Historical accuracy is valuble to Christmas
I was in Summit County earlier this week, and did not have access to my computer nor my resources to comment on the opinion piece titled “The way I heard it, Christ wasn’t born on Christmas,” by Rich Mayfield.In an article that claims to have historical accuracy as a main component, I am very surprised at the large number of historical inaccuracies. Here are some historical references that may allow a more accurate reading of ancient history.From the article,”The common assumption back then was that the boy from Nazareth was actually born some time in the spring …” That’s not historical. The oldest reference to Jesus’ birth is from Clement of Alexandria, in which it is written “”From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus [the Roman emperor who died on 31 December A.D. 192 (14)] are, in all, a hundred and ninety-four years, one month, thirteen days,” and the general understanding of this puts the date at 6 January, 2 B.C. The Eastern church still practices this day as the day of Christ’s birth.Continuing from the article, “but the 25th was the start of the Romans’ annual year end holiday – a seven-day all-out bacchanal of eating, drinking and drinking some more.” That comes from the Roman emperor Aurelian, who set Dec. 25 as the day the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”. He reigned from 270-275 A.D. and not the end of the year at all for the Romans. If you do a little bit of research, you’ll find out that the Roman New Year was March 1, not January 1. The Roman Festival was not a New Year’s festival at all, contrary to what was reported in the Summit Daily News.Continuing, “Christmas came about because the Christians decided the last thing they wanted to do was align themselves with the culture of the day.” Very true, the intent seems to have been to have Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25 in part so that the Romans (who were used to a good party on that day) could have an easier transition to Christianity. This happened after the start of the 4th century.As far as getting the facts of the nativity scenes correct, the first nativity scene was done by Francis of Assisi, to help the local people understand the basic message of Jesus’ birth. He made a nativity scene for people who could not read (a large number of the population back then). Since Francis’ first nativity scene, there have been countless variations, but few (if any) with full historical accuracy. Trying to find historical accuracy in a nativity scene (or a Christmas carol) is an essay in frustration. It might be useful to note that an historically accurate manger scene would be a young mom in a cave with the new baby boy in her arms, or sleeping in a horse’s feeding trough. I can only imagine the look on the horses’ face when it comes to get chow and finds a new baby in the feeding trough. That could have been really funny to see.The original Christmas tree may have been borrowed from pagans, but the decoration of the tree comes from Martin Luther, who is hardly a pagan. He is the one who first put candles on the tree (a fire hazard, don’t do this at home!) because it represented the stars in the sky.Even though I find a number of historical inaccuracies in the article, the basic tone is correct. Historical accuracy is very valuable. Christmas is a combination of many historical events, layered with many others that are not historical. It is in the historically accurate combination of the feast of the birth of Jesus that we come together and celebrate our faith, family, friends and blessings. Jesus may not have been born on Dec. 25, but the significance and influence of His life will last far longer than any celebration we ever have to commemorate His birthday.Merry Christmas,
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