Posts Tagged ‘axial tilt’

The Reason for the Season

December 23, 2011

There is something that happens every year: people say that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Let’s look at that for a minute.

Physically, axial tilt is the reason for the season(s). Axial tilt is what causes the northern hemisphere’s days to be shorter and colder in December and longer and warmer in June. But obviously that’s not what the claim is about: what about the reason for the celebration?

Northern European peoples would set evergreens on fire near the winter solstice as a sacrifice of one of the only  obviously living plants to the gods who controlled the sun, basically asking that the sun get back to doing a decent day’s work. They would also sacrifice animals as a sacrifice of life for their continued survival. It is the combination of evergreens, blood, and snow that gets us the “Christmas” colors of green, red and white. Since it was a sound survival strategy to have food gathered up before being snowed in, people would spend a lot of time indoors with family and large hot meals, thus feasting. But what about celebrating today?

It isn’t about survival the sun or burning evergreens anymore: we have electric lights on them instead. Why do we still celebrate Christmas today? For many people, because it is fun to gather with family and friends. It is fun to make dishes too complicated to make at other times of the year, or to bake pies and hear people give each other compliments on home-made foods and dishes. It’s fun to think about what your family and friends would enjoy as presents and to get the -in my family- traditional pajama set and orange in the stocking.  But maybe you are asking- what about religion? What about the sacrifice of Jesus?

Well, even if that had happened, you are thinking of Easter (and if you believe in gods, poor Ester, having her holiday stolen out from under her). But, since that’s what people think is special about Jesus:

Yahweh/Jesus is far from the only god who sacrificed himself to himself. Odin sacrificed himself to himself before Jesus was even a glint in his own eye. And since Odin sacrificed himself for wisdom rather than as a way to justify cooling down his temper, he is obviously the superior fictional deity.

Which may be why Odin, or W’din, gets one day dedicated to him every week while Jesus has to steal other deities’ holidays.