Letter of the Day | Let us still be thankful for Christmas
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Regarding Dr Garth Rattray’s ‘Yule Train’ article published in The Gleaner yesterday, he summed up the range of emotions about Yuletide very well.
So it seems that by the tone of his poem, he’s not aboard the Yule Train.
But his observation is accurate, that: “Some people ignore and even bash the season because it began as a pagan holiday but was hijacked by Christendom as a convenience in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus (the Christ)”.
To begin with, none of the Gospels give the date for Jesus’ birthday.
It was the early church fathers in the West, and the church fathers in the East, who in later centuries, after Jesus’ birth, decreed that December 25 was Jesus’ birthday. But even then, the Eastern Church made it January 6 when Jesus was born.
However, church history shows that December 25 replaced the pagan Roman festival of Sol Invictus (unconquered sun). So Jesus now becomes the Christians’ all-conquering Sun (Son) rising with healing in his wings, according to Old Testament biblical prophecy.
Furthermore, Sol Invictus was a mid-winter festival which fell just after the winter solstice (December 21), after which the days were now becoming longer.
This mid-winter festival or winter solstice occurred during the feast of Saturnalia which honoured Saturn, the god of sowing and reaping. This feast began December 17 and ran through to the start of January. During this festival, gifts were exchanged and parties took place.
So, yes, Christmas has its roots in Roman pagan times, and these festivals were carried over into northern European and other cultures. So, for instance, in Anglo–Saxon culture, the mid-winter festival associated with Sol Invictus during the 11th century became Cristes Maesse (Christmas), or Yuletide.
So, although there are these dubious associations and mythological elements surrounding Christmas, let us still eat, drink, be merry, and be thankful that we’re still alive; and that we have family and friends around us during this season.
GEORGE S. GARWOOD