deletedOct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022
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> But also, use common sense. US celebrations of Hanukkah are centered around gift-giving - not a traditional part of the holiday at all.



The tradition of giving money (Chanukah gelt) to children is of long standing. The custom had its origin in the 17th-century practice of Polish Jewry to give money to their small children for distribution to their teachers. In time, as children demanded their due, money was also given to children to keep for themselves. Teenage boys soon came in for their share. According to Magen Avraham (18th century), it was the custom for poor yeshiva students to visit homes of Jewish benefactors who dispensed Chanukah money (Orach Chaim 670). The rabbis approved of the custom of giving money on Chanukah because it publicized the story of the miracle of the oil.

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"I have higher credence that other pagan beliefs made their way into the holiday (for example Santa’s sleigh as remnant of earlier Wild Hunt traditions)." This also seems to be a myth. Santa's sleigh originated in a poem in 19th century New York. There's no connection between it and Scandinavian mythology.


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Isn't the whole point about the Eostre thing just that it's fairly silly to look at the Christian celebration of Easter from such an anglocentric context? We know that Christians have commemorated Easter around the time of the Jewish feast of Passover, for obvious and Biblical reasons, from earliest times; it's not like the Christians in Greece and other Mediterranean lands went "Well, ackchually, there's this goddess (possibly?) in the remote islands of Britannia by the name of Eostre, and..."

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Cinco de Mayo is boring… said no Juan ever.

(This is not my joke, don’t cancel me, and also don’t steal it for an episode of the Great British Bake Off)

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The argument around Arianism seems like a pretty big example of "sneaking in connotations." Somehow we get from "The Son was created by the Father" to "The Son is less divine than the Father," "The Son is less powerful than the Father," "The Son is less special than the Father," "the Son has less moral authority than the father," and "the Son is subordinate to the Father." It does not seem obvious to me at all that saying that the Son was created by the Father somehow "demotes" the Son so that he is more like an angel. When exactly the Son came into existence relative to the Father seems totally orthogonal to all of that.

Rather than say something like "the Son has to have existed eternally with the Father to have the same properties," why not just say "The Father created someone who is just as divine, just as powerful, just as special, and has just as much moral authority as He does, and is His equal in every way." If you believe that the Father is incapable of doing this then this seems like a weird example of the Omnipotence Paradox. Instead of saying "If God can create a stone not even he can lift?" you say "Can God create someone just as omnipotent as he is?"

Also, if you really take the idea of omnipotence seriously, couldn't you just say the Father used some kind of time-manipulation ability to make the Son have always existed? So that the moment of the Son's creation was at around 1 AD, even though the Son was around earlier?

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It's interesting that Christianity came up so much in the comments, but given that it was a big part of the original post, it's not all that surprising. From the Christian perspective, I have a few notes to add.

Pope Spurdo does well to note that Arianism has major implications for Mariology. But I would quibble with his assertion that when you talk with Protestants about Mary that it inevitably gets them to make Arian arguments. While I think Protestants are many things, I agree with Valjean that they are definitively not Arians. The much more common position you see get brought up isn't Arianism but *Nestorianism* -- that Mary gave birth to *Jesus the man*, but did not give birth to *Jesus the God*. I don't think most Protestants are Nestorians either -- If you press them, you can probably get them to admit that they believe Mary's child is God, and therefore that Mary gave birth to God (which is really what the debate over the term "Mother of God" is trying to get at). I think a lot of Protestant misgivings over the term have more to do with their objections to Marian veneration in general, or to a misconception that it means Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe Mary somehow is the cause of Jesus being God, which is not what anyone believes. Jesus did not become God through Mary, but he did become human through her.

As for the main topic of the post, holidays becoming other holidays -- yeah, I think it's pretty straightforward that many aspects of the pagan solstice observations became a part of Christmas, and that many springtime festivals (including that of Eostre) had their celebrations merged into Christian Easter. The use of the term "Easter" for the holiday, though, is an *incredibly* Anglophone phenomenon; in most other languages the term for the holiday is just a translation of Passover. And in general, the Eastern Orthodox prefer to use the term "pascha" for the great feast even in English for this reason, and frankly I wish Western Christians would adopt that naming convention too, though it is for example in major use in Catholic theology (the Paschal mystery, the paschal celebration, etc).

Easter (Paschal?) eggs, while not ultimately of Christian origin, also have a much deeper connection to the symbolism of the holiday than I think many recognize. The central celebration of Easter is the resurrection of Christ -- and the new life and rebirth brought about by that resurrection. This is why Christians have traditionally celebrated baptisms on that day. So, eggs, which are a source of new living animals, symbolize that new life and birth. It's easy for me to see why Christians a long time ago saw eggs as a perfectly fitting tradition to integrate into the Christian holiday, whatever its original source.

