christmas traditions rooted in stupidity go, it is hardly the greatest. For that, we turn to the plant-based holiday traditions.
Decking the halls with boughs of holly is not just an annoying Christmas jingle with an incomprehensible monosyllabic chorus. It means literally that: taking branches from a holly tree and placing them inside your house. Likewise, we bring hang wreathes of evergreen branches on doors, and hang mistletoe to spot the office perverts.
And the relevance to anything remotely Christian is...
Yes, precisely: squat!
Why You're Going To Hell
There is one single plant-based Christmas tradition that could possibly be said to be non-pagan, and that is poinsettias. Legend has it that a young Mexican boy, on his way to visit the village Nativity scene, realized he had no gift for the Christ child so gathered pretty green branches from along the road and laid them at the manger, and a beautiful star-shaped flower appeared on each branch. There's your gimme. EVERYTHING else is rooted in paganism, mostly Nordic or Druid but also some Roman to spice it up.
Two facts that have been mentione before are that 1) when the sun goes away the plants do too and 2) primitive people were idiots. A lot of them were farmers in temperate climates and really couldn't give two shits if the days grew shorter so long as the harvest was a go.
As proven with Daylight Savings Time.
So while Northern Scandavians killed things and burned trees to bring back the sun, Europeans living in places without thirty straight day of night took the more practical position of just making sure the harvest came back next year. This is the theological equivalent to realizing if it costs the same for a smog check as for a new car you can visit the auto dealer instead of the mechanic. Except instead of human sacrifice, they used magic.
Specifically, sympathetic magic, in which an entirety is affected by a smaller representation. By bringing plants inside the protected and warm haven of a house, it ensures that some greenery will survive. And just like a fire lit by a candle can be said to be from the same flame, so too can the harvest come back so long as some little shrub survives. It helps that they took in fir, holly, and mistletoe, plants which are green even throughout the winter. God does not play dice, but if He does humans would make sure they were loaded.
Mistletoe also carried a heavy mythological symbolism. It was the plant that killed Baldr, Norse god of light (i.e., the SUN!) and its red berries were supposed to be his blood.
Meanwhile, in Rome, the dendrophore magnae deus matrim, or more simply the matris deum, was a group of fifteen individuals (all men, despite the title of "matris") whose sacred duty included the transportation and planting of various trees symbolic to their specific deities. During the ever-referenced Saturnalia winter celebration, they transported wreathes of evergreen boughs to their Harvest God. And there, mistletoe represented the twin gods Apollo and Diana (Artemis). Diana, red berries, for menstrual blood as goddess of the moon, and Apollo, white berries, for the semen of the sun god. THE SUN GOD.
Do I have to paint you a picture?!
The Romans, as we've explained, used the Saturnalia the same way college kids use Spring Break: as an excuse to get drunk and go whoring for a solid week. Kissing under the mistletoe is the cleaned-up DIsney version of what was originally just an excuse for wholesale perversion.
These days even wholesale perversion has been toned down.
Not appropriate outside a courthouse or inside the annals of history
Why You're Going To Hell
For now, let's just ignore the Second Commandment, the one that says in part "You shall not make for yourself any carved image, nor any likenss of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth below, or that is in the water under the earth." Gospel has pretty much ruled it is okay to have pictures and statues, even of Christ himself, so long as you don't worship the actual statue.
Instead, let's just focus on the Manger Scene, because there's more cannon fodder in there than in a battlian of orcs. Not only did everything about this happen to Jesus's biggest competitor, but it is also blatantly contradicted WITHIN THE BIBLE ITSELF!
As for the first part: 500 BCE is the estimated time given for the birth of Mithras the Sun God (SUN GOD). Depending on what you read, he was either the son of Ishtar (the Babylonian fertility goddess whose oversexualized celebration just happened to dovetail with the spring equinox in March and include sacrifices of fertility symbols like rabbits and eggs) or Isis, the Egyptian goddess of the Harvest (re: Christmas Tree origins) who also birthed Horus, a god who got sort of famous for a while by dying and coming back to life after three days. During his life Mithras cured illnesses, cast out demons, had twelve disciples, and and was, you know, the son of a deity. Mithrasism was a major competitor with Christianity up until the fifth century. His death was commemorated by the Romans as Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, the last day of their week-long Saturnalia celebrating their own Harvest God. His birth was even more notable, in that it occurred in a stable, surrounded by farmers and gift-giving Magi, on December 25.
The birth of Jesus, on the other hand, shares none of these traits.
