Catholicism & Conspiracies: Christmas

| 12-17-AD2013 | [22]

Foxfier - Christmas

A collection of Christmas and/or holiday myths. I’m going to justify this description by saying a ‘myth’ a sort of old, sideways conspiracy… please play along! Many of these myths have been spread by well meaning, but misinformed or mistaken people.

http://www.cleanoutyoureyes.com/saint-nicholas/
Images courtesy of Clean Out Your Eyes blog; click for printable holy cards
Santa

Santa dresses in red, because Coke wanted it that way.

No, Old Saint Nicholas was a bishop, so he wore red. (Sort of, let’s simplify it to just pointing at the icons for him above to establish that’s how he’s often shown, like Mary in blue, and leave it there.) Specifically, he was the Bishop of a place called Myra in the first half of the 300s, on what is now the coast of Turkey. We have far more legends than hard facts about him, and he’s one of the most popular saints around, even if you remove “Santa Claus” of the American stripe from consideration. The English Victorian artists put him in all sorts of colors like green velvet and tapestry patterns, but the red kept coming back. It is very dramatic, no?

Depending on the drawing, it can be very easy to see “Santa (saint) Klaus (Nicholas)” as wearing rather sensible winter gear. The ruffs of white fur are obviously useful to keep warm, the long coat that hangs to his knees and is belted is likewise warm, red mittens (you can grip but get to keep your fingers).

If you want to know where various Santa traditions came from, including various names, then the Saint Nicholas Center is for you!

If you are interested in the “Santa Conspiracy” in terms of ‘Santa is real,’ please go to this excellent article from Catholic.com. She offers a much better clarification. My eldest is just old enough to be interested in Santa, and we’re going with the “he was real, here’s his story” option. It’s a lot more fun.

Pagan Parties

Christmas is Saturnalia, or maybe Sol Invictus!

No, it isn’t.

Short version, Saturnalia ended much earlier in the month, and Sol Invictus was invented after Christmas was celebrated.

Longer version: Saturnalia was a roughly three day Fool’s Feast festival with gifts starting about the 17th of December, so it would be over by the 19th. The date of Jesus’ birth makes perfect sense from a Jewish tradition standpoint. Great prophets enter the world on the same day they leave. Take the Feast of the Annunciation. Add nine months. Christmas!

Side note: a lot of stuff that makes no sense to modern English speaking people is perfectly reasonable in Latin, or to first-century Jews, or similar sources that are obvious after you know about it. Take any of a dozen similar middle-of-the-winter “fun” celebrations. Especially before modern times, the midwinter was depressing; there’s less sunlight, it’s not as warm, food may be more limited and with less variety–you want to have fun. It’s really not a wonder that the Romans, who seem to have had a Japanese-like habit of adopting practices that they liked, putting their own spin on it and charging forward, would throw a party on Christmas after the Christians started. (Ignoring the tactical reasons, such as seeing who didn’t show up, because they were at Mass.) There are some things that are just human, too, like wanting to think about green, growing things with bright berries when it’s cold and everything seems dead, so of course you’ll decorate with things like evergreens and holly with its bright-red berries. Which brings us to the next and final aspect.

Pagan Symbols

Most any symbol you can choose for Christmas–from the Christmas Tree to the Holy Child–is supposedly “stolen” from Pagan origins.

There are three objections:

One, if you simplify things down enough, you can make anything fit into a category. See various “there are only ten plots in existence” articles or books for an example. Thus, the Holy Child could be claimed to be ‘just like’ Hercules, because they are both famous heroes with a King of Heaven father and a mortal mother.

Two: it is a standard tactic to ‘baptize’ traditions into the Faith, so that people don’t lose their grounding, but to stretch the metaphor, make the soil more wholesome. Think something like a smoker who always smokes after dinner switching over to chewing gum, or having a mint candy. You take something that is bad, or even questionable, and turn it around to good ends.

Three: symbols are things that mean something. You may as well claim that the number ’1′ had its symbol stolen by ‘l’ because they are written the same, even though their meanings are nothing alike. Say, Christmas gift-giving as a symbol of The Gift that God gave us, in His only begotten Son, so that all who believed in Him might not die, but have eternal life.

Merry Christmas!

This article is part of a series on Catholicism and Conspiracy Theories. Do you have an example, suggestion or question you’d like me to look into? Please send me an email message or leave in the comments! I may not know an answer yet, but I’ll look for it! The previous articles were Councils and Lost Books of the Bible.

I hope that your Christmas is as much a blessing as it should be; God Bless!

© 2013.  Foxfier.  All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Former sailor and technician, current geek, "three prong" conservative, mother and practicing Catholic. Happily married to TrueBlue. Ranch raised in rural Washington, currently settled in the Seattle Blob.
Filed in: Advent, Social
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  • Phil Dzialo

    Two comments about the actual historicity of the the post:

    Santa Claus and St Nicholas: roots are Germanic Paganism

    Prior to Christianization, the Germanic peoples (including the English; Old English geola or guili) celebrated a midwinter event called Yule.[16] With the Christianization of Germanic Europe, numerous traditions were absorbed from Yuletide celebrations into modern Christmas.[17] During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were said to increase in frequency, such as the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is frequently attested as the god Odin and he bears the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning “yule figure” and the name Langbarðr, meaning “long-beard” (see list of names of Odin).[18]

    The god Odin’s role during the Yuletide period has been theorized as having influenced concepts of St. Nicholas in a variety of facets, including his long white beard and his gray horse for nightly rides (see Odin’s horse Sleipnir), which was traded for reindeer in North America.[19] Margaret Baker comments that “The appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts. … Odin, transformed into Father Christmas, then Santa Claus, prospered with St Nicholas and the Christchild became a leading player on the Christmas stage.”[20] wiki

