Traditional midwinter celebrations

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
User avatar
David Belcher
Posts: 885
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:23 pm
Location: Durham, NC USA

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:06 pm

Thanks, gitzgeer. With all due respect to Msgr. Nocent, his represents the older scholarship that has been surpassed by Talley and the more recent work of Bradshaw, Johnson, Andrew McGowan, and others (mostly their students). He was an important figure in the European Liturgical Movement and his work as Abbot of Maredsous Abbey placed him at one of the centers of liturgical renewal that led up to Vatican II in the Roman Catholic Church—which means his work is important and I don't at all mean to discount it. However, in his day there were many assumptions about certain methods and texts that did not have the benefit of newer manuscript evidence and even less so of archaeological discoveries that have pushed liturgical scholarship (even the scholars I mentioned above are woefully inattentive to archaeological and material culture study). I don't know that here is the place to get into a long conversation about manuscript evidence on the nativity in developing Christian thought or why it is that the Religionsgeschichte Schüle's assumptions about "Natale Solis Invicti" were mostly exaggerated, but I can only say as someone who has studied this material extensively that the most recent scholarship is also the most trustworthy on these matters.
"In music I think it's very, very dangerous if you start to compare and say, 'This is good, this is not good, this is only one possibility' . . . there are so many possibilities, but what is important is to be open to that." - Pavel Steidl

User avatar
David Belcher
Posts: 885
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:23 pm
Location: Durham, NC USA

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:53 pm

Hi gitzgeer,

Sorry, I realized that the books I referenced are not easily available, but here's a helpful article on the subject by an exceptional scholar in the field, Andrew McGowan: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dail ... christmas/.
"In music I think it's very, very dangerous if you start to compare and say, 'This is good, this is not good, this is only one possibility' . . . there are so many possibilities, but what is important is to be open to that." - Pavel Steidl

gitgeezer
Posts: 2455
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by gitgeezer » Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:43 pm

David Belcher wrote:Hi gitzgeer,

Sorry, I realized that the books I referenced are not easily available, but here's a helpful article on the subject by an exceptional scholar in the field, Andrew McGowan: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dail ... christmas/.
Interesting idea, but if early Christians were choosing December 25 by linking it with the date of the crucifixion, they must have known that they were choosing the very day of a major pagan celebration. Odd that they would choose to compete with that celebration, except for the purpose of emulating or replacing it.

User avatar
David Belcher
Posts: 885
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:23 pm
Location: Durham, NC USA

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by David Belcher » Sat Dec 12, 2015 4:25 pm

Again, I'm not at all arguing for a complete absence of mutual cultural influence or of borrowing or even dialectical relationships between Christian (and Jewish) and pagan festivities in instances throughout the history of the West, only that there is no evidence of *direct* borrowing or influence when it comes to the origins of Christmas. And what makes that remarkable and interesting is how much direct evidence we have of other instances when dates of pagan festivities were directly used by Christians in order to repudiate the pagan rituals (especially the imperial cult). (I am of course using the term "pagan" not pejoratively but in its typical historical use.)

I would say we have to be cautious about identifying intentions of ancient cultures and peoples ("they must have known") when it comes to something like this without evidence. McGowan addresses the point I'm making regarding cultural influence and lack of evidence here:

"Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

"This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals."

I understand the impetus behind what you're saying—though I wouldn't conclude there was ever or would have been reason for an attempt to "emulate" pagan festivals or rites by Christians—but I'm hesitant to draw the conclusion you do because there isn't real evidence there.
"In music I think it's very, very dangerous if you start to compare and say, 'This is good, this is not good, this is only one possibility' . . . there are so many possibilities, but what is important is to be open to that." - Pavel Steidl

gitgeezer
Posts: 2455
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by gitgeezer » Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:53 pm

Okay. Point taken. Thanks for the trouble you've gone to in providing this other point of view. It's been an interesting discussion, but I think we're done. Regards.

User avatar
Tonyyyyy
Posts: 2305
Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2006 3:20 am
Location: Sussex, UK

Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:19 pm

The ideas of Father Christmas traditionally having a green coat intrigued me

Here's some confirmation http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/york/hi/peo ... 394067.stm (though the BBC is not always 100% accurate)
''It's likely he represented the coming of spring and wore a long green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe''

And a further influence: ''When the Vikings invaded Britain, their traditions came with them. At the end of December the Norse God Odin took on the character of Jul. He visited earth and sporting a white beard and wearing a long blue hooded cloak rode through the world on his eight legged horse giving gifts to the good and punishments to the bad.''

Return to “The Café”