As the holidays draw near, I’d like to ponder a few questions of what the holidays are really all about. First and foremost, I hear a lot of people putting Jesus first, which for Christian circles that is a good thing, as his message is about tolerance, love, and inclusion, but what expense is spared to exclude or not tolerate difference? A lot, I would assume. And it begins with the origins of our current commercialist Christmas season. Let’s delve into the Yuletide facts and myths pronto and I’ll show you what I know about this stuff.
- Myth: Jesus was born Dec 25, in about the year 4 C.E. Oops, what’s wrong with this? Fact: Jesus’ birth might have occurred around spring or fall, but whatever season he was born at, it had to be date harvesting season for the Middle Eastern countries, according to the Islamic, Judaic, and some Christian sources. I like the Muslim way to describe Jesus’s birth, and it demonstrates what Mary had to do to get through labor and pregnancy, even while being a virgin. Or not. Could she be a virgin? I’ve questioned this a lot, and scholars might suggest in one TV show I watched that she could have been raped by a Roman soldier, which is quite plausible, given the Roman law said that all girls in the Roman Empire had to get knocked up and have babies with Roman men. Or any men, for that matter, and that included Jewish or Judaic ones.
- Myth: Mary was a virgin, and Jesus was born without contact from a man. Qur’an sources say that Mary and Joseph did not actually marry, but then who fathered the child? Mary’s birthing of Jesus as a virgin has to be mythical because of one simple thing: where’s God in the picture? Perhaps this is a simple cover up because if Mary was raped by a soldier, which is altogether quite plausible because of what I mentioned about Roman law above, the virgin’s womb and birth of a child by virgin could be completely a myth so that Mary doesn’t feel so bad or get stoned to death, as in her community, only a virgin could be married off and virginity in the bad old days was a man’s business. Girls’ virginity was often sold to the highest bidder, and if there was a Joseph in the picture, he would have divorced Mary because she was pregnant out of wedlock, and how could Jesus be any God’s son? According to Islamic sources, God has no son, so where do Christians get this idea? Fact: Still to be seen whether Mary was indeed raped by a soldier of a Roman legion, but that is possible.
- Myth: There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Now this can be seen whichever you look at it, whether child or adult. I personally believe there’s a Santa in every one of us, each of us both male and female. Santa, as the Spanish like to say, actually means a female or feminine form of the word “saint”. This might be written as “Santa Teresa.” Oops, but that’s a language issue right there. Santa Claus might have been the patron saint of children, St. Nicholas from somewhere in either Turkey or Germany. Austria and other European countries commonly celebrate the feast day of this saint, but where do saints get their miracles? It all goes back to the whole God thing. If God can work miracles, then where do saints come from? Fact: the Santa Claus thing probably did originate from this St. Nicholas guy, and there are many parts of this legend told around the world. In the Netherlands, for example, Santa rides aboard a white horse, and the horse grazes on hay and carrots which the Dutch children are taught to put inside a wooden shoe. No, I’m not kidding. Now, on to the next point.
- Myth: Christmas is a Christian holiday. Fact: It’s not. Christmas usually falls around the Winter solstice which Pagan folks would celebrate in the sense that they hail the birth of the sun. Not God’s son, but the star that warms the earth and might possibly burn it day after day.
- Myth: Jesus’s birth is the greatest story ever told. Fact: I don’t know, but I do know this. If Mary’s virginity is called into question due to cultural and familial circumstances, then where are the three kings? There were many kingdoms from far away. I think the greatest story ever told is the creation of the universe, and scientifically speaking, the Big Bang hypothesis might as well beat the book of Genesis any day. You can’t make a world in seven 24 hour rotations unless you’re like me and writing a book. I’m extremely skeptical about this idea that the world was created in 7 24-hour rotations of a single planet. And there are billions of stars, and so much in the way of galaxies you can’t shake a stick at it all. The stars and galaxies and perhaps planets are numerous, so the seven day creation story is indeed a mythical thing that people used to shut women up. See next item.
- Myth: Women are the weaker sex. Fact: Actually, no. We’re not. And there’s a second point to this myth. The story goes that Eve had lots of labor pains and the God of the Bible says that “out of sorrow, you shall bring forth children.” What that means is what it says, pain in the belly while a woman is giving birth. And after this myth was written and codified in a book, some sexism arose, even more so after Christianity and the Crusades. But let’s face it. the Hebrews had women giving birth under the banner of “sorrow” and a male God, Jehovah. This is where we land here. The Hebrews believed they were the chosen people, still do today. Judaeo-Christian values specify that women are the so called weaker sex, and the Bible, Torrah, and Qur’an all sanction unequal rights for women and men. However, according to a Jewish cantor friend I ran into several times, the Torah might have mentioned that men lying together could get stoned, but not women. The reform Jewish culture has progressively thrown out the core of the Conservative doctrinal dogma of woman being weak, men and women not having homosexual relations, and so much more. Transgender people are well accepted in some reform Judaeo-Christian circles, but since the time of Christmas, Christians have tried to convince people that women are the weaker sex. It’s happened ever since organized religious beliefs came to being, even before Judaic things happened, and before the Torah was probably codified on scrolls. Don’t get me started. Women still got different treatment even in modern Christian churches, and my experience speaks to that in many ways. I’ll write more on that later, but back to Christmas.