For starters, Jesus was probably not born in Bethlehem. The only reason we think so is that the Gospel of Luke suggests that the Roman Census of Quirinius required all individuals to return to their ancestral cities. Not only does this smack of a bigger plot device than the average Star Trek episode, but, despite the overwhelmingly accurate records kept by the Romans, no other record of such a census exists anywhere in recorded history! In fact, the idea of EVERYONE from the Roman Empire - which, keep in mind, was suppossed to represent the entire civilized world - returning to an ancestral city for a census is utterly infeasible. Not to mention doing it all in the winter, the wettest, coldest, most miserable season to travel (and you'd think there'd be some caveat for women nine months pregant!). To top it off, Matthew contradicts ALL of this and places Jesus's birth during the rule of King Herod the Great, while Luke's own references place it as several years after Herod's death, despite Herod being a skootch important to events in Jesus' life a few years later when he, y'know, tries to kill him and every other male baby in Bethlehem.
It took a lot less to earn the title of "Great" in those days.
However, one of the prerequisits for being named Messiah was to be born of the lineage of King David, which Joseph was (despite the whole "virgin birth" thing this still counts somehow), and David lived in Bethlehem. Joseph himself was born in Arimathea, a city of Judea which has no known counterpart today but was probably Ramathaim-Zophim. He did live in Bethlehem before moving to Nazareth for several years, and moved again just in time for Herod's massacre.
Most likely, Jesus was born then in Nazareth, a small and prosperous hill town in Galilee. That is why he is referred to sometimes as Jesus the Nazarite and Jesus of Galilee. Historically speaking, living in Nazareth would be a good business move for Joseph: the city of Sepphoris five km to the north was the largest city in Judaea, the capital of Galilee, and had been largely destroyed by a Roman uprising a few years earlier leaving it in dire need of builders, masons, architects, and of course carpenters.
His mother Mary by all accounts was indeed a Temple Virgin who was betrothed to 80-year old Joseph as a way to get around her vow to God to remain forever virginal. There is some evidence that the Roman archer Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera talked her out of this vow, however, because in the Tosefta, the Talmud, and the writings of Celsus there are references to Yeshua ben Pantera, literally "Jesus, the son of Pantera," although this may be referring to a different priest in the second century B.C.E.
Competing theories suggest Jesus started calling himself "Son of the Panther" to get chicks.
As for the three wise men, the story goes that Melchoir, Gaspaar, and Balthasaar came from the East following a star to bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Baby Jesus who had just been born in the manger.
The Manger Scene makes a pretty picture, but the Bible itself contradicts this story. If you pay attention, Matthew 2:11 states that the Magi came to pay homage to Jesus in a house, not a stable. In actuality they probably arrived months, if not years after Jesus's birth, making the star over Bethlehem only slightly less inefficient than Mapquest. It was definitely not less than a week later, because they didn't present the gifts until after the circumcision, which by Jewish tradition wouldn't have occured until eight days after birth. In fact it was probably on the order of two or three years, since Herod refers to a "young child" instead of a "baby," which are two very distinctly different terms, especially in Aramaic. The reference "from the East' " means they were probably Persian, in which case they had access to the prophecies of Daniel which gave a basic timeline for the birth of the Messiah. What it does not state is that there were THREE Magi, just three gifts. There may have only been one Wise Man, there might have been hundreds. As for their men themselves, they were named in a Greek manuscript written five centuries after these events are supposed to have taken place.
That's what you get for relying on a group of guys named after a cocktail.
As for the star over Bethlehem, keep in mind that people looked up at the sky a lot in this period. The stars were the only thing to guide you at night, a lot of cultures believed them to be actual deities, and celestial and solar events got recorded pretty closely. What no one mentions anywhere other than the Bible? A star shining over Bethlehem visible from 900 miles away. Such a thing could be seen by the Persians, the Greeks, the Egyptians, and just about everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, a lot of whom at various points independently INVENTED the study of astronomy.
Don't even get us started on the presence of a little drummer boy. As any new mother will tell you, the one thing you do not want around a screaming infant is some little shit banging on the drums! As creation myths go, Superman's origin canon has been altered less than that of Jesus, and he went from Kansas farmboy to strange alien visitor from another world!
You know the one song we don't sing in Christmas? It goes like this:
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Jesus!
Happy birthday to you!
Why You're Going To Hell
Not only was the setting for the nativity wrong, so was the whole date!
