Why the 25th December? Undoubtedly there came a point whereby Christianity had grown in terms of support and influence within the core of the Roman empire; the powers of the early Church appreciated the strategic imperative to promote and grow rituals and symbolism as a means to deliver continued growth and authority. It was the apparatus of the Roman Empire, the trade and political routes, which were used to deliver and project the message, ensuring that the early years were greatly influenced by the existing beliefs and practices of a largely Pagan Europe.
Paganism, in its various forms, is the ancestral religion of all humanity. In every part of the world ancient cultures have variations within a Pagan theme related by reverence to nature either directly or in personification. Prior to the rise of Christianity even the great and technologically advanced empire of Rome was dominated by a Pagan faith. Pagan festivals remain largely based upon seasons and natural events, easily recognisable and “intuitive” by their nature. As such it is easy to appreciate why the celebration of winter solstice for example were popular and culturally entrenched.
Similarly, once Christianity had become established and enjoyed the political support of Europe’s monarchs, there were various attempts to suppress religious freedom and especially so the practices and rituals of Paganism. However it became clear that whilst open worship might be readily oppressed, and the that the enlightenment of the new faith would hold attraction and intellectual satisfaction too, it was not as easy to remove the psychology and affection people held to a faith held by families and tribes over many many generations.hierarchical structure?
It was significant strategic victory when the Church decided to adopt the dates of established pagan festivals and supplant them with their own (and appropriately themed) key events. Christmas would occur when Pagans were celebrating birth of a new year, Easter when the giving of new life was marked, and Lammas to be supplanted by ubiquitous Harvest Festival.
For the sincere of Faith this will not diminish the story, or the message of the nativity. It had to happen some day, and in the absence of any historical verification why not 25th December. But to suggest there is a deeper cultural or moral significance attached to this date in is false, it is of value only to Christians to the majority it is only a day of rest and if fortunate merriment. We don’t want to see the banning of nativity plays but they are for most joyful event and not in anyway an enterprise for entryism. Who would not be moved by messages of hope and salvation; this is central to the ambition of humanism too – it is not a “Christmas” message.
Christmas in 21st Century is a cultural event comprising a mash up of Nordic mythology, paganism, Judeo-Christianity and commercial promotion. We should just stop pretence it is anything other, and just enjoy. Whilst we remain some way from the ideal of a secular society, it remains the case that Faith continues to hold political influence way beyond it’s true holding and representation, there is authentic argument to challenge the absurdity and hypocrisy of Christmas.
There is legitimacy to celebrate the passing of mid winter as our ancestors did but the continued pretence of a public spiritually investment is wholly false – and justifies every charge of hypocrisy. We would be better of caring for vulnerable, and doing good deeds all year round….and at Yule/Christmas/Hanukkah just having fun.