Book of Face: Ch. 5, Verses 21-26
“Christmas, Yuletide, & Festivus”
It’s Santa’s Birthday!
Well it’s that time of year again. The time for the giving of gifts, the raising of the tree, spending time with those we love, eggnog, feats of strength and the airing of grievances.
Let’s take a look shall we.
Well some might say it’s the birthday of Jesus.
You see, a little over two thousand years ago a baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem. This was kind of a big deal. This little baby would go on to do miraculous things, like changing water into wine, walking on water (walking on wine perhaps), healing the lepers, and raising the dead (himself included). That’s a pretty impressive repertoire if you ask me. Oh, and did I mention his mom was a virgin! Pretty spectacular. Sounds like a reason to party!
In fact the ancient Egyptians used to party for a very similar reason.
The birthday of Horus.
Did you know that Horus was the son of Rah (the sun), just like Jesus was the son/sun of God. And he was born at Christmas time too. And you won’t believe this, but his mom was a virgin to!
Dionysus of the Greeks – Born Dec. 25, from a virgin!
Zoroaster of Mesopotamia – Born Dec. 25, virgin birth!
Krishna of India – you guessed it, the same!
And the most amazing thing, they all walked on water, healed the sick and blind, loved wine, were tempted by the devil, and were called “Savior!” You might say that they are all one Hero with a Thousand Faces.
There’s an ongoing relationship between these dates and the sun (and the sun’s son). Like the Roman festival of Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.”
So it’s seeming a little to me like there is a common theme here, and it pre-dates Jesus.
But the question remains, why are we hauling trees into our homes, handing out gifts, and who is this Santa guy anyway?
I don’t recall Jesus chopping down coniferous trees and hanging plastic trinkets on it. And this Santa fellow isn’t even mentioned in the bible!
So where does this come from?
Well first off remember that coniferous trees grow in northern climates, ie: northern Europe. They don’t grow in the climates of the middle east. So in all likely hood Jesus, or the early members of the christian church, had never seen one, let alone hauled one into their homes.
So who’s idea was it?
In northern Europe, during the time of the Roman empire, there were peoples know “affectionately” as “Pagans” (or Heathens). This peoples had a long history of a celebration knows as Yuletide (in English, the name is actually Germanic). During this festival the Pagans would haul a Yule log into their homes as part of the winter solstice festival. The winter solstice is when northern hemisphere of the Earth is tilted furthest away from the sun, making it the shortest day of the year. It’s the coldest and darkest time of the year. It sounds kind of scary. I think I’m gonna hide out indoors with my family and drink till the days get longer. And if we’re gonna be trapped indoors we might as well brighten the place up a bit and put a tree in the living room, it’ll help freshen the air (think about the body odour that builds up with having your whole family hanging out together for 12 days with no indoor plumbing). Also tensions might get a little short being cooped up with all these people, “oh look what I made for you, it’s a carved wooden toy!” (feel better don’t you, family crisis averted).
As for the dude breaking into my home once a year and eating all my cookies, the character of Santa Claus has many parallels to the Norse god Odin. With his white beard and floppy hat, and he had a habit of riding across the sky during the Yuletide on his eight legged horse (eight reindeer on Santa’s sleigh, Eight legs on Odin’s horse) as part of the “wild hunt.” There is also the story of Saint Nicolas, a Christian missionary, likely from Spain, who came north and passed out presents to the Germanic peoples. Why? Maybe he was just a nice guy, maybe he was trying to convert the heathens, maybe both. But he did look a little like Odin…
So how did all these varied elements come together on Christmas day?
Well as the Roman Empire expanded, and with it the Roman Catholic church, they came upon many different indigenous peoples. They had to find ways to gain control of their lands and incorporate them into the empire. How do you make people with totally different belief systems follow your rule? Easy, you make them think they’ve been believing the same thing all along.
“Hello there savages, my name is Conquerius Mundus. Did you know that your celebration of the Yuletide is the same as our Christmas time? You’ve been celebrating Jesus’ birthday all this time without even knowing it. Oh and here’s a gift for you, would you like to join our empire? (Disclaimer: if you do not join we will be forced to destroy you and your culture due to the fact that you are heathens and not believers in the one true faith. Sorry but them’s the rules, God and Caesar said so.)”
And so the various tribes and their belief systems were rolled into the beliefs of the empire and it’s church.
But this isn’t new, this is how empires function and how cultures and belief systems adapt and change over time. It’s happened time and again.
“Wow Vincent,” you’re thinking, “that’s a pretty depressing view on Christmas. You’re kind of killing the whole Christmas spirit thing, thanks, jerk.”
Wait! Just wait, I’m coming to the best part.
So I’ve basically shot holes through the idea that “Christmas” is a purely christian holiday. But the question remains…
Why are all these people from all these different places celebrating essentially the same thing at pretty much the same time?
I mean once you stop focusing on differing names, and slight differences in how you celebrate it, it’s essentially the same thing. And it goes way back. Back to the beginning of civilization (maybe even before that).
And there’s the rub.
The differences are superficial.
All our differences are superficial.
Race, colour, creed, the whole works.
There’s something innate in our being that is saying, “Love one another, share these days with those you love.”
Who gives a damn what you call it!? It’s there and it’s real, and we’re all a part of it.
So on these days when the night is long and the world is cold, let us share the warmth that we find within.
Warm the hearts of our fellow inhabitants of this world.
Share the warmth.
Share the love.
May your Solstice be filled with light.
May your Yuletide be filled with peace.
May your Pancha Ganapati be filled with harmony.
May your Yalda be filled with friendship.
May you Kwanzaa be filled with unity.
May your Soyal be filled with respect.
May your Saturnalia be superb.
May your Christmas be merry.
May your Hanukkah be happy.
And most of all may your Heart be filled with Love and Joy.
Happy Holidays! (Whatever you may choose to call them.)