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Author Topic: Christmas is an anti-christian holiday
Seatarsprayan
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Christmas is an anti-christian holiday

(This is a little essay I wrote and posted to my blog. Thought it might be interesting to the folks at hatrack.)

Most people donít know the history of the holidays we call Christmas, and most people disagree on either what it means today or what it should mean.

I didnít misspeak, I said ďthe holidays we call ChristmasĒ because weíre really dealing with two holidays on the same day, and both are a jumble of various traditions, some religious, some secular. Of the religious traditions, some are Catholic and some are Pagan.

To start with: no on in the 1st century celebrated the birth of Christ at all. Christians met every first day of the week to remember his death, but his birth was a historical, not memorial, event. It was not something they paid special attention to remember year after year.

In fact, the earliest written account of the idea of celebrating Christís birth is around the year 245, by the writer Origen, who denounced the concept. He said, ďof all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below.Ē

Evidently Origen believed that it was wrong to celebrate oneís own birthday. That doesnít make it wrong, because what he said isnít scripture. But it does shed light on what people thought about celebrating birthdays back then.

So by 245ish, despite opposition by leading theologians of the time, people had at least thought about celebrating the birth of Christ as a feast day. And of course this is 200 years after the church began, and during that time it had already departed from the teachings that Jesus and the apostles laid down, in many, many ways.

Now the next question is this: why December 25?

The Bible of course does not record the date of Jesusí birth, nor do any early writings. So people started to speculate.

Basically, they began to just take a guess about when they thought it could have happened.

Clement of Alexandria was in favor of May 20, others argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. Hippolytus liked January 2. Others went for November 17, November 20.

Eventually December 25 is chosen, and a big part of that was because it was already a day celebrated by pagan sun worshippers.

Thatís right, December 25 is the Winter Solstice under the Julian calendar, and thatís when the pagans celebrated their sun gods. One such festival was Sol Invictus. A slightly earlier one was the festival of Saturnalia. The area of Persia celebrated Mithra.

The idea is that they could more easily convert pagans to ďChristianityĒ if they didnít have to give up their holidays. Just change the sun to God and there you go.

And in case you donít know, the ďyuleĒ in ďyuletide cheerĒ comes from the ancient pagan festival named Yule.

The word Christmas itself comes from ďChristís massĒ because it was a Catholic holiday. You sometimes see it abbreviated Xmas, thatís because the X looks like the Greek letter CHI which was the first letter in Christ.

When was Jesus really born? We have no idea. We can speculate it was more likely the springtime since the shepherds were out and about, and I donít think they really did that in the dead of winter. But we donít know, because it really isnít important.

To sum up:

1. Christians arenít commanded to celebrate Jesus birth
2. We donít know when it is anyway
3. The ones who started the whole thing did so because of apostasy and paganism

Itís easy to conclude then, that christians (by the Bible definition of the term) should not celebrate December 25 as any kind of a religious observance. That means no special worship services, no special collections, no nativity displays. (By the way the nativity displays are both idolatry as well as completely inaccurate).

We ought not to decorate our houses with religious symbols like crosses and pictures of angels. (And by the way, thatís also idolatry and most likely inaccurate, because angels didnít look like what everyone things they do, but thatís another lesson.)

So, it seems obvious that we just shouldnít celebrate Christmas, right?

Well, first I want to talk about the other Christmas.

See, thereís another holiday called Christmas, which is when people give gifts and celebrate family and such. It should be obvious that things like Santa Claus, toys, candy canes, indoor trees, magical talking snowmen, and the like have nothing, and I mean nothing to do with even the apostatized celebration of Jesusí birth.

This Christmas is a completely secular holiday, celebrated by many people regardless of their religious beliefs.

The American Santa Claus is loosely inspired by the real-life Byzantine Saint Nicholas, who gave gifts to the poor, and Father Christmas, the original British version of the gift giver. The elements such as flying reindeer come from Germanic folklore and pagan religious elements.

It was the mid 1800ís that Santa Claus was really invented. Though a few elements come from religion, on the whole he is a completely secular figure. Elves, gingerbread men, north pole, candy canes, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees, tinsel, etc, all of these things are purely secular and have nothing to do with the religious holiday except that they occur on the same day.

