Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why Do Humanists Celebrate at Christmas?

Atheists, agnostics, Humanists and other non-believers are sometimes asked why they celebrate at Christmas time, or are even accused of being hypocritical for doing so.

source - Humanists.freeserve
The answer, which may be surprising to many uninformed Christians, is that they celebrate at that time for the same reason as the early Christians - because everyone else was already doing so, and had been for centuries before the time of the first Christians.

The last two weeks of December had long been a time of celebration throughout the ancient world in the northern hemisphere. It was associated with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, after which one could look forward to Spring, to crops, regeneration and new life.

Almost all the customs of the Festive Season pre-date Christianity: the giving of gifts, decorating the house and tree, putting up holly and mistletoe, and eating the flaming round plum pudding - the most obvious solar symbol of all. And the familiar crib scene originated in ancient Egypt.

It was not until the 4th century that anyone claimed to know the exact birthday of Jesus. In 525 AD a claim was made by Dionysius Exiguus, a mathematician and theologian living in Rome. Christian scholars today are all agreed that Exiguus was wrong, and it is generally believed that Jesus was born between 7 BC and 4 BC. In the year 274 AD Roman Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 to be the Sun’s official birthday.

So those who have no religion and who may describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or Humanists, need have no qualms about celebrating at this time of the year.

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