Friday, January 08, 2021

The Alleged Pagan Roots Of Holidays

David Wood recently interviewed Michael Jones (of InspiringPhilosophy) about the supposed pagan background of Christmas. Michael has done a lot of research on the topic, and they discussed many of the issues that are often brought up in this context (the origins of the December 25 date, whether certain Biblical passages are opposed to Christmas trees, etc.).

I've done some work on the history of the December 25 date, but I haven't looked into most of the other issues much. That's partly because I don't think a lot is at stake. Even if things like Christmas trees and the use of mistletoe in the context of Christmas had the sort of pagan roots that people often allege, the association with paganism would be too distant to have the implications those people often suggest. Similarly, there are distant pagan connections to the calendar names we use (names of months, names of days, etc.), the food we eat, the clothing we wear, and so on. The people who are so upset about the supposed paganism of Christmas don't seem nearly as upset, if they're upset at all, about other pagan connections, like the ones I just mentioned. Meat sacrificed to idols had a relationship to paganism, but Paul considered it acceptable to eat such meat (1 Corinthians 8, 10). The relationship was distant enough to not be significant.

Many good points are made during David's discussion with Michael, and a lot of what they discuss is relevant to holidays (and other issues) in general, not just Christmas. Apparently, Michael has done similar work on Valentine's Day and Easter and is planning a discussion of objections to the history of Thanksgiving. I don't know enough about some of the Christmas issues they discuss to make much of a judgment of the accuracy of Michael's conclusions, but there's enough good material during the program to make it worth listening to.


  1. I watched it, it was pretty good. One of the interesting points was how sometimes many multiple sources are construed as the origin. It was Rome! No, Egypt! Norse! Can everyone get their story straight and try again?

    And there does seem to be a "one touch" rule in place. If some other religion touches a day or an activity or an object, it's always associated with that object. Covenants aren't unique to Jews and Christians, so the Christians using the rule, they certainly aren't consistent.

  2. I like to refer people to History for Atheists for many of these topics. ( He is an honest atheist who is excellent at debunking many aspects of Christian history as viewed by anti-theists, including the origin of Christian festivals, Jesus mythicism, the supposed anti-science of the Church of the dark ages, and even the myths surrounding the fire at the "great" library of Alexandria.

  3. THis was interesting. I knew the December 25/Christmas/Saturnalia etc. stuff was likely incorrect but assume that other stuff *(Christmas trees) was likely correct.