So the question is: if a christian cannot celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, can we still celebrate the secular holiday?

In other words, is there anything wrong with having a tree and giving gifts?

Thatís where liberty comes in. I may say that I know that having a tree and giving presents is not lending any credence to false religion. And therefore I can partake in that.

But my liberty ends if it causes someone else to stumble (1 Corinthians 6). If someone is confused about this, and believe me, having two holidays with the same name on the same day canít help but be extremely confusing, then I might cause them to stumble by my actions.

On the other hand, while we should be absolutely willing to give up whatever is necessary to keep others from stumbling, we also have a duty to educate them so they can have the same knowledge and not stumble because they have a fuller understanding.

In my family we always celebrated Christmas as just a secular holiday. We had a tree and opened presents. I personally donít have a problem continuing to do this in my family now, provided that I am not harming anyone else.

I have a few more things to talk about before I close. One is that I said the Christmas with Santa Claus and the Christmas thatís supposed to celebrate Jesusí birth are 2 separate traditions, and that is true, but many donít understand that.

Some celebrate the religious holiday but not the secular: these are the ďletís all remember the true meaning of ChristmasĒ folks. They consider the religious holiday real and the secular one to be an imposition, even though our study of history has shown there is no ďtrueĒ meaning of Christmas because itís mishmash of traditions and beliefs from many different cultures and it changed and grew over the years.

Some people celebrate the secular holiday but not the religious one, either because they donít believe in Jesus or because they do, but they donít believe in the Catholic/Pagan traditions observed on Christmas.

But many celebrate both and thatís where it gets confusing.

In fact, itís gotten so confused, that I have read that some Latin American countries, primarily Catholic, such as Venezuela, actually teach that Santa Claus makes the toys but gives them to the Baby Jesus to deliver.

So remember, just because you might understand about Christmas, doesnít mean everyone does. Letís all take care in how you present your celebrations to others.

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rivka
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quote:
Eventually December 25 is chosen, and a big part of that was because it was already a day celebrated by pagan sun worshippers.
It is likely that the date of the Jewish winter holiday had at least as much to do with it.
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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Seatarsprayan:
Christmas is an anti-christian holiday


In fact, itís gotten so confused, that I have read that some Latin American countries, primarily Catholic, such as Venezuela, actually teach that Santa Claus makes the toys but gives them to the Baby Jesus to deliver.


This was "actually" taught by the commercial interests down in Latin America. Santa Claus was all but unknown in many of those countries until the late 1950s. The celebrations primarily focused on the Nativity story.

Then a big commercial push throughout the 60s and 70s added Santa to the celebration...not because of "confusion", but because the businesses wanted to make more money. [Razz]

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BlackBlade
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The idea of celebrating an important event anually would hardly have been foreign to all the early Christians. Passover, though not a birthday, ironically it could be aptly labeled a death day, is celebrated every year. Easter is also celebrated for similar reasons.

I don't know why people are so eager to point out that the Catholic church elected to create a day of celebration on the 25th of December to commemorate Christ's birth, knowing that placing the date there would make pagans more comfortable in their conversion process.

As for Santa Claus representing the secular, that is wrong. Santa is merely a variation on the word Saint. And Claus is a Germanic name, "Klause" or Nicholas in English. My father in law from Germany is named Klause. Saint Klause was simply one of the patron saints, though not officially canonised. Tradition has it that he liked to give gifts secretly and so he became the influence for the later development of the Santa Clause character.

Certainly few people today really think of Santa Clause as a Catholic Saint, even though we may call him, "Saint Nick" from time to time.

For me the manner in which the holiday came about are less important then the ideas the holiday is designed to commemorate.

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MEC
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quote:
To sum up:

1. Christians arenít commanded to celebrate Jesus birth
2. We donít know when it is anyway
3. The ones who started the whole thing did so because of apostasy and paganism

Itís easy to conclude then, that christians (by the Bible definition of the term) should not celebrate December 25 as any kind of a religious observance. That means no special worship services, no special collections, no nativity displays. (By the way the nativity displays are both idolatry as well as completely inaccurate).

