Sun worship and other Christmas traditions–Everything you never knew about Charlie Brown’s favourite holiday

By Mike Bowerman

Of all the ideas Christians have stolen, Christmas is certainly my favourite. Yet every year a cynical minority make two complaints against Christmas. First, why should they celebrate it when they don’t even believe in the birth of “Christ.” Second, Christmas has lost all meaning as a result of commercialization. Feel downtrodden no more, weathered Scrooges, there is more to Christmas than buying stuff and worshipping myths of yore.

There was a time when people who claimed to converse with flaming bushes and the voices in their head were not considered schizophrenics in need of medical intervention, but prophets in need of an audience. In those days, Christianity struggled to win their flock against heavy competition from the more lively cults popular in the day. What made these cults so popular was that they had a lot of great holidays, filled with the typical bacchanalia: booze, animal sacrifice and orgies. One of the most popular celebrated the triumph of goodness and light over darkness and evil with the birth of the Sun God, Mithra, on Dec. 25. To stay competitive and lure potential converts, the Christians adopted the day as Jesus’ B-Day, and Christmas was born.

The orgies are mostly gone, but the celebration of goodness continues. Secular or religious, everybody likes goodness–except maybe Metallica and certain gangsta rappers. If you don’t want to holiday revel for Christ, do it for Mithra. Let’s not forget that our annual celebrations have so far pleased the Sun God, convincing him to return for another year of life-giving warmth. And we have managed this with the exchange of presents rather than messy bull sacrifices on the altar of Ahura Mazda.

As for consumerism, the holidays are only as consumerist as we let them be. The supposed evidence for increased consumerism is crowded malls and television advertisements designed to turn kids into ruthless toy mongers. But these are the usual repositories of consumption worship anyway. If they are disenchanting during Christmas, they should be equally so the rest of the year since they owe their existence to selling. It isn’t as though malls go from feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless to sucking money from peoples’ pockets for two months of the year.

Anyone observing a misplace-ment of values around Christmas time must have a sense of what values are truly important. Deciding not to celebrate Christmas because it is too commercial is essentially throwing the peace, love and understanding out with the bath water, and inconsistent with the ideals that are presumably being defended. If you’re privileged enough to abandon those ideals to strike the pose of disenchantment with contemporary society, a nice dose of reality delivering donated presents and food to families in need would probably do you good all year round. Contact your local shelter.

The holidays provide an endless parade of opportunities to renew friendships, visit family, and indulge in all manner of hedonistic pursuits. These are all too rare indulgences whose benefits transcend materialism or religious affiliation. So ignore the religion and consumerism and celebrate the holidays with the important components of the tradition: family and friends. Then drink a soy nog, sing a song for Mithra and spread some good cheer.

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