This is the time of year when my Christian friends remind me that Christ is the reason for the season, and my atheist friends remind everyone that “Christmas” is at best a renamed pagan orgy and at worst a crass hybrid of religious conditioning and economic stimulus. Well, let me take the bold stance that if you’re using Christmas as an excuse to be a dick to somebody, you’re probably doing it wrong. The real origins of this holiday are amazing, sacred, and etched into your very DNA, if not by God then by evolution…
The context – which does predate Christianity by thousands of years – is that December kicks off winter in the Northern hemisphere. And for most of human history, winter meant a bunch of us were going to freaking die… Every year, you headed into winter with just enough stored food and fuel to get by. The old and the sick knew they might not make it through, and an especially harsh winter could mean no one would feel the sun’s warmth ever again.
And looking back at that, we see an awesome little portrait of exactly how much humans kick ass. Every year winter arrived with a short day followed by the longest night of the year (aka the winter solstice), and since before recorded history, humans have been celebrating that day with a feast, or festival, or outright debauchery. On that longest night before the frozen mini-apocalypse, in all times and places you would find light and song and dancing and food. Cattle would be slaughtered (to avoid having to feed all of them through the winter), families would travel to be together, and wine would flow. Precious supplies were dedicated to making decorations and gifts — frivolous things, good for nothing other than making each other happy…
full article here
Jason Pargin touched on this on one of the old podcasts with Jack O’Brien – I forget exactly what – but this is the first time he shared the idea in article format, and I’m very grateful.
I haven’t felt so quietly and deeply happy in a long time.