Friday, 16 December 2011

Have a Salacious Saturnalia!


Those cunning secularists, perverting the “reason for the season”!  We hear the same complaints every year, from Fox News to the Vatican, that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas," about the "War against Christmas" (TM) --  about the "widespread revolt" against "Christian values” and “Christian symbols” –about the prevalence of "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" greetings…

Here's what I say to those complainers:  Get a life.  Learn some history. And try a Christmas joke:

Q: "What's the difference between God and Santa Claus?"
A: "There is no God."

Ha ha ha.  The harsh fact is, customers, Christ was never even in Christmas --except in fiction and by order of the first Popes.

None of the four gospels gives any notion of what time of year (let alone in what year) the supposed Nativity occurred. Only two gospels mention the virginity of Mary and only one has any mention of a "manger" [i.e., a trough]. Nowhere is there any record of a "stable." Wise men and shepherds are likewise very unevenly distributed throughout the discrepant accounts. So that the placement of a creche surrounded by a motley crew of humans and animals has no more Scriptural warrant than does The Life of Brian. Moreover, the erection of this exhibit near the turn of the year is actually a placation of the old Norse gods of the winter solstice - or "Yule" as the pre-Christians sometimes called it.
    I myself [
says Christopher Hitchens] repose no faith in any man-made text or made-man redeemer, so when it's Christmas I say "Merry Christmas" with a clear conscience, as I respect Ramadan and Passover, and also because "Happy Holidays" is so thin and insipid. I don't mind if Christians honor the moment by displaying, and singing about, reindeer (a hard species to find in the greater Jerusalem/Bethlehem area). Same for the pine and fir trees that also don't grow in Palestine. I wish everybody joy of it.

And so do I. I just wish the Christians would leave off bashing us over the head with their myth—and their values.

Jesus wasn't even born in December, let alone at Christmas time: he was born in July* -- which makes him a cancer**.  Just like religion.

And God doesn’t even like Christmas trees, for Chrissake!

Historians themselves know the "reason for the season," and it's not because of anything that happened away in a stable at a time of a non-existent census.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury knows the truth, conceding a couple of Christmasses ago that the Christmas story and the Three Wise Men - the whole Nativity thing itself --  is all just "a legend."

And I like myths and legends. I’m even happier when we remember they’re stories, not historical accounts.

imageFact is, 'Christmas' itself was originally not even a Christian festival at all.  The celebration we now all enjoy was originally the lusty pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, the festival that eventually became the Roman Saturnalia (right). This time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) is when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen.  This was a time of the year for optimism.  The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important up in Lapland, the pagan home of the Norsemen where all-day darkness was the winter rule), and food stocks would soon be replenished.

All this was something worth celebrating with enthusiasm, with gusto and with plenty of food and drink and pleasures of the flesh -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or two about that sort of celebration!  They celebrated a truly Salacious Saturnalia.


One popular celebration involved having a chap put on the horns and skin of the dead animal being roasted in the fire (worn with the fur side inside and the blood-red side outside ), and giving out gifts of food to revellers.  This guy represented Satan, and the revellers celebrated beating him back for another year by making him a figure of fun (I swear, I'm not making this up).  Observant readers will spot that the gift-giving and the fur-lined red outfit (and even the name, almost) are still with us in the form of Santa.  So Happy Satanmas, Santa!


SUCH WERE THE celebrations of the past.  But the Dark Age Christian do-gooders didn’t like the pagan revels.  Instead of bacchanalia, these ghouls of the graveyard wanted instead to talk about suffering and their sores, and to spread the misery of their religion worldwide; instead of throwing themselves into such lewd and lusty revels, they thought everyone should be sitting at home mortifying their flesh  – and  very soon they hit upon a solution: first they stole the festivals, and then they sanitised them.  Instead of lusty revels with Satan and mistletoe, we got insipid nonsense around a manger along with Magi, stars and shepherds dreamed up almost out of whole cloth.  (Just think, the first 'Grinch' who stole Christmas was really a Pope!)

So given this actual history, it's somewhat churlish of today's sanitised saints of sobriety to be complaining now about history reasserting itself and folk claiming Christmas back for their revels.

BECAUSE THE VERY BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan, thank Odin. The mistletoe, the trees, and the presents; the drinking and eating and all the red-blooded celebrations; the gift-giving, the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan. Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:

“The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
    “The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

And so say all of us.  I wish you all, wherever you are a  Cool Yule, a Salacious Saturnalia, and a very Happy Christmas.

And while I’ll be posting occasionally between now and next year, I’ll see you back here again to give it the full press in the New Year.

