Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia what's the deal? Parts 4-IV & 5-V

The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus.
December 04, 2008 02:34 PM EST (Updated: December 30, 2008 03:02 PM EST)
views: 341 | comments: 18
The following is a continuation of my Winter Holiday Essay Series: "Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?"

For earlier Posts here is the links:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? (Part 4 - IV) The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus of Nazareth is probably one of the widest known birthday accounts in the modern era. What presumably happened in this account is a Woman named Mary and Her husband named Joseph were said to be expecting a child, except it wasnÂ’t their actual child. Mary had never known a man in the bounds of sexual desire. She was still a Virgin, instead Mary was visited by Angels and told she would be having the Son of God the Messiah that had been prophesied to come for centuries. The bible states that on the night of the birth, three magi or wise men followed a star in the east to a little town called Bethlehem and to the manger where Jesus was. AngelÂ’s appeared in the fields where SheppardÂ’s were watching their flocks by night. Everyone should know the story by now. No matter if it is a literal account of true events or a fictional narrative told to people to convey some sort of message --- this story has stuck with us and has became the foundation for all of Modern Christianity.

Today millions of people around the world celebrate December 25th as the day Jesus was born. ItÂ’s a day of giving, rejoicing, merriment, and thankfulness. Of course there might be a problem with this date, Jesus might not have been born in December at all. One of the most widely used reasons for this, is the bible passage talking about SheppardÂ’s being in their fields by night. By December the fields would have been barren and unproductive.

“The normal practice was to keep the flocks in the fields from Spring to Autumn. Also, winter would likely be an especially difficult time for pregnant Mary to travel the long distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem (70 miles).

"A more probable time would be late September, the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when such travel was commonly accepted. Thus, it is rather commonly believed (though not certain) that Jesus' birth was around the last of September. The conception of Christ, however, may have taken place in late December of the previous year. Our Christmas celebration may well be recognized as an honored observation of the incarnation of 'the Word made flesh' (John 1:14).

Â…The probability is that this mighty angel, leading the heavenly host in their praises, was Michael the archangel; this occasion was later commemorated by the early church as Michaelmas ('Michael sent'), on September 29, the same as the date of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It would have at least been appropriate for Christ to have been born on such a date, for it was at His birth that 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us' (John 1:14).

This would mean, then, that His conception took place in late December. Thus, it might well be that when we today celebrate Christ's birth at what we call Christmas (i.e., 'Christ sent'), we are actually celebrating His miraculous conception, the time when the Father sent the Son into the world, in the virgin's womb. This darkest time of the year--the time of the pagan Saturnalia, and the time when the sun (the physical 'light of the world') is at its greatest distance from the Holy Land--would surely be an appropriate time for God to send the spiritual 'light of the world' into the world as the 'Savior, which is Christ the Lord' (Luke 2:11)" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible (notes for Luke 2:8,13)].” (Source: ChristianAnswers.Net. )

Also, the earliest account we have of Christmas time being celebrated by Christians didnÂ’t happen until around the 6th century C.E. according to the Catholic encyclopedia.

Early Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as Part of Epiphany (Jan. 6th) although this feast focused on the baptism of Jesus. Christmas was promoted in the Christian East as part of the revival of Catholicism following the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced to Constantinople in 379, and to Antioch in about 380. The feast disappeared after Gregory of Nazianzus resigned as bishop in 381, although it was reintroduced by John Chrysostom in about 400.

The Twelve Days of Christmas end on January 5. December 26 is St. Stephen's Day and January 6 is Feast of Epiphany This period encompasses the major feasts surrounding the birth of Christ. In the Latin Rite, one week after Christmas Day, January 1, has traditionally been the celebration the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Christ, but since Vatican II, this feast has been celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. (Wikipedia)

Pope Julius I finally chose December 25th to host the feast day of the Nativity, in attempt to make the holy day universal. Up until then different groups celebrated the birth at different times and this was an attempt to unify the early Christians. It has been speculated as well that this date was chose so that the new Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus would be used to replace earlier Roman Pagan Feast days. (see previous posts:here andhere)

“The original significance of December 25 is that it was a well-known festival day celebrating the annual return of the sun. December 21 is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year and thus a key date on the calendar), and December 25 is the first day that ancients could clearly note that the days were definitely getting longer and the sunlight was returning.

