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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Putting the Yule in Yuletide

Todd Preston's essay in Sott C. Lowe's Christmas anthology is entitled "Putting the 'Yule' Back in 'Yuletide'." This, of course, makes fun of the injunction to "Put Christ Back in Christmas." Preston replies, bit caustically, "First, given the sheer number of plastic nativity scenes, religious Christmas carols, and rebroadcasts of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ over the past three months, Christ seems to be very much in evidence this time of year. More to the point, if this directive signals a desire to return to a more 'authentic celebration of Christmas, the key should not be in promoting the Christian aspect, but on balancing the Christian and non-Christian elements of the holiday."

Preston then does a fine job of explicating the history of Christmas as a feast day and holiday celebration, especially in the English-speaking world.

4 comments:

Shockwave Plasma said...

Why dont we then put the Sol Invictus back into Solstice?

MosesZD said...

Well, if Christians are going to win the war on Christmas they need get away from plastic Santas and get back to basics. As we know, the origins of our modern Christmas have borrowed liberally from Saturnalia.

I think we should go back to those Roman days and have our authorities chose 'an enemy of the people' to represent the 'Lord of Misrule.'

Each community would select a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, the authorities could 'destroy the forces of darkness' by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

Now, I know many Christians would object pointing out it was a pagan holiday. But no fear, the holiday was imported in the 4th Century and had a long, and wide, tradition of acceptance in Christianity. As Dr. Nissenbaum, a professor history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote, "In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc."

All of this, of course, was forgiven and there were no legal consequences to those who indulged in this holiday. You could, literally, kill and rape your way across Rome and nobody could punish you in the courts. (Though they could slit your throat.)

What could be better but a traditional Christmas observance? A week of drinking, raping, singing naked in the streets and all "forgiven" by Jesus...

J. J. Ramsey said...

"At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, the authorities could 'destroy the forces of darkness' by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman."

"You could, literally, kill and rape your way across Rome and nobody could punish you in the courts."

Citations please? I have a hard time believing that the Romans would have allowed everyday denizens to go about killing and raping without punishment, since it would be very bad for public order and lead to some horrible messes after the holiday was over.

I noticed that you did cite Dr. Nissenbaum as the source of a quote, but not for the rest of the claims. It also does not help that the book or article from which the quote came was not mentioned.

Dimitri said...

Yes, it does tend to get rather annoying when it becomes almost a shunning of anything non-Christian in Christmas. Although I am an Evangelical Christian, I find it frankly dumb to go around like "how has God blessed you this Christmas" attitudes. In fact throwing Santa in the trash isn't the solution. It's not idolizing the presents and Santa. Key word, idolize.