Letter to the East Alien Dangly Times
My letter published in the East Anglian Daily Times on Wednesday, 19th December, after there’d been at least two letters in the last month calling on people to celebrate the “true Christian” origin of Christmas:
In our society the freedom to practice religion is a fundamental right, so Christians are perfectly entitled to celebrate their own take on life, the universe and everything, at this time of the year.
At the same time everyone else is entitled to their own views so, each year as the Winter Solstice approaches, would Christians please refrain from asking, nay demanding, that the rest of us “celebrate the true Christian meaning of Christmas”.
There is overwhelming evidence that the origins of our annual end of December jamboree go much further back in human history than the relatively “new kid on the block” Christianity. Our ancient ancestors of the high northern latitudes would have watched with trepidation as the life giving sun slipped lower and lower in the winter sky and the days got ever shorter. They had no means of knowing how or why it happened but, every year, just as it seemed the sun would disappear completely over the horizon it would start rising again, bringing longer days and the promise of another summer of warmth and fertility.
What better excuse for putting aside a regular amount of their meagre food supplies in order to have a mighty ‘blow out’ as soon as their observations confirmed that the sun was indeed returning for another year. The first day on which they could be confident the sun really was coming back, coincided approximately with 25th December in our modern calendar.
The Christianisation of the pagan festival of Yuletide, which had grown out of those observations, is but one example of how Christianity was created by picking, mixing and borrowing myths and festivals for every purpose from other, pre-existing, beliefs. Off the shelf Virgin birth myths were available from the Chinese, Indians, Etruscans, Egyptians and Greeks, whose deity Dionysos was “the son of Zeus, born of a virgin, who took the guise of a common man”. Now where have I heard something like that before?
The mythical storehouse also contained off the shelf myths that were adapted into the stories of “the Star of Bethlehem, the Three Kings, the Stable, and the Massacre of the Innocents” as well as a plentiful supply covering such topics as ordinary everyday miracles and resurrections from the dead, a version of which was woven into the Pagan spring equinox festival of Eostre when that was stolen by the Christians, but that’s another story.
Another piece of figgy pudding anyone?