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Christian and Pagan Concepts Converge on Christmas

December 12, 2010

It is on holidays (“holy” days) that we most obviously see how religious concepts and practices blend and overlap. Almost all Christians know there is no historical suggestion that Jesus was born on Dec. 25. And many have some realization that pagan religion influenced some aspects of common Western Christian celebrations, traditions or rituals. Yet it tends to escape them that there might well BE no early-winter (near solstice) celebration of Jesus’ birth apart from pagan influences.

One of the ways one religion can compete effectively with another (which Christianity had to do for most of its history of Mediterranean and European expansion) is usurp places and times of worship and celebration.

Do you think the creation of a special day to celebrate the birth of Jesus was a genuine (honest) and consistent move by Christians, around the 4th century? In its modern form, does it support the other aspects of Christian faith? Should it be considered a religious holiday or allowed to become a purely cultural one? (Part of this might mean dropping the silly fights over nativity scenes and minor trauma over when it’s o.k. to say “Christmas” and when one should say “holidays”!)

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