Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Happy Winterval / Yule

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice.

And at this time there are the usual requests to remember the 'true meaning of Christmas'.

I suppose that to Christians this means the nativity story and the more general desire for a traditional Christmas, after all this is 'still a Christian country'. Traditional meaning to most people something like a scene from Dickens or if you prefer, a tin of Quality Street.

There is a tinge of xenophobia and racism in this of course. When people say a 'Christian country', there is also the implication of racism. There are no black or brown faces on the Quality Street to complicate the traditional Christmas.

And along with a bit of racism, this attitude shows quite a bit of ignorance.

There is no evidence I know of that specifically links the birth of Jesus to 25th December. But for many milena all cultures seem to have felt the need for a mid-Winter festival.

Maybe there was an early recognition of Seasonally Affected Disorder. But certainly in Western Europe, people have been marking mid-winter with festivals that involve feasting, giving presents and generally have a bit of a piss-up, since long before Christianity was on the scene.
Archaeologists are now of the opinion Stonehenge is aligned with the setting sun on the Winter solstice (and not the Summer solstice as neo-Druids seem to believe). The Ancient British had the festival of Samhain, and the Saxons and Vikings had Yule. It was the Romans, using Christianity as the ideological glue to hold together their rapidly disintegrating empire. who adopted the old festivals and 'Christianised' them. (They did exactly the same with Easter / Eosta).

So eat, drink , be merry and make a prat of yourself at the office party, it's what we've been doing for the previous six thousand years at least.


Anonymous said...

It is encouraging to see the churches making more of the Christmas ceasefire of 1914 when carol singing German soldiers were able to use Christmas to persaude British troops to joi them for a game of football between the trenches.

It is still a bit pathetic though that on the basis of a religion which purports to support peace, Christainity only managed a one day ceasefire in the whole of Worl War I. On Boxing Day it was business as usual.

Contrast that with the enormous achievement of the people who really ended the slaughter of World War I. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia stopped the fighting on the Eastern Front and their example encouraged a sailors' mutiny in the German Fleet in November 1918 which triggered off the take over of power in several German cities by Workers' Councils (Soviets would be the Russian word for them). Faced with losing control of their own army and country the German imperialists sued for peace.

Children in our schools rightly learn all about the Christmas Day ceasefire yet they grow up without any proper explanation of how the war ended. Its as if the Germans suddenly thought 'Let's stop this now and have hyper inflation instead.' Let's have a proper commenmoration of the people whose bravery and determination actually stopped the killing and the hopes for a better society that inspired them to do so.

Anonymous said...

Quick historical Question for the journeyman. You mention there being no evidence of jesus' birth on Dec the 25th. Do you know of any reliable documentation or evidence of anykind to suggest he existed at all. The Romans were great recorders of all sorts of information and do not mention the existance of any Jesus . Or am I wrong?

fellow traveller

journeyman said...

Fellow Traveller

I'm certainly not a scholar of this period but I know of no documentary evidence of Jesus - and as you say rightly the Roman imperial bureaucracy was nothing if not thorough.

Check out this site for more:

My real point is that I don't really care if the evidence shows that a bloke called Jesus lived at the time, even if he said some hippy like things and got himself killed for it. This still doesn't make him the son of God.

Actaully I am more interested if Robin Hood and King Arthur really existed - more interesting and arguably more evidence ...