The Science of Christmas

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve decided to annoy scientists today…and hopefully a few of my fellow religionists with them…by shining a little bit of light on Christmas.

  • Winter Solstice is not a religious event at its core…pegan or Christian. Astronomy rules the movements of nature, and humans have historically patterned their lives, traditions, and religious observances after the march of the growing season on which their very survival hinged. The Winter Solstice event marks the point on the calendar where the shortening of days ends and the lengthening of days begins and does this year after year with or without us.
  • Santa Claus, most of the traditional backdrop of the Christmas, even the very word “Christmas”, grew from a blend of cultural observances which are mostly based on religious observances of one kind or another. They then combine with a winter festival atmosphere to become what we call The Holiday Season that everyone, atheists and religionists alike, celebrate together to their mutual benefit as human beings.
  • History is not clear on the actual day that Jesus Christ was born, but most historians seem to agree that it was not at or near winter solstice. I don’t have references to this right at the tip of my fingers at the moment, but I’ll leave it to you to research on your own…if you care. I don’t care and will celebrate his birthday on Dec. 25th regardless (author sticks out his tongue here).
  • The “New Star” was probably just a supernova (if the word “just” can be applied to a supernova at all), but one which may have been predicted by a few people quite a bit in advance. There might be a lesson in there somewhere for anyone willing to ponder it honestly for a while.

Controversy between Christians and atheists about which Christmas observances should or should not be celebrated reek of hypocrisy at their core because Christmas is a package deal awash with unavoidable, sometimes conflicting, religious symbols. When combined it all makes us pretend to be better people for a while…whether we believe in God or not. Remove all of those symbols in order to avoid religious references and Christmas, with all of it’s benefits to you, vanishes in a puff of indifference.

The things that Jesus Christ taught did (eventually) influence our culture toward civilization and away from barbarism. This is true whether or not you think he is a God. This makes him deserving of some kind of recognition…even by atheists. Historians pretty much agree that he was born in a stable too, and there is nothing there that should offend anybody who’s name isn’t Herod.

Santa Claus” is a linguistic corruption of “Saint Nicholas“, a real person who actually did, on a much smaller and more realistic scale, some of the things that we now attribute to the magical mythological figure. He was a very good man who went about boldly doing good things that we as a culture consider beneficial to our society if we do those things too. This makes him a person who’s life is worth celebrating and who’s actions are worth repeating.

Now can’t we all just get along enjoy the festivities please?

Thank you.

Oh…and please have a very Merry Christmas a happy and successful New Year.

~ by Bill Housley on December 22, 2014.

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