For me, it's undeniable that the dating of Christmas has everything to do with the winter solstice, and in fact I think your statement of "perhaps God liked the symbolism" is actually 100% correct. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, with the longest and darkest night, but after that day the light slowly increases. This is perfect symbolism for the emergence of the Messiah into the world: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5). So I think, in addition to being the celebration of Jesus' birthday, Christmas is definitely a solstice celebration. And I see that as perfectly fitting, and find no reason to be embarrassed by it. The solstice is astronomically significant, just as the birth of Christ is soteriologically significant, and the two go along together quite well.

You offered a throwaway joke about God being mad at Pope Gregory for changing the calendar, but hilariously enough there were, are, and probably always will be some Christians who are actually mad at him for doing that. The Eastern Orthodox have never totally adopted the Gregorian calendar in place of the Julian calendar, in large part because they don't take orders from the Pope and are highly reluctant to do anything that even has the *appearance* of taking orders from the Pope.

The Gregorian calendar is, of course, more astronomically accurate than the Julian calendar, and lines up with the secular calendar in most countries. But those Orthodox churches which have adopted the "new calendar" call it the "Revised Julian calendar," even though it *just so happens* to line up with the Gregorian one. And even then, many countries like Russia steadfastly refuse to use the new calendar. Since the Orthodox judge that sharing the same date for Pascha worldwide is more important than strictly following one calendar, even the churches that use the new calendar celebrate the holiday on the old calendar date. So Orthodox Easter is universally at least a little bit offset from the Catholic and Protestant date, no matter where you are.

Many Protestant countries, for essentially the same reason of "not taking orders from the Pope," also did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until centuries after its promulgation. England (and therefore the English colonies) for example didn't adopt it until 1752. I suppose there could have been an alternative history where British North America never adopted the Gregorian calendar, and therefore the United States could have been a Julian-calendar nation all the way.

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3. I agree, but wonder: Jews should be very fine with Islam as an Abrahamitic faith then:

"Jews’ top objections to Christianity: it flirts with polytheism (the Trinity)" check

"that it flirts with idolatry (icons + Michelangelo-esque depictions of God)" check,

"that it says you don’t need to follow the Law." check

Oth, who better to ostracize than those similar. See: the despised Samaritans

(Early observers viewed Islam as another Arianic + half crazy Eastern version of Christianity. And M. did consider Isa/Jesus to be the prophet of prophets. Born by a virgin, talking as a baby, making birds alive from clay toys.) https://wikiislam.net/wiki/Parallelism:_Talking_Baby_Jesus (found when googling for a source, nice wiki to include this.)

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Some references to add in on #1, on the "origins" aspect —

(1) So far as I know, the most compelling research on the date of Jesus' death in relation to Passover is Helen Bond's essay, “Dating the Death of Jesus: Memory and the Religious Imagination,” New Testament Studies 59.4 (2013): 461–75. Unofficial abstract: "Around there somewhere...."


(2) And as for Hanukkah, I'm puzzled that the connection between its origins and comets is not more widely known. (Maybe it is? But I mean, if planetariums can have things on the gospel of Matthew's "star in the east", why not Hanukkah's comets?) So far as I know, this was proposed by Al Wolters, “Halley’s Comet at a Turning Point in Jewish History,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55.4 (1993): 687–97. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43721551 (and in another more technical article of his), then modified by Wayne Horowitz, “Halley’s Comet and Judaean Revolts Revisited,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 58.3 (1996): 456–59. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43722716.

Fascinating stuff, IMO.

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Rather than replace cinco de mayo, I propose that we just add more hispanic elements to columbus day so that I can eat more delicious food. Heck, I'm not above fomenting competition between the pro-columbus faction and the anti-columbus faction. Whoever makes the best food gets naming rights. American BBQ vs tacos show-down?

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Día de la Raza is (AFAIK) not much of a thing outside the US and Mexico, and completely unknown in much of Latin America. It actually strikes lots of Latin Americans (e.g., me) as hugely objectionable, for multiple reasons, once they come into contact with it.

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

Both Wiktionary and Etymology Online agree with you about the Eostre etymology. It's only the Ishtar part that's nonsense.

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

Opening the way for Cortez very likely wasn't a bad thing - the Aztecs were just overwhelmingly godawful and having them taken down _even by the Spanish_ was a good thing. Quoting 'Cryptonomicon':


"The Aztecs can go fuck themselves, Randy! Repeat after me: the Aztecs can go fuck themselves." [...] "You know what those fucking Aztecs did, Randy?"

Randy uses his hands to squeegee away sweat from his face. "Something unspeakable?"

"I hate that word ‘unspeakable.’ We must speak of it."

"Speak then."

"The Aztecs took twenty-five thousand Nahuatl captives, brought them back to Tenochtitlan, and killed them all in a couple of days."


"Some kind of festival. Super Bowl weekend or something. I don’t know. The point is, they did that kind of shit all the time. But now, Randy, when I talk about Holocaust-type stuff happening in Mexico, you give me this shit about the mean nasty old Spaniards! Why? Because history has been distorted, that’s why."