It may be "easy" to conclude that Christians shouldn't celebrate Dec. 25, but it's defiantly not logical.

Just because Christians are not commanded to celebrate it, doesn't mean they're commanded not too.

Second, the fact that we don't know the date of birth makes changing the date of celebration a pointless hassle.

Also, your third point is an incorrect explanation, it assumes what the motivations were for choosing to celebrate, and excludes any other possible motivations.

I would also like to hear why you believe a nativity scene is idolatry.

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Phanto
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It may not be the most religious day, it may not be a celebration that adheres to the utmost principles of religious dictate. But who cares?

Merry christmas [Smile]

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0Megabyte
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Meh. I don't even care anymore. It's a fun holiday, and I'm not going to let anyone ruin my fun tomorrow, got it? [Big Grin]

Merry Christmas.

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Shawshank
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I think it's good to have a time dedicated to remember the moment when my God became incarnate. But that's just me.
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Lyrhawn
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Dude, you left out a couple hundred years of how Christians ACTUALLY celebrated Christmas. I don't know how all of Europe did it, my knowledge is mostly related to how America got its traditions, but I know in Britain anyway, Christmas was a giant party. It was a day the poor could go into the homes of the rich, it was a party, a feast, and often a drunken mess. I think that's why for a long time it was outlawed in some places. When it came to America, a lot of those traditions were transplanted, though after the Revolutionary War Christmas fell largely out of favor as being a British holiday.

All the lamentation you hear over how Christmas has been "ruined" recently is a sham. Complaints are commercialization have been around for 200 years, and complaints of it not being a true celebration of Christ have been around for probably more like 400-500 years. What a lot of people complaint hat Christmas SHOULD be, it either never was, or hasn't been for a long, long, long time.

Still, I'm of the opinion that people should celebrate the holidays for whatever reason they hold dear to them.

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Synesthesia
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Have a candy cane.
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Shawshank
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Why worry about Santa Claus?

Don't you know- he's in Hell

Isn't that right guys?

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ketchupqueen
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That's Satan Claws.
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Shawshank
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Orson Scott Card says Santa is in hell!
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Danzig
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Nice essay, although I too would like to know why you think nativity scenes are idolatry.

Personally I celebrate Christmas as more of a time to see my family, especially extended family, than anything else. I am no longer a Christian, or really even religious or spiritual in most senses of the words, so I don't care about the religious parts. Nor do I really care about the secular parts that much; New Year's is probably the best holiday to party on. Christmas is just a convenient excuse to visit people you care about but haven't seen in a while. My brother and I do get our parents something every year, but our gift to each other is to not make the other go shopping for one more thing. Our parents spend way too much on us, but they like to do it and they're our parents.

I did get dragged to church for the first time in at least two years tonight. I spend the night at my parents' every Christmas Eve, and they wanted to go to the evening service. I didn't really want to go, and they probably wouldn't have tried to make me, but I figured my mom would like it if I went and anyway I didn't want to stay at the house alone either. It wasn't too bad; lots of nice traditional carols which I liked and actually joined in with the singing, not that much talking, and a candle-lighting ceremony. I did not take communion or bow my head and close my eyes during the prayers, but my parents do respect my right to my own beliefs (or lack thereof). I will not take any effort next year to juggle my schedule for church, but if it works out the same way it did this year I suppose I will go. They haven't said anything about the beer I am drinking right now, so I guess we're even. (I am of legal drinking age.)

I don't like a lot of the crap that goes with Christmas, but all in all I do like the holiday.

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katharina
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There are a million cultural and human things that Christians do that aren't dictated by the religion - everything from brushing our teeth to celebrating the Fourth of July.

You can be human in addition to being Christian.

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Icarus
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Interesting how for you "Catholic" equals "bad."

-o-

Santa Claus is not a traditional Latino belief. That explains why you found some muddled version of it. The traditional Latino celebration is January 6th, el DŪa de los Reyes Magos.

-o-

I [Roll Eyes] at your whole sermon. I'm pretty sure trying to convert me to Jehovah's Witnesses violates the site's TOS.