So, why was December 25 chosen to remember Jesus Christ's birth with a mass (or Communion supper)? Since no one knows the day of his birth, the Roman Catholic Church felt free to chose this date. The Church wished to replace the pagan festival with a Christian holy day (holiday). The psychology was that is easier to take away an unholy (but traditional) festival from the population, when you can replace it with a good one. Otherwise, the Church would have left a void where there was a long-standing tradition, and risked producing a discontented population and a rapid return to the old ways.” (Source: ChristianAnswers.Net.)

Look for future articles in this Winter holiday Series from now until the new year. IÂ’m thinking about doing one on why the early Puritans did not celebrate Christmas at all because of the Pagan iconography and symbolism inherent in the holiday. And also one about the Winter holidayÂ’s in Modern times. How People observe Christmas and Yule today.

For more information on the Nativity try out these links:


Wikipedia Nativity of Jesus

NewAdvent.Org - Catholic Encyclopedia

Wikipedia Christmas

Also, for more information on Christmas, check your local Listings for the history Channel: for the Special “Christmas Unwrapped: The History Of Christmas” Link.

Thank you.


by Paul R
Member since:
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 5 - V)
December 15, 2008 02:49 PM EST (Updated: December 30, 2008 03:01 PM EST)
views: 170 | comments: 11
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? - (Part 5 - V)


This is part five in my Winter holiday essay series, part six if you count my brief article on some of the Origins of Santa Claus.

Here Are Links To My Previous Entries:

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal?

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 2 - II )

Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)

The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus. - Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 4 - IV)

Here are some other articles that readers who enjoy this series may find interesting as well:

Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)

Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas....

In the last official essay in this series we discussed the birth of Jesus and the feast of the Nativity. We discussed that The Roman Catholic Church and a Roman Emperor moved the celebrations to December 25th in attempt to overshadow previous Pagan festivities that took place this time of year. This went on without a hitch for many centuries, around twelve centuries until the 1600s and the Puritan era.

Can you believe there was a time in our Modern History that after there was a day rededicated for the birth of Christ, that that day was actually looked down upon and even outlawed? You CanÂ’t? Well there was. There was about a 200 year span of time when no one hardly celebrated ChristmasÂ…and it was by choice.

In an effort to stamp out the influences of the Catholic and Anglican Churches, when Oliver Cromwell and his band of Puritan reformers saw the Pagan influences of the holiday and they also wished to end the old traditions of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Cromwell wishes to rid England of the excess and the decadence and part of their efforts was to get Christmas in England canceled. (1)

Meanwhile in America the Pilgrims were even more orthodox than their Puritan brethren still in England, and they not only simply chose not to celebrate Christmas but it was actually outlawed, and anyone found to have celebrated the holiday would be fined.

“The Puritans who immigrated to Massachusetts to build a new life had several reason for disliking Christmas. First of all, it reminded them of the Church of England and the old-world customs, which they were trying to escape. Second, they didn't consider the holiday a truly religious day. December 25th wasn't selected as the birth date of Christ until several centuries after his death. Third, the holiday celebration usually included drinking, feasting, and playing games - all things which the Puritans frowned upon. One such tradition, "wassailing" occasionally turned violent.

The older custom entailed people of a lower economic class visiting wealthier community members and begging, or demanding, food and drink in return for toasts to their hosts' health. If a host refused, there was the threat of retribution. Although rare, there were cases of wassailing in early New England. Fourth, the British had been applying pressure on the Puritans for a while to conform to English customs. The ban was probably as much a political choice as it was a religious one for many.” (2) – As Quoted From: Source.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor all together, this of course included Christmas. (1) It wasn’t until the Victorian Era that the traditions of Christmas became popular again in America, It started to become celebrated in England again when Charles II was restored to the throne, and the American’s ( Some of whom grew up in the Colonies and the new fledgling country – and never knew a Christmas celebration) became curious about these celebrations that were occurring across the “pond.” Christmas did not become a federally recognized holiday in America until the 1870s. (1)

Sources – References: (1) – The history Channel’s History Of Christmas Mini site.

(2) - Once upon a Time when Christmas Was Banned. From The Massachusetts Travel Journal.

Here are some other links to check out: Colonial Christmas - Women.About.Com

History Of Christmas *dot* com.

Also, if you are interested check out the History Channel’s Special “Christmas: Unwrapped” the first showing of the season should be on tonight on the History Channel at 11PM Eastern Time. Check your local listings for times in your area and also for encore.

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