How Pagan is Christmas, really?
Also, Christmas memes and Jesus appears in the Northern Territory
It’s Christmas Eve! And this will likely be the last edition of Modern Relics for 2021. Sorry for the delay in publishing again - my Christmas with my partner’s family got cancelled for COVID reasons so last night instead of polishing this off I went out to get some supplies to celebrate at home instead.
Here is a Christmas roundup. I’m squeezing a lot of stuff in here so the email will almost certainly cut off! Probably best to just click the title of this post and read the whole thing on the website. But first…
Is Christmas pagan?
Every Christmas and Easter there’s always a flurry of posts claiming these Christian holy days have been appropriated from earlier Pagan festivals. These claims are particularly popular with extremely online New Atheists, although I’m not 100% sure why it’s so important to them.
Even if it could be proven that Christmas is actually a Christianised version of the Sol Invictus festival, does that impact Christian doctrine? Most modern Christians don’t believe Jesus was born on the 25th of December anyway. Maybe these folks are simply justifying their own participation in a Christian festival.
This time around the posts I’ve seen have come from Courtney Heard, who goes by @godless_mom on Twitter. These kinds of posts attract a bit of aggro (I mean, they’re designed to) and when The Pillar wrote about this phenomenon they called people who post this sort of thing “tedious atheists” lol.
But I don’t think everyone who raises this is doing so in bad faith - this “Bible accurate Christmas” video from the YouTube channel hochelaga matter-of-factly claims Christmas was engineered to coincide with the Roman festival of Saturnalia. It’s got more of a “fun fact” vibe rather than a “dunking on Christians” vibe.
I think it’s an interesting and not all that outlandish idea - Christians have (and still do!) make Christian versions of heaps of other stuff. I mean, heard of the Christian music industry lol? In fact, some Christians have chosen to embrace it.
Last week I wrote about “religion communication”, and this is a good example of a religion-focussed topic that’s complex and sometimes emotionally charged. One of the best religion communicators I know is Andrew Mark Henry from Religion For Breakfast (who I suport on Patreon). He tackled this question with the most comprehensive video I have ever seen on the topic. The video is 50 minutes long, so not as digestable as his usual stuff, but it’s a great summary of the latest scholarship about Sol Invictus and early Christianity.
If you don’t have 50 minutes to watch, I will spoil it for you. Is Christmas just a rebranded Pagan festival?
Almost certainly not, and in fact Sol Invictus may have only become widespread after Christians began marking Christmas on the 25th. It’s likely both holidays coincide because of the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice - so not a coincidence per se, but also nobody’s copying anyone’s homework in this case.
Here’s another post:
Santa says everyone is naughty
You’ve probably seen this already but I love it so much I’m posting it anyway.
Jesus comes to the NT for Christmas
Everyone knows I grew up in Darwin, yeah? So reader Luke posted these in the Discord from the Northern Territory’s NT News.
(You are more than welcome to join the Discord!)
News Corp’s material is usually behind a paywall, so hopefully typing this out doesn’t get me in trouble:
THERE was something lurking in the night sky over an outback NT town on Saturday, and it has taken the internet by storm. A photo taken in Laramba, 200km west of Alice Springs, shows a Jesus-like figure illuminated in the night sky. The photo appears to have been taken at a Christian community event. It wouldn’t be the first time Jesus has seemingly turned up in everyday life, but believers were quick to hail the sighting as an early Christmas miracle.
Many social media users simply commented “amen”, while other wrote “praise God” on the viral post, which has been shared hundreds of times across Facebook. Some were more suspicious of the supposed sighting, with one user commenting, “It’s the bloody moonlight”.
Another user, also skeptical, asked, “Why would Jesus want to go to the Northern Territory?”
The NT is also famous for UFO sightings:
“What is stopping YOUR nativity scene from looking like this?”
Which way, Western man
Don’t forget I wrote about the invention of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos a few months ago.
Swedish Christmas goat torched again
There’s a giant Swedish goat that is routinely set on fire despite “vast quantities of flame retardant” and the best efforts of authorities. Since 1966, the goat has been “torched or otherwise destroyed” at least 35 times.
The goat has survived the last five years, but this year it went up in flames once more.
Two assailants — one dressed as Santa Claus and one as a gingerbread man — set it on fire with bows and burning arrows in 2005.
The culprits were never caught.
It has also been run over by cars, set ablaze by fireworks and simply smashed with clubs.
There are some good photos of the charred remains of the wooden goat. Click through to the article.
Mariah Carey is Episcopalian
Jesus, le tits now!
Ok one more!
Why can’t I hold all these Christmas posts!
Red cabbage snowflakes (very beautiful)