Be as good as you can be while I’m gone.***

PS: Here’s some related Hot Facts from the Hot Facts Girl. Concentrate as well as you can…

* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More on that here.

** "A cancer. Like religion." Think that's harsh? You should try Landover Baptist's Bible Quizzes. Or Sam Harris's 'Atheist Manifesto.' Ouch! [Hat tip for both, good old Stephen Hicks] And, I confess, I pinched the quip from Australian comedy team The Doug Anthony All Stars.

*** Panic not, I won’t be away long.  I’ll be posting occasionally over the summer break, and be back for good around the second week in January. Or so.  Enjoy your holidays. I will be.


  1. Christian LIbz16 Dec 2011, 12:14:00

    You have called recently to like-minded people to form a party of freedom lovers to replace ACT/Libz/Conservative?

    And what you do? Mocking Christianity? You better just to sit in your lonely corner and take pot shots at others who truly love to bring freedom to the population in a new Party.

    As I said before PC, you don't fit any other party except the pathetic Libz. Don't bother to join any new movement since you're a poison.

  2. @"Christian" Libz: Has anyone ever expained to you the concept of separating Church and State?

    Or the etiquette of providing some sort of argument, even a threadbare one, to back up your complaints?


    Then perhaps I could recommend both to you.

    And merry christmas.

  3. Separation of Church and State my friend doesn't mean keeping the Church out of the state it means keeping the State out of the Church.

    As it is every Advent as part of the empty noise, which is the distinguishing feature of the season, we get people like you trying to convince themselves there is nothing in it.

  4. Axial tilt is the Reason for the Season

  5. @Andrei: You said "Separation of Church and State my friend doesn't mean keeping the Church out of the state."

    Yes, you really said that.

    Can I suggest someone point you to a definition of "separation"?

    Quite soon, would be good.

  6. Ah, the traditional Cresswell Christmas Rant. Thank you, Peter. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without an atheist pontificating about Christians usurping a holiday that no-one still celebrates while criticizing those same Christians for complaining about the secularization of Christmas. It's all so wonderfully circular.

    Oh, BTW, Andrei is right. The separation of church and state was place in the US constitution to protect the church from the state. Apparently no-one at the time envisaged people crazy enough to image a government that ignored the moral teachings of the church or one that would think it could take the place of God.

  7. It's his blog, he can say what he likes on it. If you don't like it, don't read it.

  8. You're right, macdoctor.

    I get all my moral guidance from an absent father, a bastard and some dude who impregnanted another bloke's fiance.

  9. hahahha

    If things are so bad PC, you can take solace in the fact that the Christian based Conservative party scored 30x more votes than your irrelevant Libz

    You may hate God but He loves you and He has a great sense of humour.......

    And arguments about the timing of Xmas are pathetic. We celebrate Queens birthday on a date different from her actual birthday. And Christ existed, he was a real person, but was he the Son of God?
    There's the rub......


  10. Have a very merry Christmas PC and season's greetings to all your readers :)

  11. Hi PC, the majority of people in recorded history have had, and continue to have a belief in either religion, the supernatural or an afterlife.

    What does Darwinism / Evolution say about this? It seems that the evolutionary process, through Natural Selection, has led to these widespread beliefs amongst various peoples of the earth.

    I.e., it seems these beliefs are a natural consequence of the evolutionary process in humans.

    Do you agrees with this? Or do you see it as a temporary state of affairs? Or what.

    I wonder if religious belief is hard-wired in many people.

  12. @Lee

    I think Jesus probably did exist as a great, caring and probably wise man. But the passage of time has probably led to distortions in what we now have as a 'Bible' due to various political influences over time..

    I can't understand those who get worked up about these sorts of things on either side of the debate, arguably being an 'atheist' is becoming just as religious these days.

  13. The Pope's "camauro" (camel skin hat) looks like a Santa Claus hat. It was often red and lined with white fur. It was part of the papal wardrobe from the 12th century until the 1960s for keeping the head warm in winter.
    St Nicholas (Santa Claus) was a Bishop and came to be associated with similar garb.

  14. My beer fridge is fast filling with fine festive follies from far flung fields!
    Recently added was a rather large crayfish, which, still alive, will be standing guard - right up until xmas morning.

    Rather more bowser than wowser.

  15. Ha! You say the Bible doesn't state the time of year of the Nativity but it does. Jesus was born in March or April, proof of this is in the Bible.

    If it wasn't spring the sheep would have been locked up in a barn overnight to prevent wolves, bears, and lions having mutton for dinner. Sheep were only kept in fields overnight during lambing season so newborn lambs wouldn't get squashed.

    The Bible describes the shepherds as being in the fields at night - ergo, Jesus was born in lambing season.


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