Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas vs Hannukah vs Solstice vs Saturnalia vs, well you get the idea

I've known a few atheists and pagans over the years. Many of them have been better Christians than some of my acquaintances that profess to be Christian. Some of the Christian's I've known would be better described as atheists. Neither group seems qualified to lay sole claim, or take complete blame for good or evil deeds. Is Christmas a stolen holiday? Yes, it is. But no group alive today can lay claim to its creation or its theft. The solstice has been celebrated (in both joy and fear) since before recorded history, probably back to the first time that one of the brighter cavemen realized that the days were getting shorter as it got colder. He might have said "Gee, that never happened before. I'd better do something." He might have worked out a simple ritual to bring back the sun, and after a few days (let's say three just for the sake of argument since that's the timespan between the solstice and the modern Christmas day) he noticed the sun was, indeed, returning. The ritual became an annual event and was embellished every year and copied by others. Over the years, each group took bits and pieces from those around them and wove a new celebration that fits in with their hopes for the future, their needs for the present, and their regrets from the past. Soon, religion was born. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, religious intolerance reared its ugly head when someone decided that they had to enforce their beliefs on everyone else. We'll never know if this was done because of a desire for power, or out of concern for the fate in the afterlife of those who were deemed "wrong". Either way, we'll never know how the holiday and the intolerance started. It's also quite possible that we'll never know how to truly celebrate the former until we can eliminate the latter. I don't know about you, but I'll continue to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Hannukah, or Happy Solstice, or even IO Saturnalia to my friends during the holidays.


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