"Don’t tell me you’re about to come down on the side of the Spaniards."

"As the descendant of people who were expelled from Spain by the Inquisition, I have no illusions about them," Avi says, "but, at their worst, the Spaniards were a million times better than the Aztecs. I mean, it really says something about how bad the Aztecs were that, when the Spaniards, showed up and raped the place, things actually got a lot better around there."

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

About anti-holidays, it seems to be consensus. It's rather amusing that Christians (presumably) call others midwits. I think this space got rather too tolerant of this nonsense.

In Poland it's particularly obvious; there are loads of 'traditions' which are commonly thought to be Christian, despite being pagan. Quoted from this: https://culture.pl/en/article/roots-revival-how-slavic-faith-returned-to-poland

> Slavic Paganism was officially abandoned in Poland in 966, when Mieszko I, the first historical Prince of Poland was baptised, and with him, the whole country. It did not disappear overnight, however. In fact, for many years pagans doggedly resisted conversion, even leading to so called Pagan Reaction – a series of pagan uprisings that highly destabilised Poland and was one of the reasons Mieszko II had to flee the country in 1031. It also culminated in a huge peasant uprising in 1038, against both their overlords and the Christian faith.

> It seems the Slavic faithful were not so easily converted to Christianity. As late as the 12th century, most of the peasants on Polish lands were still Native Faith believers. The Slavic faith was rooted out only as late as the 15th century, but that’s still only the official, ceremonial part. Many of the traditions and beliefs are still here today in slightly adapted forms. For example, drowning an effigy of Marzanna – to drive back winter and summon spring – dates back to Slavic faith, while Zaduszki, the Polish All Saints’ Day, supplanted the older Slavic Forefathers’ Eve. It is mainly because these religious practices were so deeply rooted in tradition and rituals that they can be recovered and re-popularised today.

Or from the Wiki:

Christmas Eve is rife with superstitions allegedly possessing extraordinary powers, usually originating in ancient local pagan beliefs.

> Back in the 19th century, it was believed that during the Christmas Eve supper one could see a person who had died in the current year - just go out into the hallway and look into the room through the keyhole, and one would see him sitting together with others.

> Until recently, it was believed that the souls of the dead appeared at the Christmas Eve supper. There is even a free place left at the table for such a "visitor from the afterlife" - a custom that has presumably survived to this day as a free place left for an unexpected visitor.

(I've always wondered if it ever happens; I mean someone homeless trying to take advantage of this custom and someone actually letting them in.)

> It was also superstitiously believed that disrespecting the sacred evening could cause various misfortunes. To this day, people are cautioned not to quarrel on Christmas Eve and to show kindness to one another. One of the superstitions of Christmas Eve states that on Christmas Eve night you can hear animals speaking with a human voice.

Or from the Wiki on Christianisation:

> Christianization - the process of displacement of ethnic religions by the Christian religion. Its greatest intensity occurred during the Middle Ages, and was caused by the dominance of Christianity among the European rulers of the time and the growing influence of the papacy.

> All signs of native faith, were completely replaced by Christian symbols - in the place of sacred groves and temples, churches were erected; on the days when religious festivals were celebrated (such as Celtic Samhain or Slavic Dziady), various kinds of church holidays were established (All Saints). In this way, a gradual process of abandoning earlier beliefs took place, de facto changing only the names and forms of the celebrations. Local deities were replaced by the worship of saints, and images of the gods were usually transformed into icons, so that in the early Middle Ages, most images depicting Jesus were identical to earlier depictions of Zeus and gods from the local pantheon.

> Secular rulers called upon the assistance of, among others, knightly orders to give them military support against non-Christian peoples.

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Did you mean specific vaccines that Americans invented or the concept of vaccination itself? I always thought, it was invented by a british person:


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"When I lived in Ireland I was creeped out by things like the May Bank Holiday. It felt too much like I was living in a dystopia. “Worker #4113, you and the rest of North West City get the May Bank Holiday off from your job at Nutrient Factory 87”. If you tried to pull that in America, we would revolt. "

How? By working?


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The astronomical winter solstice was actually a few days before December 25th. And perhaps it had to be? If you see the sun as a deity, perhaps you are not absolutely, 100 percent, sure that it will recover once more from its lowest path, despite its „unbeaten“ record („Sol Invictus“). And if it failed to recover, that would obviously be catastrophic. So perhaps wait to get confirmation before celebrating the solstice.

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The biggest problem with the "I'm glad [event] happened, because that led to . . . me existing" is that it means celebrating pretty much everything, no matter how horrible, that ever happened more than a few weeks before your own conception.

