Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sun

Let me first say that I am a Catholic. Most Catholics I know already know that Christ was not born on what we deem "Christmas" Christmas comes from "The Mass of (for) Christ" It is more about the celebration of a season that we remember when a special child was born. A time and season that Jesus was a gift to this world, and we share meaningful gifts with each other. I do understand that for some people it has become more about how much more we can give to each other. The commercialization of Christmas has taken away from the simplicity that once defined Christmas. Capitalism and Christmas go hand in hand now, stores bet on what they will sell and what will not. The season can either make or break the stores we shop. What does all of this have to do with the sun? Let me tell you...

At one time Saturnalia was the festival that the Romans celebrated. It was the religion that revolved around the sun. The festival started on Dec., 17th and ended on 24th. The 25th was the longest day, and was known as the birthday of the unconquered sun. Or Sol Invictus. The early pagans gave presents to each other because the sun again rose and fell as they had hoped it would.

Is all of this to say that I am a pagan? No, in fact I believe that early Christians made this move and really saw Christ as the one that conquered the sun god. Christianity was a small fringe religion competing in a society that allowed for other religions. Christianity really did conquered the sun did so politically, intellectually, and through all powerful images. Politically once it had taken over the holiday it basically had the pagans switching from their holiday to Christianity. Christianity had a great hold on people. We are seeing people willing to stand up, and be eaten by lions in the Colosseum. We see that people can are all equal in the eyes of God. God does not see you as a pauper or an aristocrat. He sees you as you are. Jesus has a real message of love to share with all people and he does so peacefully. (Yes, I understand that the "church" does not always do as Jesus did, but we are not perfect). Images, are everywhere. If you can't read, and you see Jesus over the sun. He is the Son of God. There is a great play on words too.

I think that so many other branches of Christianity get the wrong idea about Catholicism. Catholics were establishing Christianity when it was at it's infancy. I understand and accept that a pagan holiday was on December 25th first, but like so many other great civilisations one is built on another. It does not make me any less Catholic or Christian to admit this fact. It only makes me appreciate the tradition even more. I like knowing all the facts, and being an historian makes things that mush more interesting to me. I think the sun representation is more iconographic more than anything else. Our eyes are drawn to it, we look, we think.

I read recently that some Christians are trying to get away from saying anything about how the two religions are connected. I think this is a mistake. Why can't we just embrace our history, and just get on with it? My son goes to a Catholic school and they studied how the two are connected, and I thought it was great. Why sweep any of it under the rug? The rug only grows larger, and someone is going to fall and get hurt. These are my thoughts about it...What about you?


  1. Very interesting post today. I wasn't raised Catholic and have actually made a point of staying away from it. Too much bloodshed affiliated with it for me however, I was born into an Anglican household which has many similarities. I like that I can learn here from a distance. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think it's always meaningful to know where traditions come from, even if your observance of them isn't linked to that origin. In enjoyed reading your thoughts :)

  3. Kimberly,
    My at-home museum gallery celebrates the birth of Christ, His first coming to save us: Carola Nativity Gallery.

    Some Christians express a rejection of Christmas since it had pagan roots. I say that the pagans misconstrued everything when they ascribed powers to the things of nature and to their man-made gods and idols. In adopting various pagan symbols to Christian theology, they actually made a correction to give God the glory for the fertile soil, the change of the seasons, and all the other things that the pagan religions ascribed falsely.

    Your art history blog is very interesting, and you offer provocative questions,

    Carrie – Oak Rise Cottage