Monday, December 23, 2013

HNN: "Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?"

Here. A taste:
Now, this tiring “Christmas is a pagan holiday” stuff goes around every year, but most of the assertions that accompany it (like kissing under the mistletoe is a druidic fertility ritual) are never backed up by historical evidence: we’re just never informed where these assertions come from. This is because the historical evidence for non-Greco-Roman pre-Christian European religions is scant indeed. What we have been able to piece together comes mainly from the following: ....


jimmiraybob said...

From The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum:

“It was only in the fourth century that the early Church officially decided to observe Christmas on December 25. And this date was chosen not for religious reasons but simply because it happened to mark the approximate arrival of the winter solstice, an event that was celebrated long before the advent of Christianity. The Puritans were correct when they pointed out – and they pointed it out often – that Christmas was nothing but a pagan festival covered with a Christian veneer. The reverend Increase Mather of Boston, for example, accurately observed in 1687 that the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so ‘thinking that Christ was born in that month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at the time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones].’”(2)

1) The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum (1997) @

Stephen Nissenbaum is professor emeritus at UMass Amherst in the Department of History.

2) Testimony against Several Profane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New-England, by Increase Mather (1687).

JMS said...

Thanks jimmyraybob - I too like Nissenbaum's book on Christmas.

But the best concise explanation on the web for the origins (emphasis on the plural)and dating of Christmas come from Andrew McGowan (President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Australia) at:


jimmiraybob said...

Thanks JMS,

Consider it read.