Tom Holland: the real reason why Christmas is today
The author and historian on how December 25th came to be the chosen date
Historian and author Tom Holland tells Freddie Sayers why, despite the conventional wisdom to the contrary, the date of December 25th was chosen for very Christian, theological reasons…
Cool explanation. I cannot remember the name of the Victorian/Edwardian writer who popularized the branding everything Christian as having a Pagan origin, but was much fallowed. Lots of wild writers in those times, Druidism basically invented with made up ceremonies and practices and beliefs. Paganism, magic, Wicca, all fleshed out from the writers pure imagination. The Romantic poets creating the mystic benevolent Pantheism, King Author and Chivalry all bound up into some British spiritualism where all and anything argued seemed possible, if written well and a few facts woven in. Fogs on moors, ruins of castles, silkies, fairies, hauntings, spiritualism and seances, tea-leaf reading, Gypsy mediums, Theosophy, and Stonehenge. Heady times.
But I never held with the way of linking all to religion merely a continuum rising from some past original. I am more a paradigm shift with some synchronicity. Christianity not building on Paganism, but merely using the same logical dates such as solstice because they are logical punctuation in the calendar.
Interesting interview. Wwat about the December 2004 posting “Biblical Evidence Shows Jesus Christ wasn’t born on Dec. 25” on the United Church of God website. The posting argues Christ was born in late September, and I note that some of the comments point to September 23 or September 29 as the birth date. What does Tom think the actual birthdate of Christ was, independent of the unhistorical reasoning he claims the early Christians used to determine it was December 25?
Chicken and egg, isn’t it? Does practice result from dogma, or does dogma rationalise practice? Why is it ‘vastly more plausible’ that calendrical symmetry pre-exists the appropriation of an existing institution than vice versa? I’m not convinced that there are two distinct ‘soles invicti’, one identified with Mithras, the other not. It’s relatively late cult, officially recognised by Aurelian in 274CE, and what more natural than that his birthday should fall on the first day when the reversal of the sunrise’s southern travel becomes apparent, rather as the moon is ‘reborn’ on the third day? After all, Christianity has form in the appropriation of previously sacred sites – hills, springs etc.
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