No, seriously. The first thing you have is the Butterfly Effect on weather, and then you have the fact that spermatozoa are highly sensitive to environmental conditions. Between them, pretty much everyone conceived more than a few weeks after an event would have never existed had the event happened differently. In the very short run most of the result is replacement by siblings ("one sperm over and we would have been our sisters, and we'd never have been missed", to quote Lois McMaster Bujold), but then the consequences cascade from there.

The flip side is this also means that any crimes committed against anyone substantially before your conception did not actually hurt you, because without those crimes, you would never have existed. If you think your existence is an injury, the cure is within your own power; if it is not, you clearly were not injured by the but-for cause of your existence.

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On the importance and reasons for intense conflict over seemingly abstruse points of theological debate, I like the argument which I think I've stolen from Gibbon (though I can't immediately find it in Decline and Fall) - that it's generally the case that these debates are used as shibboleths, to divide people into us and them, and that for the division to separate out everyone you already wanted (for other, non-theological reasons) to persecute/ostracise/attack, while keeping everyone else on your side, it often needs to be quite weird. So if, for example, you were the ruler of France and you wanted to be able to seize the property of every German and Spaniard within France, the easiest way to do it would be to brand them as heretics; but the precise nature of the heresy you chose, which would have to be something that was believed by every German and Spaniard with property in France, but by as few other people as possible, would almost certainly look very strange.

You could argue that this wouldn't work, because the Germans and Spaniards you were targeting would just turn round and say "actually we don't care about this weird point of theology and we'll agree to your interpretation rather than fight over it", and I think Gibbon says (though again, I can't immediately find it) that this did happen - campaigns against heresies would get started and then collapse when it turned out that the people who you wanted to target were prepared to agree with you. Then, despite this supposedly vital theological dispute being sorted out, shortly afterwards another, equally vital theological dispute would restart, which curiously seemed to separate out a similar group of people as potential heretics, even if the actual point of dispute was different.

To be clear, the argument isn't that these abstruse theological debates were invented by machiavellian rulers - but that in a world in which these debates existed, a lot of people genuinely cared about them, and at least a few people united by other characteristics were prepared to die rather than recant a belief that they shared (though not necessarily one that most people united by those characteristics shared - so ten Gothic Arian bishops determined to hold onto their Arian beliefs could be crucial to the persecution of hundreds of thousands of Goths who didn't give a damn about Arianism), then these bizarre disputes became very useful tools for people with power to use in getting what they wanted.

And it could be an iterated process - people struggling for power trying to build coalitions by using complex theology to create and define the identity of their group and of other groups, each power base defining itself in response to the position of other power bases, until you've got multiple systems of belief of byzantine complexity, seemingly of overwhelming importance to those holding them, which then mysteriously disappear a few years later - or are superseded by the same people holding diametrically opposed beliefs with an equal fervour.

Parallels with our culture wars self-evident.

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Re point 9.

Taco Bell bringing back the Mexican Pizza for this October elides the Hispanic dia del la raza and Italian Americans as well as a full dose of consumeristic holiday cooption.

If the holiday were renamed Mexican Pizza Day would the competing HIPD be a thing? Would there be clamoring for Fry Bread day?

Is the process of the evolution of "holidays" primarily a substitution mechanism (implying a zero sum game - there is a limit to the number of holidays)?

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Speaking of Cinco de Mayo and the politics of holidays... My Mexican fiancée asked me why Americans love Cinco de Mayo so much. It’s not really a thing in Mexico. As it turns out, it was invented (or maybe promoted is the better word) by Chicano activists in the 60’s because it commemorates a military victory of indigenous people over Europeans.

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>It seems that the Russian word for their amped-up New Year’s festival is “Novyi God”, which is an interesting kabbalistic correspondence

It can sound even more kabbalistic if add existence of this idea in early USSR: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-Building

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

Hmm, seems I need to become a lot more evitable 😁

"When I lived in Ireland I was creeped out by things like the May Bank Holiday. It felt too much like I was living in a dystopia. “Worker #4113, you and the rest of North West City get the May Bank Holiday off from your job at Nutrient Factory 87”. If you tried to pull that in America, we would revolt."

Well, this is because we are *not* American. The May bank holiday (and the rest of them below, we are getting a new one in February for 2023):

1 Jan Sun New Year's Day

6 Feb Mon St Brigid’s Day (note: St Bridget's Day is 1st February, but they switched this to Monday because they are trying to make every bank holiday fall on Monday for the long weekend, and for convenience - first Monday of the month is the same every year)

17 Mar Fri Saint Patrick's Day

10 Apr Mon Easter Monday

1 May Mon May Day

5 Jun Mon June Bank Holiday

7 Aug Mon August Bank Holiday

30 Oct Mon October Bank Holiday

25 Dec Mon Christmas Day

26 Dec Tue St Stephen's Day

Okay, the May bank holiday comes from May Day, which was being celebrated thousands of years ago, so if this is a dystopia, it's lasted a long time: "Fenian #4113, you and the rest of North West Troupe get the May Bank Holiday off from your job hunting deer, wandering the length and breadth of Ireland, and fighting off the Vikings":


19th century translation of poem attributed to 3rd century legendary hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill:

In Praise of May (Ascribed to Fionn Mac Cumhaill.)

