Jay in Cleveland kindly alerted me to the discussion of Christmas that has been ongoing at Gene Edward Veith’s blog (original post now gone into cyberspace oblivion). From that discussion I gathered that there are two camps among the Christians: one in which our Christmas traditions are believed to be primarily Christian in origin, and one in which our Christmas traditions are believed to be primarily pagan in origin.
There is a lot of controversy and strong feelings surrounding the debate, and I gather for the Christmas is Christian camp, the sore spot is that atheists and secularists are trying to take Christ out of Christmas and make it a purely secular or pagan holiday again. They are trying to take Christ out of every place He legitimately belongs, including His preeminent place in the founding and history of this country. That makes me sore, too.
For the Christmas is pagan camp, although they are chided by the Christmas is Christian camp for being ignorant of history, the issue is the history of Christmas and its pagan roots. Both camps have this in common: their goal is to give honor and glory to Jesus Christ. The Christmas is Christian camp desires to do so by restoring the original Christian and Christ-honoring meaning to all our Christmas traditions. The Christmas is pagan camp desires to do so by not tarnishing Jesus with such revolting pagan gods as Saturn.
I quoted Hislop in a previous post, where he explains the connection between Saturn and Nimrod. I did not realize that the Christmas is Christian camp is not a fan of Hislop because he apparently is not a fan of Constantine. I will take their word for it, because I skipped those chapters in his book. My interest in Hislop’s work is the origin of paganism in Babylon, not his denunciation of Constantine, or the conclusions he draws from the history of paganism in Babylon.
In fact, I read Hislop’s essays on the origin of paganism in Babylon last, after I had read Josephus and the other academic works on the early history of Nimrod and Babylon which I found. I did not immediately discard Hislop in his association of Nimrod with Saturn, because his scholarship was confirmed by the academics I had already read. It rang true, because it was not the first place I had encountered it.
As I was thinking of these things, and beginning my search for the book which exposed Hislop which Jay recommended, a question occurred to me:
In his Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Battle for Christmas,” historian Stephen Nissenbaum at the University of Massachusetts documents the American development of the holiday now ensconced in popular culture.
“In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement,” writes Nissenbaum, “most people did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, the holiday was systematically suppressed by Puritans during the colonial period and largely ignored by their descendants. It was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 (the fine was five shillings). Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Christmas gain legal recognition as an official public holiday in New England.”
Nissenbaum agrees with other historians that the first recorded observance since the New Testament recounted Christ’s birth took place hundreds of years after Jesus’ resurrection.
“It was only in the fourth century that the Church officially decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25. And this date was not chosen 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 Puritans did not get the idea from Hislop. I am truly interested in this topic, and am not in the least trying to antagonize anyone. I suspect that the real answer is that certain Christmas traditions are pagan in origin because of Christmas’ real pagan roots, and certain traditions are Christian in origin, because of its real Christian roots. But any light anyone can shed on this topic would be greatly appreciated!