- Jesus was risen from the dead, and it occurred on Good Friday. Again, a myth. Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire governor Pontias Pilate, but there’s something even weirder about this part of the story. Jesus being born in the spring or fall is correct, but he probably died thirty years later, and it might not have been in April or May. The resurrection thing is still in hot dispute by scholars, archaeologists, and the like. The shroud of Turin has no visible carbon dating evidence of Jesus’s DNA which could have included a flake or two of skin, and nobody can find the man’s body anywhere. So does this mean he is truly the son of a deity? Again, Islamic sources conclude that Jesus, or in Arabic is known as Isa, is not the son of the fiery deity known as Allah or simply the supreme God of all the Abrahamic sects.
- The Nativity Scene Myths: Okay, get ready to throw away your Nativity scenes. Why? Because the architecture of such is wholly inaccurate in a lot of ways. For one, when Mary went to give birth to her son, and when in the story, her husband Joseph took her to Bethlehem on this historic night, the little boy was born in a stable. Okay, that’s accurate, but the stable should look something like what I’m about to describe: Bethlehem houses and inns were situated on top of a barn cellar, not necessarily your average one level stable area. The barn cellar would contain all manner of sheep and goats and donkeys and horses and the like. Jesus’s mother gave birth in something like a basement, and the roof would not be visible from that level. The above ground level would have to be the inn or housing dwelling of a Bethlehemian shepherd or house keeping man and his wife and children. Who knew how many would be kept there. An angel and three wise men are always included in the Nativity scenes, but let’s see if you can guess how and in what room the wisemen would have to go to see the prized baby? You guessed it, down, and they’d have to board their horses and such or camels if applicable in the barn cellar, not just a barn on the level with the house. Yes, the whole idea of the stable is great, but the look of such a nativity scene is almost inaccurate because of archaeological evidence and scholarly work that appeared somewhere in history recently.
Christmas is quite a holiday as you can guess. But what should we really be celebrating? While I believe in the aspects of God being female, there are people who would kill me for saying so. Male godheads are known to the male creators of such gods to be tyrannical beings that demand that anything less than he conform to a behavior undesirous of the persons being demanded of. let’s try breaking down what we should be doing during the winter holidays. Giving gifts is great, but what if your child subjects are Jewish, Wicca, or any other faith or rather what if they’re atheist? Here’s what I think we could try doing in place of the so called Winter holidays.
- While I am skeptical of religion, I do think being bonded with Jews, Christians, and Muslims is highly important to historical contexts. I don’t hate any of these people, let’s say this right now. However, the Christian and Abrahamic God no longer appeals to me personally because of patriarchal nonsense and the rules for governing a woman’s body and sexual behavior, which could damage a woman if she’s raped by a man, known or unknown. Spend a day or week with a person who celebrates Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. You can ask any questions you like, including things about the candles and menorah and the dreidel game or any other weird and wonderful pastime you can think of asking about. Talk to your friend about the legends behind the origin of Hanukkah, and parents, always read stories like this to your children. Talk about the Jews’ steadfast faith and zero tolerance policy for the king and his Greek god worshipping being forced on them etc. Break it down to a level that is understandable to your child’s age, and add more when appropriate.
- Spend a day with a Muslim family. Parents, if you’re curious about Muslims, do your homework. Allow your kids to play with Muslim children, but be as skeptical as anything still lurking in the closet. Don’t be afraid of the religions your child will come across, and feel free to read stories and books as before, but about Islam and the Muslim faith. Like the Judaic peoples, Muslims are most of the time steadfast in their beliefs, and stronger ones are so good at what they do that they sometimes know a few hints that you might not know about the Qur’an and the Haaddith, and feel free to educate your child about the why’s and ways of Islam, and the five pillars and such. Be careful with girls, and teach them that to wear hijab and other things is a choice they can and cannot make, and it’s up to them.
- Spend a day feeding the homeless folks. There are many people who don’t have homes, but don’t have a church or religious org looking out for their best interests. Feed those people a delicious Solstice meal, a Christmas dinner, or prepare them a Hanukkah present or something of this nature. When one feeds the homeless and heals and visits the sick, they’re still doing good deeds whether they believe or not in a deity for credit.
The props of Christmas are also a wonderful thing to think about. If you have kids who are curious about things, there are a few stories to consider. Talk about the poinsettia plant, and the legend behind it. Talk about the origin of Christmas trees and lights, and talk about different gift giving traditions around the world. Let the kids decide what they want under their Christmas stuff and in their stockings. That, by the way, comes from Sweden. Also, if you want flying reindeer, that’s a different part of the story. Reindeer are actually dangerous farmed animals in Scandinavian culture used for everything from hides to meat to milk and transport. Flying reindeer would have to have wings, honestly.
I’ll write a few things about Christmas safety here now. Keep your pets away from this blog, … kidding. If they could read, they’d discover that poinsettia plants and certain Christmas things are dangerous to their health. Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant, but so is holly and ivy. Yes, we all know the song about the holly and the ivy. But keep in mind where these plants come from and how they grow. I love a good sprig of holly every once in a while, but you can’t eat the berries. Don’t let your cat or dog nibble the berries, ever. Holly and mistletoe are cute and all as decorations, but here’s another fun fact. Kissing someone under mistletoe actually came from Celtic tradition. For this reason, you should probably consider putting the fake mistletoe up for solstice festivities. Okay, I’m getting really drowsy, so I better pop off to a long slumber.