Saturday, November 28, 2009

The War by Christmas

It was an unnecessary war declared quite some time ago without a clear exit strategy, where the tide is running against conservative dreams, yet it is still cheered on by Fox News and their friends despite all evidence. Iraq? No, the War by Christmas.

That's not a typo, and it is something that needs clarification up front...we don't have a case of a recently declared "war on Christmas" in America that seeks to victimize delicate Christians, but rather a new phase in a centuries-long war declared and conducted by Christmas. The war was begun by Christmas, and I see no reason to ease up now that the aggressors are seeing the tide reverse. From now on, I will refer to this conflict by the historically accurate name "War by Christmas" and encourage you to do the same.

You likely know the full story. The most primitive of humans knew that life was warmer, better, more comfortable with more time with that bright thing in the sky. The two greatest miracles of their world were childbirth and the sun, so no small wonder that almost every culture assigned an Earth-mother and a Sun-god. However, on a yearly basis the sun seemed to be moving away, and weakening. Their god was dying. And every year, somehow, at the point of death, the Sun-god returned and grew again in strength.

We call it an astronomical event, the winter solstice. They turned it into a seminal religious feast. This near-dodge with the end of the world was a solemn annual moment, and inspired a wide range of rituals that would occur in late December. The Incans tied a celestial rope to the sun lest it stray too far away. The Kalash of Hindu Kush still offer dances and praise. Egyptians honored Aset. European pagans and their early Roman neighbors celebrated Saturnalia in late December. Most Romans marked the feast of Natalis Sol Invictus -- the Birth of Mithras, the Unconquered Sun -- on December 25th. Mithras became known to the Roman in the second century BC as a sun-god of Persian background who was born of a virgin mother, and would later die and resurrect in order to offer salvation to all. (Mithraism was as fundamental to the final shape of Christianity as Judaism. It is as accurate to say that Paul and Luke set out to spread Christianity to Mithraists as it is to say they were targeting Gentiles.)

Then the Christians came. Insofar as we can trust the Christian Bible with the label of "history", we are told that Jesus' birth occurred as "shepherds were outside, keeping watch over their flocks by night" (Luke 2:8). Shepherds only lived outside with their flocks while the sheep might be birthing -- something that only happened in springtime.

However, by the early 3rd century, the Christian church moved the feast of Jesus' birth lock, stock, and barrel to December 25th. A few days from the winter solstice and the exact day of the birth of Mithras. When exactly this occurred, we don't know, as the Catholic Church has a long history of keeping inadequate and questionable records on things like historical developments, treasury, and personnel shufflings. So when Emperor Constantine decided to use the Roman army to force Christianity on all, the die was cast. Christmas had declared war on all comers. Several centuries later, it is losing the war it began.

So don't give me this "War on Christmas" BS. About 1,700 years ago, Christmas declared a war in which it is experiencing a reverse. So Fox "News", the AFA, and the rest of you morons, stop complaining.


noternie said...

Seeking permission to repost this in its entirety on my blog, Twitter, Facebook.

Actually, I've already got it up, so if you don't approve, I will quickly take it down. But I didn't think you'd mind.

Brilliant stuff.

BTW: I got an elected School Committee member in a town near yours to read the post on school starting times. He was interested in that and other posts you've made. If there comes an appropriate interest, I'll make an actual real-life connection.

By the way, the funky text I have to type to authenticate my comment on this post is "istruh" which is pretty close to dead on accurate.

Quriltai said...

Noternie, by all means steal the post and spread it as much as you'd like. And for what it's worth, I'm always happy to chat education with someone, so I'd welcome a real-life chat if desired.

James Patrick Conway said...