[ December 25, 2007, 02:10 PM: Message edited by: Icarus ]

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Elizabeth
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It is basically a time (not necessarily December 25th) which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. If the Christians jumped on that bandwagon to incorporate those with more "pagan" beliefs, so what? I find it fascinating how the holiday has absorbed so much ancient tradition.

Just go with the metaphor. Christ himself loved a good metaphor, and I am sure he would have approved of being seen as the metaphoric light on the branches of a darkly beautiful tree, or as te luminescent glow in a luminaria.

Who says commercial marketing started in the 20th century?

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Kwea
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That post was a combination of poor research and obvious bias.


Merry Christmas anyway, though. [Wink]

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Kama
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Katie gets the best answer to this thread award.
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advice for robots
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Christmas is what it is to everyone who celebrates it now, regardless of the details of its origins. To me, it's an opportunity to celebrate the gift of Christ to the world, and commemorate his life and works. It doesn't matter to me when he was born, or who first started celebrating it. What matters is that he came.

Christmas is also a time to be with those I love and to renew efforts to be of service to those around me.

You're kind of looking beyond the mark when you try to prove what Christmas is and what it means with a bunch of obscure details. Those just don't matter that much.

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Tara
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Well I'm quite happy to celebrate any pagan holiday. [Smile] Pagans are awesome. They make so much more sense to me than Christians....
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stihl1
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I love it when non-christians tell christians what they should or shouldn't do as a christian.

I also love it when people try to throw out the whole "christmas was a pagan holiday first" card. It may have been, but so what? Just like many other pagan things, christians overtook it and used it to convert pagans already celebrating at those times, to blend in with pagans to avoid persecution, and have managed to turn these things into christian holidays so that people can't not think about christianity when faced with these holidays. So what? I'm pretty happy about that.

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Scott R
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You know what's really wrong with Christmas?

The fact that 2350 doesn't update while everyone's on Christmas break.

Also, I blame Christmas for sakeriver being down.

Bah. Humbug.

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Seatarsprayan
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quote:
Nice essay, although I too would like to know why you think nativity scenes are idolatry.
I dunno, something about the whole "thou shalt not make a graven image" thing. Of course, that commandment is mysteriously left out of the Catholic version of the 10 commandments... ;-)

quote:
Just because Christians are not commanded to celebrate it, doesn't mean they're commanded not too.
Well my essay was originally written for people that don't share that point of view about biblical authority. I knew most people would agree more with you than the idea that for religious observances there *should* be a command, example, necessary inference, or expediency. But I thought I'd post it anyway just for the fun of it.

Sorry I didn't reply to anybody, I was busy celebrating Christmas. The secular version of course.

quote:
I'm pretty sure trying to convert me to Jehovah's Witnesses violates the site's TOS.
Not trying to convert, and certainly not to that religion, since I believe most of their teachings are anti-biblical...

Hope everyone had a fun holiday. My daughter got me a T-shirt from Dr. McNinja. Ninjas can't catch you if you're on fire.

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FlyingCow
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I'm actually curious, as a recovered Catholic myself, why you think that the Catholic "version" of the ten commandments doesn't cover idol worship?

Also, when you say "graven image" - exactly what does this cover? One would have to worship something in order for it to become a graven image, no? As far as I know, no one worships the nativity scene. (Though, I could be wrong in that)

If the nativity scene is considered idols, then I'd imagine the crucifix would be, too. As would any religious statuary of any kind, or even non-religious statuary/decoration.

I always thought that commandment was in the "don't make up something to worship instead of me" sort of vein - rather than the "don't make an image of anything" vein.

YMMV, of course, but being an agnostic/atheist now, I'm a bit out of touch with my Irish Catholic roots.

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Seatarsprayan
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When I read the Catholic 10 commandments, they omit the second commandment "thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image" and break the 10th commandment into the 9th and 10th: 9: "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" 10: "or anything else either."

Plus, the statues they have, the relics, all that stuff. Crucifixes too.

Don't worry, I know it's a minority view. Just having fun with it, not expecting to convince anyone. I'd come up with actual arguments for that, if that's what I was going for.

