Celebrating pagan holidays

Listen to anyone criticize Christianity and eventually they may mention the notion that Christian holidays are based on pagan holidays.

LentWhich would make sense if ancient Christians celebrated modern holidays like Christmas and Easter. But they didn’t.

The book of Acts and the letters of the New Testament are the first and best accounts of what the earliest Christians did and didn’t do. (There you can find what some people call ‘contradictions,’ which are in fact different accounts of early traditions and beliefs. Different views of baptism can be based on different interpretations of different scriptures, for example. But I digress.)

The accounts of the birth of Christ in the Gospels are rather limited in content (a non-Christian criticism). They don’t mention December 25.

Easter as a holiday isn’t in the Bible at all.

The first followers of Jesus lived on the fringe of the mainstream culture, where they would gather for meals, fellowship, baptism, and worship. They didn’t exchange gifts or look for hidden eggs.

For non-Christians to focus on Easter as a pagan holiday is just silly. Easter wasn’t an early Christian holiday.

Correlation isn’t causation. What have become Christian traditions, (Easter, Christmas, Catholic confession, the shape of the cross, paid clergy) doesn’t mean they were Christian traditions or sacraments for the first followers of Jesus.

It’s like the creation of early roads. First there was a path, then a muddy trail. Then a road wide enough to accommodate  horse drawn carts. Eventually, the road was widened yet again to accommodate more traffic.

The road didn’t create the traffic, the traffic necessitated the establishment of roads.

First there was a traveler walking the way, and then followers, who eventually forged a path.

First there was Jesus. And then his followers. Then a church hierarchy arose to mediate disagreements and disputes. The followers of Jesus had firmly established the faith by the time church leaders created the first church calendar, including well-known holidays.

Church leaders didn’t create Christianity, Christianity created church leaders. An important distinction that non-believers fail to make.

Did Christians co-opt pagan traditions when creating the Church? Or did pagans find truth in the message of Jesus and bring their traditions with them? Pagans bringing their traditions into the faith with them is called syncretism, and because it happened, and continues to happen, doesn’t diminish at all the foundation of the faith in the person of Jesus.

Some atheists see a Mithra-Christ connection. Again, correlation isn’t causation. Because some things are similar, doesn’t mean they caused each other, or were even related.

Saying Christians supported pagan holidays because of the origins of the holidays is like saying people celebrating New Year’s Eve support the Roman god Janus because the month of January takes its name from Janus.

Dates, calendars, holidays, time – these are all human inventions. Artificial constructs intended to project a sense of security on an volatile, infinite creation.

Dates don’t matter. The Parthenon was built. The pyramids stand in Egypt. Sequoias in California are among the oldest living things on earth. Like Jesus, they were here before we were, and they will remain after we are gone.

It matters not when Jesus was born or what the weather was like the day he was executed by the government.

Undeniably, something happened 2,000 years ago that changed the course of humanity’s development, like a river rerouted by a natural occurrence. The world was changed, humanity was changed and people were changed on a deeply personal level.

Because people were changed, they chose to celebrate the change. That celebration will commence in a week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Again, the dates don’t matter because the reason of the celebration exists independent of human calendars or clocks or institutions.

The celebration will commence because people’s lives were changed.

The celebration will commence.

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