Don't understand your point. I understand that Christmas is fairly entrenched, to the point that it has conquered Thanksgiving as well. And that the Billo's out there who dislike 'happy holiday's' should have their mouths stuffed alongside the Christmas turkey. Frankly as a Catholic I see little connection between the feast day of Christmas that we celebrate as a semi important day and the massive commercialized capitalistic holiday it has morphed into. There is nothing Christian about Christmas anymore anyway. So why can't you celebrate with the tree, with presents, and with your family like you would any other holiday? Why is it important to dwell on the symbolism of an essentially secular holiday? The religious meaning of Christmas is lost on most people celebrating it, accept for the few of us that attend midnight Mass, so why fret about something that isn't really important?

Its certainly illegitimate for Billo to advance a 'christianist' agenda using the inane war on christmas BS every year but the holiday he is protecting isn't really a Christian one to begin with, so why should atheists get their panties in a bunch when they see a Christmas tree? Either celebrate without the religious connotations as 95% of people celebrating it do anyway, or celebrate some other holiday, the solstice if you feel that is more legitimate. In either case why wage an atheist version of the tired semantic/symbolic fight the Billos of the world wage every year?

Quriltai said...

James. I certainly enjoy the festival of Solstice/Christmas, replete with songs, presents, and tree. Of course, almost all "Christmas" traditions were merely re-purposed from solstice traditions, starting with the date itself, as I documented.

Your characterization of "atheists getting their panties in a bunch" over a Christmas tree is entirely inaccurate. Though Christmas is being increasingly commercialized, it is at base still a religious ceremony. Using a symbol for other purposes does not end its original intent; Madonna commercialized the cross as a fashion accessory decades ago, but the cross remains a religious symbol first and foremost. Though a large commercial meaning has accrued around Christmas, it's still the day that Christian churches see their second-highest attendance.

I don't apologize for correcting the misleading history promoted by Bill O'Reilly and almost all Christians. This isn't atheism v religion, but truth v the outrage industry. That's a fight worth fighting in my book.

James Patrick Conway said...

Then why can't you leave us Christians with our churchs? If we are so delusional why care about our delusions? Why fight and belittle someone else's beliefs when you could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the intangible benefits of this wonderful holiday. To me its ridiculous and frankly almost anti-Christian for Billo to be shouting about tree's, wreaths, being taken out of schools and supplanted by 'holiday cards' etc, especially when those 'traditions' were adopted from pagan ceremonies. But its just as ridiculous for a Dawkins to write a whole ignorant book assaulting religious whole sale and for someone with your beliefs to be offended by Christmas. Most atheists I know are content to just sit back and enjoy the eggnog, trees, Santa, and presents-none of which have anything to do with Jesus Christ. I don't see why you have to make a fight about it, especially when people are trying to come together in the holiday spirit.

James Patrick Conway said...

In other words you can have your solstice but but I have a right to my Christmas. Saying Merry Christmas to someone shouldn't offend them, celebrating Christmas (along with other holidays) in schools, especially watching Christmas movies, shouldn't be considered an endorsement of a religion. There is no Jesus in A Christmas Story, there is no Jesus in The Grinch, if anything those films celebrate secular morality more than anything else.

Quriltai said...

James, I know you as a close reader, so I must have been unclear. You, of course, are welcome to your Christmas just as much as I am to my Solstice. Go to your churches, celebrate in your homes...even harass private businesses if you want. Enjoy it all. I truly, truly don't care, but I don't understand this chip on your shoulder.

I'm not offended by Christmas anymore than Diwali. I'm not a militant atheist, anymore than you are a militant Christian. Heck, I'm currently listening to a fine rendition of Handel's Messiah on my stereo. I am offended by radicals who use ignorance to try to beat any dissimilar thoughts out of the public sphere.

All I did -- all I did -- is point out the history of Christmas. The best weapon against ignorance is fact, and that's what I presented. If you don't agree with Billo, why are you even offended by the historical background of the Christmas feast? Can I point out the sad history of Anglo-Native American relations without being labeled anti-American?

The truth doesn't offend me or bother me. I just don't know why you're so offended.

PS: Did you read the Dawkins book? And is judging that I'm a militant because we're both atheists any more fair than judging you a militant because both you and Michele Bachmann are Christians?