The seasonal ranters and ravers, supposed Christians (but you’re unlikely to see them in Church every Sunday, let alone saying thanks for anything), have begun the usual “They’re trying to destroy Christmas, etc, etc…” It keeps coming back every year, made more ferocious by the ability of the Internet these days to be a tool for spreading petty insidious rumours and lies.
I’m getting more fed up with this hate-mongering than I am with the insistence of retailers to begin pushing Xmas stock earlier and earlier each year. Things can get pretty dire in the UK, in the month of December, if you have any real notion as to how European culture has evolved since the Neolithic age. You hear the rabid claims that “they’re” turning “Christmas” into “Winter Festival”, the word holiday somehow breaks into the fray (supposedly) even though at this time of year the majority of the population of a place like the UK are indeed collectively experiencing some holiday time.
Y’know the usual shtick. It’s appearing all over Facebook already and coming to a Sun newspaper near you. This webcomic strip explains it perfectly:
And then there falls in the idea, to back up these claims, that this is a “Christian Country”, which is actually kind of incorrect. At least if you consider how Christianity was forced on the people of this country during the last thousand plus years or so. I think some Druids may have an issue with the notion that this is a Christian country or kingdom, as they were here first.
(And as an atheist, I think it’s all bull, and would like to point out that until you learn a language, you have no faith, as faith as we define it as is expressed only in language. Babies may have notions of food givers and stuff, but most probably don’t think boobies are a god or gods. I certainly had no notion of God until relatives began trying to induct me into Christianity when I could speak a bit.)
Anyway, to the title of this entry: Misconception of the Conception. It is generally suspected that Jesus was not born on the 25th December, maybe conceived on that day, but not born. This Christian site has a reasonable explanation of the matter. So Christians should probably be celebrating his conception round about now (and no exact dates are known for any of this), rather than his birth, the anniversary of which probably occurred at some point during the latter half of September.
So, why am I annoyed about some “Christians” (and I am using the term loosely here) claiming Christmas is being trodden over something horrid? How does this tie in to the development of European culture? Consider that winter is a really crap time of year for any people that live in a place where the world around them almost dies, food is hard to come by, and it’s damn difficult to stay warm – Europe – essentially anywhere north of the Equator in December, etc. (That’s a lot of countries.)
This was a really, really crap time of year for our ancestors that were here (in what we now call the United Kingdom) even before Jesus was born. Like so many festivals that we know a lot about (because they’re from major religions that haven’t been killed off by others) there are festivals from multiple faiths that happen in the depths of winter. As a species, a social one at that, it makes sense for us to get together when the natural world is hating on us and to try and make ourselves feel better. Religion just adds another reason and a structure around which this getting together happens.
The point: people in European countries and beyond, north of the Equator, have been having winter festivals for millennia. Christianity, when it finally came that way, had to adapt itself to these festivals in order to gain popularity. And when you consider the number of current and past faiths that have celebrations around the time of the Winter Solstice – a festival to see us through the bleakest time of the year makes sense.
In conclusion: Winter was here long before Christmas.