Until recently, many people have taken it for granted that Christmas celebrations have their origin in the birth of Jesus – which is literally true of course, given the word ‘Christmas’. And it’s still commonplace to hear people bemoaning the fact that commercial interests have obscured the real meaning of Christmas.
In fact, it’s all complete nonsense. The birth of Christ was not celebrated at all for about 300 years. Then the Roman emperor Constantine, recently converted to Christianity, had the astute idea of tacking the celebration of Christ’s birth onto the much earlier pagan midwinter festival of Saturnalia. There is no clear evidence in the scriptures that Christ was born in December and some biblical scholars think early autumn is the most likely time of his birth.
So whenever someone moans about how we’ve lost sight of the real meaning of Christmas, try telling them that it was an orgy of drunkenness to ward off the midwinter blues. Not so very different from now, in fact.
Happy Christmas everyone!