    Sol Invictus, you are correct in that it was established in 274 AD….now how about the real 25th story? check Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, way before Christianity

    The comparison of Mithraists and Christians is not coincidental. December 25 was Mithras’ birthday (or festival [Survivals of Roman Religions p. 150]) before it was Jesus’. The Online Mithraic Faith Newsletter [no longer available] says:

    “Since earliest history, the Sun has been celebrated with rituals by many cultures when it began it’s journey into dominance after it’s apparent weakness during winter. The origin of these rites, Mithrasists believe, is this proclamation at the dawn of human history by Mithras commanding His followers to observe such rites on that day to celebrate the birth of Mithras, the Invincible Sun.” About.com

    • cestusdei

      You need to look beyond about.com. There is no real connection between Mithras and Christ. You can find out more on http://www.catholic.com. Similarity does not imply descent is a good axiom to keep in mind. The Mayans had pyramids, but were not Egyptians.

    • Phil Dzialo

      So here is a very scholarly article about the Mithra (not Mithras) and Christ connection…Your last sentence is a non-sequitur; pyramids, obelisks, etc are a common anthropological phenomenon in many cultures beyond the Mayan and the Egyptian.

      http://www.truthbeknown.com/mithra.htm

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier
    • cestusdei
    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      Please read the article, Phil; I put the links in for a reason.

      Also, this is the second time you’ve responded to one of my articles by cutting and pasting from another website.

    • Phil Dzialo

      Replied simply using common tools which can be understood by all. If you want a comprehensive treatise, please refer to “The Suns of God”, “Christ in Egypt” and “The Christ Conspiracy”, by D.S. Murdock. Thousand of pages of scholarship and references for ALL perspectives.

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      So you’re not going to bother to actually respond, just cut and paste anything you can find that’s contrary.

      Great.

  • http://www.davidlgray.info/ David L. Gray

    Just a note. The ‘Holy Card’ images of Saint Nicholas are wildly different than the oldest images of the real Saint Nicholas that can be found here http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/post/56081827117/various-artists-saint-nicholas-nikolaus-bishop

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  • john654

    Sometimes I don’t like the fact that I’m older than most people in the room, but, I remember when “Coke” changed the looks of Santa. Historical FACT: My Dad came to me one Christmas and said,”Look John, they have changed the way Santa looks”! Here’s the deal, the red suited Santa is an impostor. He drinks alcohol, sells cars, and comes hope in a bad moods from Christmas parties. I threw him out of my house years ago. He is a lie! Catholic are just loosing one more “holiday”! SORRY, the modern day Santa makes me sick! The secular and, yes. Protestants, said, “If St. Nicholas can raise two boys from the dead, reindeer can fly”! Ho, Ho, Ho! If your kids think that the big fat red Santa with the patent leather belt is real, make sure they know the truth. Even I know that Spider Man is the only real super hero! I love Christmas, I really do, John

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      Change his appearance, yes; bring in the red, no.

      You’re probably remembering the switch from the Victorian re-doing of Santa (to avoid that whole icky “Catholic” thing) that is explained here:

      http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml#coke

    • john654

      From: Saint Nicholas Center: “By the 1950′s Santa was turning up everywhere as a benign source of beneficence, endorsing an amazing range of consumer products. This commercial success led to the North American Santa Claus being exported around the world where he threatens to overcome the European St. Nicholas, who has retained his identity as a Christian bishop and saint”. YEP, That’s what I remember! Sorry, I will never defend the secular Santa. He is an absolute impostor. Fact, parents lie to their children about him!

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      So you’re actually upset with the 16th century movement to “Father Christmas” types that was continued?

      I can’t say I’d find Coke Santa all that much better if he was called Nicholas and wore a bishop’s gear.

    • Ezza

      Yes, back in 1988 when we travelled to Europe on a family holiday, I remember as a child seeing the beautiful street decorations and parade of the Bishop St Nicholas around Christmas- wearing the Bishops hat, a green cloak and carrying a staff. It was in Brussels I recall. No red Santa clown in sight. This is what Children in Belgium got excited about.

      I don’t know if Pagan Belgium still does these celebrations. Heck O don’t even know if they celebrate Christmas anymore, being a Christian holiday and all. It might insult the many Muslims who now reside in Belgium, or the miserable Athiests who hate celebrating, general.

      Fascinating article Foxfier

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      Thank you. I think the subject matter is pretty cool, in spite of who’s executing it.

  • john654
  • Michael Clemons

    Why can’t our Pope be a man of God like Phil Robertson ? Phil speaks the gospel, not worrying about appeasing society. Francis doesn’t have that courage.

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      I think you responded on the wrong article, Mr. Clemons; this article has nothing to do with the Pope, and what you think his motives may be.

  • jamey brown

    Nice spritely, bouncy, happy article, Foxfier, about a happy spritely bouncy saint. He was a rich kid who gave all his money away and found that, as St. Francis says, the less we have, the more we have. And he whapped that no good Arius right in the chops at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD,and while I would never condone violence of any kind…oh I would love to have seen that! I read once that with good writers you can actually feel the writer breathing in the words. Well I can feel you panting with joy, Foxfier, with the joy of the birth of Christ! Keep it up, kid. Everyone around you is so blessed!

    • http://sailorette.blogspot.com/ Foxfier

      Thank you very much– and I hope you have a great Christmas.