The Bible is full of very suspiciously repetative stories. Rebekah and Sarah are almost identical if you look at them through thick glasses. Likewise, Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne, is famous for giving virgin birth (her own Immaculate Conception didn't enter Church dogma until 1854 by Pope Pius IX). However, Mary's relaitve Elisabeth, wife of the priest Zacharias, was thought to be barren but was given a miraculous birth at almost exactly the same time! That sounds like bad copy-editing, but because of that we've got a very good timeline on the date of Jesus's birth. Elisabeth got pregnant with John the Baptist in mid-June. We know this because her husband Zacharias was a priest in the Division of Abijah, which was one of twenty-four divisions in the Levitical priesthood organized by King David a thousand years earlier. Each priest served a specific week-long service twice annually, plus three festival seasons, and Zacharias' week of service as described by Luke happened around Pentecost, which generally falls in late May to mid-June on our calendar. Since Elisabeth got preggers a few days after the angel visited Zacharias, that gives us a pretty accurate DOC as sometime around the week of June 13-19. Mary, hearing this awesome news and hoping to get knocked up herself, went to visit her relation six months in, where she had her own angelic vision and received the Annunciation, along with some divine white stuff.
The Christian Feast of Annunciation takes place in March 25th to celebrate this, but as noted already, this would actually have been taking placed in late June. Mary stayed with Elisabeth until John's birth, by which point she would have been three months pregnant. So actually it was John who was born in late March or early April, while Jesus himself would have been born in September or October.
Sounds so much better than "I forgot you were alive!"
And it would have all happened in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, the location of Mary's family home. Brides-to-be would stay with their families until the actual marriage ceremony, and by the time Joseph showed up she would have been in a family way and in no shape for a donkey trek to Bethlehem.
There is other Biblical evidence that Jesus was born in late Autumn.
If he WAS born in a manger in Bethlehem because there was no room at the inn, the date would explain why a lot better than some fake census. Late September and early October is the autumn festival season on God's calendar, one of the three times in the year when families would travel to Jerusalem to observe God's Holy Days (Deuteronomy 16:16). With the Jews of Israel still obeying this command, even today it is difficult to find a hotel room in Jerusalem at this time of year! The population of Jerusalem would swell several times over to overflowing at this time, even in nearby towns such as Bethlehem, a few miles south of Jerusalem.
And Verse 8 of Luke tells us, " Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night," but winter in Jeresalem gets to freezing. The common practice of shepherds was to keep their flocks in the open fields from April to October, but in the cold and wet winter months they took their flocks back home and sheltered them. For shepherds in the field to follow that star implies the first rains of the season wouldn't have started yet.
So where did the December 25th date come from?
The Romans. You know. Those guys who crucified Jesus.
The Saturnalia (mentioned earlier) was a week long celebration to the harvest god Saturn. It involved raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving that was itself an extension of tributes to king and lords that was itself an extension of sacrifices to the gods. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose "an enemy of the Roman people" to represent the "Lord of Misrule." Each community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival's conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman. Besides human sacrifice, other delightful yuletide customs included widespread intoxication; going from house to house whilesinging naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (which are still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season). This was such an intrinsic ritual to so many people that the early Christian Church basically HAD to allow it as a condition to convert large numbers of otherwise amicable pagans. So when Christianity became the official Roman state religion in the fourth century (somewhere between 330 and 350 AD, depending on your source), Pope Julius I declared that Christ's birth would be celebrated on December 25, basically trying to make the Roman conversion to a new political policy as painless as possible by producing no noticeable changes.
In fact, this date is so mired in heathism that Puritans REFUSED TO CELEBRATE IT!
Nor did the heathenism die out even after the paganism was usurped. In
1466 Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his citizens, decided to get back to the spirit of the season by forcing Jews to race naked through the streets of the city, a grand tradition of anti-Semitism that lasted up to the nineteenth centuries in some places! So, to reiturate, not only is Christ's birthday celebrated on the WRONG DAY, but it actually celebrates EVERYTHING JESUS WAS AGAINST!
Happy Birthday, King of the Jews!
And Samantha thought SHE had a tough birthday!
Of course, Christians show their devotion to and love for Christ by wearing a symbol of the implement that killed him after several long days of painful suffering, so maybe celebrating his birthday three or four months late won't get you sent to hell. But it ain't helping.
But when we get right down to it, the spirit of the season is really all about the giving. This is a day you show your love appreciation for those around you with the exchange of presents, because it's all about the giving.
It's about the presents.
Fuck your angel. THIS is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Why You're Going To Hell
Let's face it, Christmas is about the presents. You want to show love, wait until Valentine's Day. You want to celebrate Christ, go to church. Christmas is about presents. It's like your birthday except people start getting excited about it a month early (two and a half months, in the case of retail department stores) and you get gingerbread cookies. And it's making you a horrible person.
This one's a triple whammy. First off, the pagan aspect. As you may have figured out, giving gifts is rooted in the giving of tribute to lords and kings which is rooted in tribues and sacrifices to gods. So, like everything else about Christmas, it's founded in heathen lore and rooted in blood sacrifice.