By T. W. Rolleston (Translated)

May-day! delightful day!

Bright colours play the vale along.

Now wakes at morning’s slender ray

Wild and gay the blackbird’s song.

Now comes the bird of dusty hue,

The loud cuckoo, the summer-lover;

Branchy trees are thick with leaves;

The bitter, evil time is over.

Swift horses gather nigh

Where half dry the river goes;

Tufted heather clothes the height;

Weak and white the bogdown blows.

Corncrake sings from eve to morn,

Deep in corn, a strenuous bard!

Sings the virgin waterfall,

White and tall, her one sweet word.

Loaded bees with puny power

Goodly flower-harvest win;

Cattle roam with muddy flanks;

Busy ants go out and in.

Through the wild harp of the wood

Making music roars the gale —

Now it settles without motion,

On the ocean sleeps the sail.

Men grow mighty in the May,

Proud and gay the maidens grow;

Fair is every wooded height;

Fair and bright the plain below.

A bright shaft has smit the streams,

With gold gleams the water-flag;

Leaps the fish, and on the hills

Ardor thrills the leaping stag.

Loudly carols the lark on high,

Small and shy, his tireless lay,

Singing in wildest, merriest mood,

Delicate-hued, delightful May.

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"it really is suspicious that some unrelated method just happened to"

Welcome to the conspiracist fold! Refreshments are over on the long table, there's decaf and leaded over on the side.

Sorry, but that deserves a jab. It is the language, more or less, that we've become accustomed to seeing online. Note that I'm not saying that you are wrong (I'm agnostic on the how's and why's behind Christmas because I just don't give a damn), just that this immediately pinged my radar for tinfoil hats.

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There is a very traditional way to celebrate the Tsar in this mode: “God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!”

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"But December 25 was literally the winter solstice on the Roman calendar (today the solstice is December 21st), and it really is suspicious that some unrelated method just happened to land on the most astronomically significant day of the year."

Eh. I don't get the impression the Romans were especially careful about the correspondence between their calendar and actual astronomical events[1,2], and I also don't think the winter solstice is the most astronomically significant day of the year unless you're a primitive and still think the Sun might not come back if you don't sacrifice a goat. (The Romans were not primitive.)

The vernal equinox is probably the most important of the astronomical quarter days, since it marks the start of the planting season. There's a good reason the year tended in most ancient cultures to start near the equinox. The second most important is probably the autumnal equinox, which marks the harvest. Solstices are interesting, but probably of tertiary importance because they don't mark anything important in the agricultural cycle of the Mediterranean year. You can keep track of them if you're a nerd, but they're basically just halfway points between the two most important events of the year, planting and harvest.


[1] e.g. https://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/romancalendar.html

[2] Also note by the time of Constantine adopting the chi rho at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, around the time Christmas supposedly began to be celebrated, the actual solstice would have fallen on December 22 or 23 of the Julian Calendar.

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Regarding the dating of Christmas, to quote the 1903 Catholic Encyclopaedia (handily online for all your theological conundrum needs!)

"But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth. "

There seems to have been a tendency to set it sometime in the spring:

"The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement's evidence may be mentioned the "De paschæ computus", written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created."

But also that around the date of what would become Epiphany was popular:

"Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ's glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January".


"In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa's sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen's feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener's too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36)."

So you pays your money and you takes your chance!

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A lot of the comments, and some of the post itself, strike me as having a weirdly mechanistic and linear approach to history, like all these things happen as a result of intentional decisions and are monocausal, and that's it. That's often a useful metaphor, e.g. for evolution as well as history, but we should be careful when it breaks down.

The idea that Easter 'comes from' any of the other holidays doesn't really make sense. I think a better way to think of it is that people in places with the appropriate seasons will generally have some kind of major celebration on the Vernal Equinox and the two Solstices, and these need some kind of religious flavour. When the dominant religious flavour changes, the festivals get rebranded, but some mixture of the old and the new stays. Whether the specific etymology of 'Easter' is correct is kinda irrelevant, probably it had a mix of names until the culture settled on one.

Similarly with Jesus, there seems to be a huge imbalance in the demand for evidence. The common-sense idea (assuming no actual God) that the festivals replaced one another needs to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, while the assumption that the ancient math on Jesus day of birth (if it was recorded!) is otherwise correct by default - why? You have a big festival and a new state religion, you need to reflavour it. Maybe in the case of the Spring fertility festival they were lucky and Jesus really died then, but if he hadn't, maybe we'd be celebrating the feast of Lazarus, he's a fine symbol for rebirth, or something else entirely with a Christian flavour. Doesn't matter, it was gonna be something.

