Exploring the History Of Holiday Practices
Rivan Harter's Dec. 28 letter about the "holiday" versus "Christmas" parade stated: "Christmas is a Christian holiday. You can't change that, so let's not try to be politically correct to accommodate or soothe the feelings of anyone!"
Christmas was not originally a Christian holiday. It was a pagan holiday long before Christ's birth. Pagans weren't atheists. They believed in gods, rules for behavior and other elements that make up various religions.
Their holiday of Saturnalia was co-opted by the early Christian church to convert pagans. One concession to win the pagans over was to allow the festival of Saturnalia to continue, including drinking and naked singing in the streets (origin of our present-day carolers).
Remnants of this marriage of Christ's birth to a popular but sexually deviant pagan holiday remained in the church until the 18th and 19th centuries.
Some of the most depraved customs of Saturnalia were intentionally revived by the Catholic church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of the Romans, forced Jews to race naked through the streets.
In addition, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the streets to jeers of the crowd. In 1836 the Jewish community of Rome petitioned Pope Gregory XVI, but he refused any restrictions on the festival.
Ironically, the Puritan Americans banned Christmas from 1659-1681 because of its pagan roots.
When someone wishes me "happy holidays," I take it for what it is -- wishes for all the good things of the season, family times, giving and receiving, loving and being loved. I, for one, am glad we horned in on that pagan holiday, and I don't begrudge anyone else doing the same. Happy holidays, y'all!
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