Secondly, the Christian aspect. Everything about Christmas contradicts the Tenth Commandment, the one mentioned earlier about coveting. This is the season of coveting. CHILDREN SEND LETTERS TO A MAN WHO DOESN'T EXIST WITH A LIST OF THINGS THEY WANT, and parents ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO IT! Often, they pay the postage!
Thirdly, the psychological aspect. GIVING is actually good for you psychologically. People who give gifts feel happier than those who buy them for themselves. People who receive gifts without giving feel guilty. But the way we feel best is EXCHANGING gifts, that is, when we receive a gift from someone to whom we have given a gift of approximately equal value. Getting a lame gift makes you feel bad, getting nothing when you expect to makes you feel bad, and getting an impersonal gift makes you feel bad. Even getting money, even if it is comparable to the amount you were expecting as a gift, does not make you feel as good for as long as getting a real gift. This is fact. Men with goatees and lab coats have done surveys.
So while giving may be the intended spriit of the season, what we actually hope for is in the exchange. What is the difference between those two things? The RECEIVING.
And that's turning you into a covetous, amoral prick.
If you've read this far and haven't gotten fed up (or, let's face it, bored. This is a LONG article) then by now you're been willing to concede that Christmas has a basis in paganism. You're willing to acknowledge that much of the mythology has been twisted around. And you're probably even able to admit that what we celebrate each December 25th has as much to do with Jesus Christ as Dracula does with Kwanza.
But every Christian with a brain has already had to accept that certain parts of their religion are matters of faith and not reason. Most intelligent people who believe in Jesus for instance, don't really believe the Earth was created on October 21, 4004 BC at exactly 9 AM (because God is a morning person), or that Heaven is a 9-tiered system of spheres and Hell is a 9-tiered pit of circles. These are ideas that were introduced after the events described in the Bible took place, and while they may have canonical status in particular sects many people recognize them as attempts by fallible but well-meaning and devout believers to express a wonderous idea with the best tools and information available to them at the time. They are able to accept that their church and the priests within it are imperfect, and yet retain an amazing faith in the fundamental tenants and mores behind the church and priests, and be better people for their faith. It does not matter if the words change, if the stories get muddled, so long as they remain devout and obedient to the fundamental meaning of their religion, so long as they honor Christ and his teachings, so long as they stick to the point.
Why You're Going To Hell
You missed the point.
Here it is!
Really, it's in the name. Christmas. They didn't just pull the name out of a hat. It means, literally, "the Death of Christ." Mass has a Latin basis in the word Massai, meaning "to send" but it also has a strictly Catholic etymology meaning "death sacrifice." The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "In the Christian law, the supreme sacrifice is that of the Mass." It goes on to say, "The supreme act of worship consists essentially in an offering of a worthy victim to God, the offering made by a proper person, as a priest, the destruction of the victim." Please note carefully the word, "victim" of the Mass. The Latin word for victim is "Hostia" from which the word "host" is derived.
So if the day is all about his death, why are we celebrating his birthday?
In fact, why are we celebrating Jesus's birthday at all? At the last supper, Jesus specifically admonished people to remember his death, not his birth. For hundreds of years, the entire idea of celebrating a birthday was considered a pagan custom by Christians and was strictly forbidden, a tradition which still remains to some extent in the Eastern Orthodox Church which prefers Naming Days. In fact, the World Book Encyclopedia - even today - classifies birthdays as a pagan custom.
All of the meaning and potency behind the story of Jesus Christ lies within his death, his willingness to give up his life to take on the collective sins of mankind. A human being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow man is the defining tenant of Christianity, and something worth celebrating as the ultimate manifestion of humanity's potential greatness, no matter what your religion or lack thereof.
And this is how we celebrate it:
It doesn't really make sense, for Christ. But it DOES make sense for Mithras, and for Balder, and for Odin, and for Saturn. Celebrations on the solstice have been about death and rebirth since before there was written history. Jesus is just the latest name and face given to a string of traditions that have gone back since before recorded history.
The non-Christian origins of Christmas are so obvious when you look at it honestly that in 1990, when an Ohio school board banned all Christmas scenes on any school property because they felt it violated the separation of church and state, it was overturned in court. This was not because Ohio is home of hicks and hillbillbies but because, quote "Christmas was a worldwide tradition that was not part of, and transcended, religion." It was deemed to be secular-a part of virtually all cultures worldwide. In other words: Christmas has no basis in Christanity, by law.
Stick that up your corn cob pipe and smoke it!
But regardless of its origins, or its meaning secular or otherwise, this is the season of merriment and joy, of giving and kindness, of universal love for your fellow man. Revel in it! Take the opportunity to do good deeds to help those less fortunate! Shower your loved ones with gifts to thank them for the joy they bring! Attend a morning mass and embrace the spirit amongst your community!
But you're still going to hell.