In general, I think trying to trace cultural events like linguistic etymologies has a lot of pitfalls - even in linguistics! - as is obvious in the Santa Claus discussion, where he is kind of a syncretic modern minor deity. And for the record, when I lived in Israel briefly I was told that Hanukkah was an American thing that wasn't considered one of the major holidays, but has gotten steadily more popular due to globalisation.

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> Arius had it coming. The practice of punching those supposed church leaders who are his theological descendants should be normalized and celebrated.

Christianity 101: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Unless he disagrees with you about the nature of Jesus, in which case, punch him in the face as Santa Claus hath done.

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Another Russian here. Personally, I feel that our New Year celebration is conceptually much better than Christmas celebration in western countries and creates much less troubles.

The clear distinction between secular holiday and religious one helps to avoid both "Christmas loosing its religious meaning" and "Presumably secular state having a clear religious holiday" issues. You are not associating your good childhood memories with religion and you are not either loosing your favourite holiday when you realise that there is no God. Those who want to celebrate Christmas or any other religious holiday can freely do it, but no matter what there is a universal holiday for everyone.

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I completed my graduate studies in Mariology and the term “mother of god” was granted to Mary by third century writers who co-opted the term from the Egyptian goddess Isis (also a “mother of god”) The Greek term used for both women was “theotokos.” Because the Jewish people believed in only one god, the term theotokos was more problematic than previous mythologies using the same term, hence the Arian debate. More info on all of that if you really want to geek out: http://ellegriffin.com/Mary 🤓

Thanks for such an intellectual discussion and debate. I throughly enjoyed both posts!

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>If we’re celebrating Columbus Day at all, then it has to be because we’re attributing downstream effects to him, in which case he had many downstream effects but these were (hopefully) overwhelmed by the good effects of the US and all other modern New World countries.

Although you also have to apply the Billionaire Replacability logic here; in the counter-factual world, how long would it have taken another country (including the modern American nations made of unconquered natives) to invent vaccines or w/e, and what else of value might we have gotten from those unique cultures surviving to modernity?

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The Assyrians empire had been gone for a Millennia when the events of the Maccabees happened. They were fighting the Selucids who were persanised Greeks.

Interestingly Ethiopian Christians have their own version of the books of the Maccabees

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

Not endorsing punching, but another issue surrounding Arianism and the doctrine of the Trinity involves the nature of Christian salvation as generally believed back then, and still in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, i.e. theosis. (Drawing heavily on stuff I've read from David Bentley Hart here).

The idea of theosis, that "God became man so that man might become god" involves the idea that when you follow Christ, you can participate in the Divine Nature. So if the Son is created as Arius claimed, the nature you participate in by following Christ is infinitely remote from that of the absolute origin of all good. And if the Holy Spirit by which you participate in the nature of Christ is created, or really anything other than God Himself, it is, again, infinitely remote from the Divine Nature itself and not capable of bridging the gap from humanity to God.

So in order for the thing which Christians thought they meant by salvation (union with God by following Christ) to make any sense, it was necessary that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all be equally divine, and have their essence be identical to that of God. Supposedly that was one of the more important arguments people made for the Trinity in the 4th century theological debates.

Similar considerations required Christ to be "fully God and fully human, two natures without separation or confusion" (the subject of all of those debates about "natures" and "wills" and "energies"), so that the nature which Christ has joined to God really is the same as our nature, and the nature to which he has joined ours really is the Divine Nature, and so those natures really have been joined in Christ without obliterating one or the other. Basically, all of those early theological and christological debates to some extent revolved around the idea of making sure the process of theosis was intelligible.

I could have misstated some of the stuff above, but I think it's in the right general direction.

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

Something bothers me about the "only tried to find a new route to Asia, so ending up in America instead doesn't count" thing; like, really? it may not fit the exact mission statement but "accidentally finds entirely new rich land" seems like a very successful outcome of an exploration voyage

If some scientist had a crazy theory, and did an experiment that ended up disproving it but also incidentally discovering entirely new physics, I think we would still be pretty impressed.

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What fascinating stuff!

Didn't Columbus think he had discovered India?

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In Peru October 12th used to be a holiday but now it's a mostly forgotten day (and renamed "Día de los Pueblos Indígenas")

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"Jesus as the Messiah is not one of Jews’ top objections to Christianity"

I don't spend much time debating Jews on Christianity, but the objections that SAS lists strike more as good debating points in a modern Judaism vs. Christianity forensics competition than as explanations for the original antipathy between Christians and Jews.

Claims that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah were the primary source of disagreement within the first few decades after Jesus. Within the lifetimes of the people who knew and interacted with Jesus, The temple (and therefore the priesthood and the sacrifices) were destroyed by the Romans, and the Christians began conducting their own sacrifices with a priesthood that they claimed was in the same lineage. Then within the lifetimes of the children of the people who knew Jesus, the Jews were kicked out of their homeland, and their remaining rituals were suppressed. The Jewish religion went into crisis and changed drastically from a religion centering animal sacrifice to one centering religious debate, all in the shadow of losing everything. Meanwhile the Christians were continually reenacting the sacrifice of the Messiah to God.

