8. Pagans in a pear tree

Photo: Flickr: ‘Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun – August 31’, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (https://www.flickr.com/photos/24662369@N07/7931831962)

Debate continues over the origin of festive framing and the dating of Christmas day. In a recent article, C. P. E. Nothaft has distinguished between two typical avenues of thought on the issue. As Nothaft writes, some have suggested the ways in which early Christians worked out a suitable date based on mapping the chronologies provided in scripture about the timing of Biblical events onto the framework of Julian calendar.[1] Meanwhile, Nothaft highlights, others have emphasised attempts within the early Church to integrate the anniversary of the birth of Christ into an established pagan event introduced by the Romans and characterised by worship of the sun.[2] Nothaft concludes by rejecting oppositional explanations and expressing his support for the recent emergence of a more ‘critical stance towards sweeping narratives and a readiness to consider explanations that are more multi-faceted and to accept a more diverse range of factors than has previously been the case’ in our study of the Christmas past.[3] Perhaps our own celebrations could benefit from this approach during the holiday season.

By Patrick McGhee

[1] C. P. E. Nothaft, ‘The Origins of the Christmas Date: Some Recent Trends in Historical Research’, Church History, 81 (2012), pp. 903-911, p. 904.

[2] Ibid, pp. 903-911, pp. 905-906.

[3] Ibid, pp. 903-911, pp. 910-911.

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