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0Megabyte
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Reading the actual part of the Bible where the Ten Commandments is located, I've noticed that they aren't bullet-pointed or anything, and in fact can be interpreted by, well, splitting them up into slightly different sets of ten, such as what you claim the Catholic Church did. (of course, since the Catholic version was around most likely before your version, considering the Catholic Church was around first, wouldn't it be more proper to say that you guys changed the commandments, not u- er, them?)
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Orincoro
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Seatersprayan- I mostly object to the narrow view assumed in your thesis, that modern Christianity is somehow NOT evolved from pagan religions from the 1st millennium AD. Most of modern christianity is a mix of greek philosophy, pagan cults, and jewish theology. Christianity comes from the early christians, pagans who treated Jesus in much the same way they treated their other gods... it was not all at once a monotheistic worldview.

So why do people think that somehow early christians were wildly different from other pagans? It's just silly. Why do we rewrite out history to make it appear as if Christianity started out this way? Remarkable how we can observe a belief system evolving, and at the same time claim that it is always the nearest path to truth.

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dkw
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In the Catholic division of Exodus 20 into ten, the prohibition against idols is included in #1.

The Jewish numbering is also different than the typical protestant numbering. One might even conclude that there are more than 10 directives included, and it's how they're lumped together to get 10 that makes the difference, not any difference in content.

And Seatarsprayan, your tone is getting pretty close to crossing the TOS line about disparaging another religion.

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FlyingCow
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I'm still curious, though, Sea.

quote:
Plus, the statues they have, the relics, all that stuff. Crucifixes too.
You say the statues "they" have. Does this mean that just statues made for religious purposes are graven images, or do you mean any statues?

Would a statue, of, say, Abraham Lincoln be considered a graven image, in your interpretation? Or would the Statue of Liberty?

Does it have to be an image associated with a religion to be a graven image - or does any likeness of human or animal fall under that umbrella?

What about the image of the bald eagle, or the "all seeing eye" pyramid on the US dollar? Are those graven images under your definition?

It's a curiosity of mine.

I know that the Protestant Reformation rebelled against the existing crucifixes, stained glass, statuary, etc. I know that Islamic art also has strict restrictions about what can be used in any art - religious or otherwise.

As for the statement of division of commandments, there was no omission - just a different numbering system, as megabyte and dkw state above.

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Philosofickle
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As a missionary I heard that all the time (especially when we ran into Jehovah's Witnesses) but my response to that is another question.

Do you have the writings of Paul in your bible?
Do you believe what Paul has to say?
Do you think that Paul was a good person?

We all know that Paul started out as Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pagan, he persecuted Christians, in essence he was an evil, bad, nasty person. Then God spoke to him and he became Paul one of Christianity's greatest champions.

So it is with Christmas. It might have Pagan roots, but so did Paul. It's all about what it means and represents to all of us today.

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Seatarsprayan
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quote:
And Seatarsprayan, your tone is getting pretty close to crossing the TOS line about disparaging another religion.
I apologize.
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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
(By the way the nativity displays are both idolatry as well as completely inaccurate).
Iconodule! Or was it iconoclast? Bah, I can't remember. [Wink]

I actually had a rather large, sometimes heated discussion with my family after our Christmas Eve service (which featured the 3 wisemen) about how having the three wisemen at the nativity kind of undermined the whole point of the wisemen. But that's a long spiel which I won't elaborate on unless asked. [Smile]

For the most part I agree with the overall point of your essay and actually came to somewhat the conclusion this holiday. Everyone was talking about the "spirit of Christmas", and as far as I can tell this "spirit of Christmas" is, in fact, commercialism. Jesus wasn't born on this day, and I should celebrate his existence every day. So if Dec. 25th is for commercialism, so be it! I don't really enjoy commercialism, but it does make the holiday feel less like a betrayal and more like just another day to have some fun.