Whatever the current status of Christian-Jewish relations might be, I don't blame the first few generations of rabbinic Judaism for being pissed at the Christian weirdos.

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> Most Jewish children know lots of Hanukkah songs that sound suspiciously like Christmas carols.

FWIW I was raised Jewish and don’t know any Hanukkah songs that sound even *remotely* like Christmas carols. The Hanukkah songs I learned all had truly terrible melodies based on earlier Yiddish folk tunes (often in a weird “Altered Dorian” musical scale).

I was jealous of Christians for their actually-good songs, many (oddly) having been written by Jewish composers.

…but I’m in my 50s, so maybe this is a recent change?

I’m thinking of songs like “Oh, Chanukah”, “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Sevivon”. What songs are YOU thinking of?


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"[...] the series of epidemics and slave plantation systems that killed most of the natives alive in 1492."

Please forgive my pedantry.

Were the epidemics fast enough to actually kill more than 50% of the natives alive in 1492?

Was the slave plantation system fast enough to actually kill more than 1% of the natives alive in 1492?

While these things definitely happen and definitely were horrible, I don't think they were as fast as you seem to make it. Didn't you mean killing their descendants?

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"All of our best holidays have begun as anti-holidays to neutralize older rites."

There are two related claims here that should be distinguished:

(1) Being an anti-holiday was one aspect of the origins of our best holidays.

(2) Being an anti-holiday was the primary cause of our best holidays.

Most of the discussion seems to be centered around (1). I don't know enough about the history to determine if this is true or not. But (2) seems to be obviously false for Christmas, Easter, and Hanukkah, and true for Indigenous People's Day.

Whether or not the date for Christmas or the symbols of Easter or the prominence of Hanukkah were chosen to compete with other holidays, they each have something important and specific that they're celebrating. Maybe, if Christianity originated in China, Christmas would be celebrated at the Chinese New Year instead of Winter Solstice and have dragons instead of reindeer. But Christians would still have a big holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

I don't think that Indigenous People's Day has something similar. Would it exist, if Columbus Day never had?

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A correction to Valjean's comment under heading 3:

>The highest-profile modern followers of Arian theology are the LDS and JW movements, which I'm grateful to note are pretty broadly acknowledged to be outside the pale of historic, Biblical Christianity.

>or Mormonism (this is the really big deal about why Mormons are not considered Christians even though they say they follow Christ and accept the Bible and all the rest of it).

LDS/"Mormons" are not Arians. It's understandable to make that mistake -- the church originates from the same historical context as the Jehovah's Witnesses, who pretty clearly believe that Jesus is a created being, and is similarly outside mainline Protestantism -- but we are not. The "Mormon" heresy is in fact opposite: the belief not that Jesus was created, but that man was not created. Joseph Smith (LDS founder) says, speaking of the spirits of man: "Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits". He holds that man is essentially uncreated, though he is elevated and ennobled by God as Father. Man, then, is indeed on a level with Christ -- this is the heretical thought -- but not because both are created, but because neither is. LDS thought diverges from mainline Protestantism not because Christ is brought too low in the Arian manner but because man is elevated too high; it is understood that every man is a God in the making and that God Himself was once a man like ourselves. But none of these beings are created, all are eternal.

It is alright if one considers that all this puts "Mormons" outside the umbrella of Christianity, but it is incorrect to say that LDS doctrine is Arian.

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"A possible counterexample: my family descends from various Jews who emigrated from Russia and Poland because of pogroms and then interbred. The people who sparked those pogroms (let’s say the Tsar) caused the current generation of my family to exist. Should we celebrate the Tsar, even though all he ever did was try to ruin our ancestors’ lives? And did Columbus - who really just wanted a quicker route to Asia plus maybe to find the Garden of Eden - really “aim at” creating America in any way more profound than the Tsar “aimed at” creating my family?

May God bless and keep the Tsar far away from us!


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Re artificial holidays Japan had a national (bank!) Holiday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the shinkansen.

This feels like the perfect holiday to me: celebrates an unironic point of national pride, is a good mix of top-down (decreed by the government) and bottom-up (celebrating a cool thing that's still part of people's daily lives), and involves fast trains.

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So there is/was a sect fractured from Christianity which denies the eternity of Christ, and (per Wikipedia) the Trinity altogether, which in turn would make their doctrine a lot more compatible with Judaism, possibly furthering inter-faith dialog etc.

And then they make the terrible branding decision of calling themselves the Arians.

(Even better, per Wikipedia, there are even semi-Arians.)

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Columbus is often accused of being wrong about his chances of reaching China if there were no pesky Americas in the way. People say no fifteenth century ship could go that far. I think they are wrong- the winds and currents would favor him, and fifteenth century caravels were pretty good ships with plenty of room for food and water.

