“A Brief History of Christmas” is an excellent opinion piece by John Steele Gordon in today’s Wall Street Journal*. Steele efficiently outlines how Christmas as we know it is a relatively recent development.
All of the holidays celebrated by today’s religions are astrological in origin, as organized religions sought to squelch humans living in harmony with universal cycles. Steele explains the difference between the “moveable” religious holidays such as Easter, “moving about the calendar at the whim of the Moon”, vs. the late arrival of the “fixed” holiday of Christmas to the Christian calendar. (Easter is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox when the Sun enters Aries – the astrological New Year.) As Steele points out, the origins of Christmas stem from the celebration of the Winter Solstice, when the Sun enters Capricorn. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, who for the Romans took time out from being the taskmaster to party (Saturnalia). Steele writes: “In an effort of the burgeoning Christian church to attract more converts, Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the church calendar and decided to celebrate it on Dec. 25. It was, frankly, a marketing ploy with a little political savvy thrown in.”
Despite the Church’s enormous power and influence, Christmas was still a time of bawdy revelry during the Middle Ages. Dec. 25 was an ordinary working day for many in the early American colonies. It was actually the late 19th century merchants who pushed Christmas, which President Grant declared a civil holiday in 1870. Protestant churches began celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. “The reason, again, had more to do with marketing than theology: They were afraid of losing congregants to other Christmas-celebrating denominations.”
So to all those Christians who want to take Christmas back to its true origins, I say Celebrate the Solstice!
* Unfortunately the article is only available to online subscribers – so much for Murdoch saying he’s going to make it free. At the very least print subscribers like myself should be give online access – UGH!
Related Post: “The Winter Solstice” (12/16/07) under Cycles in the DIRECTORY.