Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHRISTMAS
that the birthday of the Saviour had replaced the birthday of the sun.*
Little is known of the manner in which the Natalis Invicti was kept; it was not a folk-festival, and was probably observed by the classes rather than the masses.24 Its direct influence on Christmas customs has probaby been little or nothing. It fell, however, just before a Roman festival that had immense popularity, is of great importance for our subject, and is recalled by another name for Christmas that must now be considered.
III. The Provencal Calendar or Calenos, the Polish Kolenda, the Russian Kolydda, the Czech Koleda and the Lithuanian Kalledosy not to speak of the Welsh Calenig for Christmas-box, and the Gaelic Calluinn for New Year's Eve, are all derived from the Latin Kalendae, and suggest the connection of Christmas with the Roman New Year's Day, the Kalends or the first day of January, a time celebrated with many festive customs. What these were, and how they have affected Christmas we shall see in some detail in Part II. ; suffice it to say here that the festival, which lasted for at least three days, was one of riotous life, ot banqueting and games and licence. It was preceded, moreover, by the Saturnalia (December 17 to 23) which had many like features, and must have formed practically one festive season with it. The word Saturnalia has become so familiar in modern usage as to suggest sufficiently the character of the festival for which it stands.
* This is the explanation adopted by most scholars (cf. Chambers, " M. S.," i., 241-2). Duchesne suggests as an explanation of the choice of December 25 the fact that a tradition fixed the Passion of Christ on March 25. The same date, he thinks, would have been assigned to His Conception in order to make the years of His life complete, and the Birth would come naturally nine months after the Conception. He, however, " would not venture to say, in regard to the 25th of December, that the coincidence of the Sol nevus exercised no direct or indirect influence on the ecclesiastical decision arrived at in regard to the matter." 2S Professor Lake also, in his article in Hastings's "Encyclopaedia," seeks to account for the selection of December 25 without any deliberate competition with the Natalis Invicti. He points out that the Birth of Christ was fixed at the vernal equinox by certain early chronologists, on the strength of an elaborate and fantastic calculation based on Scriptural data, and connecting the Incarnation with the Creation, and that when the Incarnation came to be viewed as beginning at the Conception instead of the Birth, the latter would naturally be placed nine months later.
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