Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Ubiquitous Anti-religious Christmas Post

A bit of history about about the birth of Jesus.  He was born, not in zero A.D. as you might think, (there is no zero A.D., the calender goes right from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.) but sometime between 4 and 7 A.D.   The bible was not over concerned with the date of his birth, as none is given in the New Testament.  Nor was the Church apparently, because surviving documents show no mention of the celebrating the birth of Jesus until after 200 A.D.  In fact, it was even seen to some contemporaries to be sort of sacrilege to celebrate the birth of a God.

During the period of 200 to the mid 300’s, the date of Jesus birth was celebrated by different people at different times, though always in the spring.  Josephus places the birth of Jesus as spring time, which makes good sense.  Sheppards did not stay out in the fields in the cold months, nor would a census be ordered when roads were impassible, as they would be in December.

A feast occurs on December 25th, and sporadically gets popular and dies out between 350 and 400 AD.   Now, during the range of 250 to 350, a Roman emperor decided the reason the economy was failing and wars were being lost in far off lands was because they were a one nation under God (believing Mithras was the proper understanding of Zeus), and had turned their backs on him. (Sound familiar?)  Aurelian tried to enforce a sort of modern concept of piety on Paganism, to fight  radical, extremist version of an established desert faith (early Christianity was a Jewish development, growing to envelope more and more non-Jews after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem around 80 A.D)  Most of his politico-religious plans fell through, but everyone liked his December 25th celebration of the Sun being born triumphant to take his rightful place as the ruler of all the earth.

The week prior to the Sun’s Triumphant birth, was a celebration of Saturn, in which people gave each other small gifts, and had little fairs.  Over time, the the Saturnia celebration, the birth of the triumphant ruler, and the birth of Christ began rolled into one single celebration, but the Church was never particularly excited about it, as revelry and dancing were common carry overs from the days of old.  We get Christmas markets, gift giving, caroling, evergreens, Yule logs, Christmas trees, etc, not from the Catholic Church, but Pagan traditions.

The pagan traditions were so strong, that when the Protestants evolved into the Puritans, they really hated Christmas, resulting in Christmas ban in the 1600’s (pro-Christmas rioters seized the city house by house, tacking holly to the door posts.)  The modern American traditions of a tree in the house and Santa Clause is a Victorian invention, no older than the 19th century.  Advent calenders are newish, as advent itself is newish, a high middle ages attempt by the Catholic Church to stamp out the last of those dastardly pagan rituals of enjoying time with ones family, drinking with friends, feasting, and singing with strangers.

Tradition, it turns out is a very relative term.  Do you want to celebrate the pre-Victorian tradition? The Puritan tradition? The protestant tradition? The late middle ages tradition? The early middle ages tradition? The late imperial tradition?  And do you want to celebrate the pagan traditions that the Christian traditions are in response to, or the Christian traditions?

Or you could be like Becky and me, and just make it up as you go.  We had sun cake on December 21st (December 25th by the Roman calender) to celebrate the fact that we will be seeing more of the sun soon, something that becomes very important when you live this close to the Arctic circle.  It was a big yellow lemon cake with frosting sun glasses on.

On Christmas Eve we ate stuffed mushrooms, little smokies in barbecue sauce, and lime jello with maraschino cherries in it.  Christmas morning we opened the stockings, opened the presents, and relaxed.  We made phone calls, and had Cornish game hens, stuffing, and yams for supper.  After sundown (around 4:30, I think) we played video games while the kid played with her toys.

Never once did I think “Oh sure, I’m having fun, but am I pleasing the Lord?”  I never asked myself if I was doing Christmas right this year.  I never thought, “Am I making sure that I keeping Christ the center of my Christmas?”  I never thought that I should be spending this money to advance the kingdom of the Lord instead of on the people I love.   I had a wonderful Christmas with my family, and no Christian guilt.

Ubiquitous anti-religious Christmas Post

December 26, 2008 - Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. I am glad you had a good time on the pagan holiday of Christmas. Oh well, we cannot undue what the pagan Constantine did to mess up Christianity…Remember pagans do not have a monopoly on fun and celebration.

    All nature is fair game – trees, etc, stuff like that. It belongs to everyone.

    Pagans take christian things and put a pagan meaning on them. So Christians can enjoy pagan stuff and put a christian meaning on them too. Life is our world to make what we want to be happy.

    Jesus was actually born when you said (maybe 3 AD?). From the “star” data, it has been back calculated to be in the fall of the year – around the end of September. This would be the feast of Tabernacles. If you have ever been in Israel in September, it is very nice weather, so the shepherds would be outside with the sheep. It does not get cold or rainy until December.

    Whether the birth got paganized or not, it still seems to have a positive effect on people. I hope you have a nice holiday season.


    Comment by Marianne | December 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’d agree actually. No one has an angle on joy, Christian or otherwise. The September theory or Jesus birthday is fairly new, only about 1000 years old, and only recently (last 200 years) backed up by astronomical data. But you’re correct, September is good time to be out with the sheep, and actually a very good time for census, the agricultural labor is pretty much done, and the roads are still dry.

    I rarely attempt to complain about Christianity as a whole. I never experienced the whole of Christianity, I can just write about what was normal in by neck of the woods. “Christian Tradition” was very important. There was a lot of “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas” was not only a phrase, but something to live by during the winter months.

    My point was mostly that Christmas is a delightful, but very arbitrary holiday, if including Jesus in the holiday brings one joy and peace, go for it. If it doesn’t go for that. The purpose is being happy and joyous, not adhering to whatever set of traditions one might have grown up with.

    Comment by truthwalker | December 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hey, for most Christmas is a paid day off, or you get time and a half, if you have to work it. 🙂

    The food sounds good at your house. I might pay you a visit sometime.

    I understand the dreariness of “tradition” and “religion.” Jesus opposed it also, and got crucified for it. He was trying to establish a loving relationship with God and man, not organize a bunch of rituals, and rules.

    Comment by Marianne | December 28, 2008 | Reply

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