On this same sort of issue, I don't like it at all when my church celebrates Memorial Day and July 4th. I love those days (mostly) and would be fine with a church sponsored picnic, but dedicating a whole service to "patriotic" junk really annoyed me. Showing clips of American soldiers and tanks shooting and seeing people applaud what amounts to death (in theory at least) really made me sick. Yes, this isn't exactly pertaining to the topic, and this is really just a small bit of my rantings on the deficiencies of the American evangelical church (which I am part of, by the way), but I wanted to vent. Have a nice day and a happy new year [Razz]

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Scott R
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Paul wasn't a pagan. He was Jewish.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's all about what it means and represents to all of us today...
Honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham!
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DevilDreamt
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
The idea of celebrating an important event anually would hardly have been foreign to all the early Christians. Passover, though not a birthday, ironically it could be aptly labeled a death day, is celebrated every year. Easter is also celebrated for similar reasons.

Easter, however, is much cooler than Christmas, by far. A quick wiki or etymology search for the word Easter may or may not prove enlightening. As far as "stealing holidays" or "celebrating pagan beliefs" is concerned, Easter is much closer in my mind, seeing as how they kept the name and everything.

Don't get me wrong on this. It makes me happy to see how much beliefs change, how much people change, and yet the old ways remain. Easter especially, since the old festival was in celebration of spring, and the egg was a symbol of rebirth. The rebirth theme is still there (Jesus rising from the dead). They were close enough, and the Easter festival was enjoyable enough, that rather then getting rid of it, it just shifted a little.

I don't see a problem with this. Things change. It's important to appreciate how things are now, but also how things were.

The strange thing to me is that, for most people, knowing that the holiday (any holiday) meant something different in the past is an interesting bit of information, but nothing more. And yet I hear about it every year, and it's never as profound as the speaker intends it to be.

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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
It's all about what it means and represents to all of us today...
Honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham!
You'd better believe it. We've got ours in the fridge.
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Scott R
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We had country ham for Christmas. I've never been a really big fan of it-- too salty. I eat it because I'm Southern and it's Expected. [Smile] The ham we had this year was delicious, though. It was a welcome reprieve from the turkey-- which, although it was good, was...turkey. I just had turkey, like a month ago.
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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by DevilDreamt:
And yet I hear about it every year, and it's never as profound as the speaker intends it to be.

That's right about 99.99% of what people say. [Big Grin]
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Elizabeth
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
It's all about what it means and represents to all of us today...
Honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham!
Heretic!
Anyone knows a Christmas dinner is all about the roast beef.

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FlyingCow
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We usually have a ham or turkey - but this year we went with pot roast.
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ElJay
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We fondue.
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Megan
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This year, it was prime rib, and it was fantastic.
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Dagonee
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quote:
I know it's a minority view. Just having fun with it
It's good to know that spreading disinformation about others' beliefs is "fun" to you.
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Dan_raven
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Pagans one and all.

Christmas dinner is defined in the gospel of "Grinch" must consist of "Rare" and I must strive that this means red on the inside, but seared on the outside, "roast Beast", not beef, ham, turkey or tofu.


Tofu--shudders.

And I repeat an early thread/statement. Christmas is all about advertising Christianity to the Non-Christians. Come on, they have a cute baby, jingles that even use the word jingle, a jolly fat salesman who must be crazy because he's giving it all away, elves, candy, and presents.

I'm waiting for the man at the church door to whisper as we enter, "Isn't Christianity fun? Muslims don't have spiral ham on their holidays, they don't eat anything. Join Christianity today and we'll throw in Easter, with its chocolate eggs and peeps, at no extra cost."

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MrSquicky
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quote:
Honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham!
No, not ham you fat *^&%!

Christmas is about something much more important.

Presents.

Don't you see, Tom? Presents.

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FlyingCow
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[ROFL] classic.
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Sala
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ElJay, my family fondues too! I have never heard of another family that does that. It's our yearly tradition, the only time the fondue pots come out.
~Sala

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AltŠriŽl of Dorthonion
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
I know it's a minority view. Just having fun with it
It's good to know that spreading disinformation about others' beliefs is "fun" to you.
As someone raised Catholic, with a family of devout Catholics, I second this.
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AltŠriŽl of Dorthonion
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
Honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham!
No, not ham you fat *^&%!

Christmas is about something much more important.

Presents.

Don't you see, Tom? Presents.

Yup. Presents=Christmas. [Big Grin]
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