For most of the Free World, Christmas is a holiday season celebrated more for its shopping, overeating and gift giving than the actual religious significance it once contained.
The season is represented by silver and gold adorned trees, as well as colorful twinkling lights spilling over homes, churches and businesses.
Family and friends exchange gifts, kiss under mistletoe, burn Yule logs and yet, sadly, most people have no idea where the Christmas holiday traditions come from, but they swear that it is all about Jesus.
The Christmas holiday as we know it is really an aggregation of a bunch of mythology and customs that were actually around before the birth of Jesus. And, the actual birth of Jesus has been placed somewhere around September.
And, while some Christians may not want to hear it, even the story of a god’s rebirth into a new being predates Jesus.
December 25th as a commemorative date was a Roman celebration of Saturn, who was the rebirth of the Sun God. According to the Romans, the Sun God was resurrected three days after his death. This resurrection caused the Romans to celebrate with gift giving and processions of celebration featuring priests carrying wreaths of Evergreen boughs.
So, how did the pagan traditions become merged with Christian traditions?
If we take a look at the history of the Roman Catholic Church, we see that the church repeatedly absorbed the traditions of as many groups as possible in order to increase its dominion.
We know that Martin Luther initiated the Reformation in 1517 and when the pagans came into the Christian church, they brought their pagan celebration of Christmas with them.
In 1611, when King James made his version of the Bible available to all people in England, other versions also became conspicuous and the roots of Christmas were revealed
Jeremiah 10:2-4 states: “Thus saith the Lord, learn not the
way of the heathen; and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven. For the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain. For one cutteth a tree out of the forest. The work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold. They fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not.”
Eventually, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed as witchcraft.
However, as other versions of the Bible kept creeping up, so did the celebration of Christmas. The goal was to keep as many people under the Christian umbrella as possible, and allowing them to hold on to their traditions was a good way to continue the “Reformation.”
The very word “Christmas” combines “Christ” and “Mass.”
“Mass” literally means death and the ritual of Mass, once incorporated into Christianity referred to the death of Christ and the “Host,” which is Latin for victim.
As for the actual Christmas tree, the Germans used the Evergreen tree to worship the Yule God. Sound familiar? Of course-Yuletide greetings…Yule logs…”Yuletide carols being sung by the choir…” The Germans also had a tradition of giving gifts as a part of the Yule celebration.
A Winter Solstice celebration, Yule was Christianized as Christmas and imbued with the birth of Jesus story. The Romans incorporated this and a number of other pagan celebrations starting when Constantine recreated, rewrote and consolidated Christianity and the Bible in 432 AD.
And finally, the German Yule celebration included hanging mistletoe and holly. How “Christian” are these symbols? Let’s see…going back to the Sun God, worshippers believed that the white berries on the mistletoe represented the Sun God’s semen, while the red holly was held by witches to represent the menstrual blood of heaven’s queen, Diana.
There are also other fertility references, including the evergreen tree, which was regarded as a symbol of the essence of life and was used as a phallic symbol in the rituals of fertility worship.
Of course, since many Christians never really read the Bible or study history, I will be seen as evil and a hater of Christians, which is okay, because those who will label me as such are stupid anyway.
But, let’s take a look at who believes in God.
According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, ten per cent of Protestants, twenty-one per cent of Roman Catholics and fifty-two per cent of Jews do not believe in God. Surprised? Well, there’s more that may also shock you.
Eighty-four per cent of women believe in God, while only seventy-three per cent of men do.
In terms of education and faith, eighty-two per cent of those with no college education believe in God, while only seventy-three per cent of those who went to college have faith.
Eighty-seven per cent of Republicans believe, while seventy-eight per cent of Democrats and seventy-five per cent of Independents have faith.
When it comes to race, guess who has the greatest faith? African Americans lead the faithful at ninety-one per cent, while eighty-one per cent of Hispanics and only seventy-eight per cent of whites have faith.
That brings us back to the holiday season. Many people do not believe in God and yet they celebrate Christmas. Still, others believe in God, but do not believe in Jesus Christ and yet, they too, celebrate Christmas.
The season has come to symbolize much more than the Christian holiday it originally was designed to be. It is now a season-a season of love and giving, a season of understanding and a season of peace and kindness.
Such a powerful season should have a powerful impact on people, particularly men and women who claim to love and believe in Jesus Christ, who, incidentally, was not a Christian.
I’ll deal with that in depth next week.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles this Spring and will be running throughout 2011. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org.