Have a Solar Christmas
]]I recently had an assignment to write a lesson on Abrahamic religions for a high school world geography curriculum. As my readers may well be aware, the Abrahamic religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (in order of foundation). They share a belief in the prophet Abraham. Having recently attended a production of Black Nativity, written by the poet Langston Hughes and performed in Boston for the last 52 years, I was struck by the gospel song, “The Last Month of the Year (When Was Jesus Born).” Then, two nights ago, listening to a Hanukkah playlist, I noted the humorous song, “(When Is) Hanukkah This Year.” The Muslim holy month of Ramadan also moves from year to year, as does the Christian holiday of Easter. That was when it struck me. Hanukkah (as well as all other Jewish holy days), Ramadan, and Easter are all lunar holidays. Christmas is the only significant holiday permanently tagged to December 25 on the solar-based calendar. It’s no secret that Christmas, like the Gregorian calendar, is more a product of the Roman empire than the Christian tradition. Romans adapted their Saturnalia feast and festival to match the demands of their new Christian religion. Thus the competing expressions of Christmas: the blend of excess and sanctity, of charity and indulgence. Both, I suggest, express the true meaning of Christmas.
Since writing this, I’ve had further thoughts. I think the firm date of December 25 for Christmas is less the result of the Romans (whose Saturnalia feast was also somewhat moveable, though not as moveable as Jewish or Muslim lunar feasts) as of some action on the part of a more modern government entity. I plan to poke around to find the answer this soon.
[Photo by Margerretta: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-white-pine-trees-904437/]