Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Should Be Delayed

I think Christmas should be delayed until sometime in the last 2 weeks of February.

The time of the year we celebrate Christmas, especially from a Christian point of view, is arbitrary at best. We know that Jesus was most likely not born on December 25. We know that we don't really know when Jesus was born.

So, why do we celebrate His birth on December 25? December 21 is the Winter Solstice. December 25 is the Winter Solstice on the Julian calendar. The Winter Solstice was a holiday in pagan religions celebrated around the world, including the Roman Empire. I think December 25 was also Mithras' birthday. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire a few Christian things were combined with pagan things. Christmas was one of those things. (So was Easter. More on that in a further post.)

I am writing the blog post well in advance. There aren't too many lights out right now, but soon there will be. The lights. The decorations. They give one a morale boost in the dreary winter. As summer dies a long death and gives way to winter, the days get shorter, the temperature falls, leaves change colour and fall off the trees. The next thing you know the sky spews for ice and snow. For the next several months that's all we have to look forward to until Spring comes around.

Not all is lost. We have Christmas to look forward to. We take a week, or two, and spend time with family. The lights help offset the effects of SAD. Then Christmas is over. Then we have one week before the biggest party of the year, New Year's Eve. After that we have January, February, and maybe March, depending on your climate. In those months there's not much to look forward to. Nothing to celebrate, except maybe Easter. Easter may come in April. We also don't make a huge deal over Easter. Not like we do with Christmas.

If we moved Christmas to the end of February, then we'd have it to look forward to all through the winter. We could put up the lights and decorations in December, or maybe right after New Year's Day. It would really offset the dreariness of the long, cold winter. Then, once Christmas was over and done with we'd have Spring to look forward to.

There are a few other changes I'd like to make to Christmas. We could do away with the materialism of it all. We're killing the planet with our consumerism. We could trade the pagan tree in for, say, a manger.

To be clear, my main point of moving Christmas is essentially to have the pretty lights for longer, making winter easier to get through, not for Christians to take back Christmas, although I wouldn't be opposed to that.

1 comment:

CNaphan said...

Christmas is not Jesus' birthday - it's the feast day of the Nativity. It is not meant to coincide with his actual birthday anymore than January 6th coincides with the actual Epiphany, February 2nd with his Presentation in the temple, March 25th with the Annunciation, April with his Passion, August 6th with his Transfiguration, etc...

The Church certainly has the authority to legislate the various dates of the Christian calendar and to re-organize it if it seems good and proper to do so, and it has on several occasions, and may do so in the near future, as well, in order to synchronize the date of Easter between the Eastern and Western Churches.

The problem with adjusting the calendar to accommodate regional dissimilitudes is that what is considered seasonal in one region could be the opposite in another. In the Mediterranean world, the effects of SAD are not as noticable, as I believe that closer to the equator, the amount of sunlight does not change so dramatically as in the Northern hemisphere. Likewise, in Australia, Africa and South America, they get their cooler, darker weather in the summer months. It is only really in Canada that February is considered to be still the heart of winter. In most countries, March is considered a spring month.

Regarding its pagan origins, one must understand that pagan holidays, like Saturnalia, were not essentially religious, but agricultural. The winter solstice will always be a good time to celebrate because it occurs after the autumn harvest but before the new spring work. In short, there isn't much to do, and there's plenty of extra food and drink. And much like our era, the people would probably celebrate in that season whether they were pagan or Christian or atheist. The Church is quite wise to place its holidays on the ruins of the old pagan celebrations, both to stamp out the lingering embers of polytheism and to incorporate all the good things associated with that time (which, like I said, were not essentially religious but agricultural).