I was not introduced to the holiday of Christmas until I married my trophy wife, Glenda. I was fortunate enough to get a trophy wife on my first try. The force was with me. Needless to say, since I was already in my 20s, I couldn’t just accept that there was a holiday in which some overweight man in a red suit did all that breaking and entering and was never once caught — or at least defined as a “person of interest”. The TSA is not THAT bad. I believe that when he and his reindeer got over the Washington DC area, he would have been intercepted and shot down by F16s. They would have done this because answering to “Please identify yourself” with a “Ho, ho, ho” is not acceptable procedure. Further, could you imagine a Santa Clause having to clean up after all those deer? He might have had a number of subordinate clauses doing that task. So, I researched the topic. This is a paraphrasing (with a number of my own comments) of a video from the blog “Friendly Atheist” by Hermant Mehta.
Most Christmas traditions have nothing to do with the baby Jesus. Centuries before the Christ child was supposedly born, many people took evergreen trees into their homes for decorations in the month of December to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and, as a reminder of the green plants that would return with the resurgence of the sun god, and, to ask their various pagan gods for a bountiful harvest the following season. This practice continued in various forms throughout the ages.
The ancient Egyptians honored their god, “Ra” with palm leaves and evergreen trees. The Romans had a festival to Saturn, the father of all of the major gods of the Greeks and Romans. They called their festival Saturnalia.
The Christian tradition with the Christmas tree first appeared in Germany in the 16th Century. Christmas trees were seen as Pagan symbols in the United States until the 1840s.
Late December is when the sun ceased its movement to the South. So, the Winter Solstice was celebrated for the birth of the Sun (not Son). On June 26, 1870 Christmas was declared a national holiday in the US.
The exchanging of gifts goes back to the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, and this practice was actually banned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages because of its Pagan origins. Christmas carols were originally communal folk songs sung during celebrations of the harvest.
Mistletoe was considered a mysterious magical plant by the early Druids and Greeks. It was a symbol of life and fertility. In Scandinavia mistletoe was considered the “plant of peace” where enemies could declare a truce, and arguing spouses could kiss and make up.
Many decried the use of “Xmas” to mark the holiday. They clamor that we should put the “Christ back in to Christmas”. Actually, we did. The “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of the Greek word which translates as “Christ” – Xristos. So, those considering Xmas as a war on Christ are confused, trouble makers, or ignorant.
Speaking about being confused, The book of Luke has Mary and Joseph living in Galilee but Matthew has them living in Bethlehem. Matthew chapter 1 says that an angel appeared to Joseph to announce the upcoming birth, but Luke chapter 1 has the angel appearing to Mary.
The “three kings” that we hear about — In Matthew they were Magi (astronomers). Matthew 2:1-2 has them asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”. Luke has Jesus being visited by local shepherds – not astronomers. There is no mention of 3 kings anywhere in the Christian Bible.
The book of Matthew has 28 generations between David and Jesus. Luke lists 41 generations.
According to both Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born on or before 4 BCE during the reign of Herod the Great. But Luke said that the pregnant Mary had to go to Bethlehem to register for a census. That census is a historical fact which took place in 6 CE. Even if there were a census while Mary was pregnant, it would have taken place in the local tax district and would have required no travel by Joseph, Mary, or Jesus. Further, only the head of the household would have had to register. Mary and Jesus would have been out of the picture.
Matthew says that Jesus was born in a house. Luke says that he was born in a manger because there were no guest rooms available. After Jesus was born, Matthew says that the family immediately fled to Egypt where they stayed until the death of Herod. The book of Luke has Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returning almost immediately to Nazareth.
There is a problem here. No ancient historian or geographer says that a city called Nazareth even existed in 1st century Israel.
The contradictions in the New Testament go on and on. I can tell you for sure that maybe it makes more sense in Ancient Greek but it sure makes no sense in English. I will stop here but do want to point out that since, as the story is told, Jesus was born of Jewish parents in the Middle East, before the Jewish diaspora he most certainly WAS NOT WHITE.
I am a fan of Christmas. I enjoy the good feelings, the wishing of “happy holidays” to everyone, — or even an occasional “merry Xmas” or ‘merry Christmas”, the gifts, the hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, etc. I also continue to be amused when I realize that the Christmas Tree or the plastic Jesus is actually more real than the Jesus they represent.
So, what did I learn from all this? I do not believe that there is a man in a red suit that slides down everyone’s chimney. My suspicions are that the culprit is my wife, Glenda. I am still trying to figure out how she manages to clean up and get back in bed before I wake up. Last Christmas, I confronted her with my beliefs but all she said was, “Ho, ho, ho”. I did notice that she had milk and cookies on her breath.
Merry, merry Xmas. Let us resolve to be friendly, polite, and accepting all year around.