On the other hand, in 1492 every political economy on Earth was based on slavery. Socialists used to know this- see 'Oscar Wilde's 'The Soul of Man Under Socialism'. But as a cynical appeal to bourgeois sentimentality, they now pretend to be shocked that the slaver Columbus brought slavery to the slave-trading Americas.

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I think Pessoa said all that had to be said about Chris Com:

The Columbuses

Other will have to have

What we'll have to lose.

Others could find

What, in our discovery,

Was found, or not found,

As destiny bound.

But what them does not stroke

Is the Magic that evokes

The Faraway and makes it History.

And thus their glory

Is a just halo lent

By a borrowed light.

Os Colombos

Outros haverão de ter

O que houvermos de perder.

Outros poderão achar

O que, no nosso encontrar,

Foi achado, ou não achado,

Segundo o destino dado.

Mas o que a eles não toca

É a Magia que evoca

O Longe e faz dele história.

E por isso a sua glória

É justa auréola dada

Por uma luz emprestada.

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I think the best example of decentralized organically arising holiday going mainstream, at least in the US, would be Juneteenth.

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"punishing people who don’t give you gold after you take over their country seems pretty bad regardless of what the punishment was."

Wasn't this the entire point of taking over countries prior to about 1850 (and arguably after)? It was usually just called "tribute" or "taxes" or something, but the reason you took over countries was so that the peasants there would give their taxes to you, rather than the previous overlord...

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"whether Jesus was himself divine, or whether he was a created being; like us, albeit greater. This is a point on which Scripture is emphatic,"

No Scripture is not unambiguously empathic on this point and that the reason Nicaea had to use non-Scriptural language "homoousion" to claim that Arias was wrong.

As for who cares, Protestants are full Nicaeans just like Catholics and Orthodox.

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Eggs almost certainly aren’t connected to Eostre—they have a long history of traditional use among Slavic, Latin, and Arab Christians as well as Germanic ones.

I think the importance of Arianism vs Nicene trinitarianism is actually more that, on traditional Christian explanations, for the atonement to work, Jesus must be fully divine. Otherwise, the incarnation doesn’t unify the divine nature with the human one (thinking of Irenaeus’ “nature based” treatment of atonement here).

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LDS leader-type person here preaching non-trinitarian theology. Hoping not to be punched today!

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"By the 1900s, it started to become a commercial holiday like Christmas, with Hanukkah gifts and decorations appearing in stores and Jewish Women's magazines printing articles on holiday decorations, children's celebrations, and gift giving."

I think this shows that whatever the origins of national holidays, the successful ones will be monetised to the last degree. See the way (St.) Valentine's Day has become a big holiday, and compare that with Columbus Day. As various commenters have pointed out, Columbus Day would really be a bigger deal if it was a day that people put models of the three ships on their mantlepieces and went out to eat Mexican Pizza.

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"We should celebrate the people responsible for our society / our birth" just becomes more nonsensical the more it's scrutinized. Every human had a good day-long window to get the right egg fertilized in their mom but the process by which your specific sperm was generated, and won the race from there, was completely chaotic.

(This is why alternate universe / time-travel stories where the same people are somehow conceived in different realities don't make any sense, if you want to nitpick.)

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Many historical precedents have shown the expansion of holidays and gradual phasing out of the old one through emphasis by elites or other powerful interested parties. Often syncretic blending process of beliefs happened over a few generations was the mechanism of change.

In this way, I'd think to expand it into an Exploration Day or Explorers day. Just like how on the Eiffel Tower they have the names of many prominent scientists, it'd be great to just directly name the holiday for the trait or feat we want to focus on and keep all the old ones and add new ones. This way no Italian ethnic enclave group misses out on celebrating their intercontinental slaver, thief, murderer, lunatic, and explorer of choice and historical happenstance.

I think if we tried to pin down one person for Labour Day, we might run into some level of controversy with a given historical Labour leader for this or that reason. So a generalised holiday works well.

We could add in Neil Armstrong, that russian guy who was the first in space, maybe the dog and chimp launched into orbit too, Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark, Magellan, Captain Cook the evil bastard who shot first and asked questions later, Leif Ericcson and his proto-jamestown, that mountain climber guy on Everest, the guy who went to the north pole or Antartica or whatever, all those lunatics flinging themselves into the unknown and undone etc. etc. to pick many historical figures while keeping Columbus. Just pour in more people to dilute him with more baddies and explorers.

Then we can have some combined geography, history, science, etc. programs in all the primary schools and early secondary schools to support it and kids can learn and get a day off from school. Maybe a program for fitness and encourage people to go hiking, see nature, take up canoeing or kayaking or something, etc. We can even go around to have a new round of statue building with diorama collections of various explorers from different eras in a single statue. Maybe a new mount rushmore project in a less controversial location? Maybe pair it up with new NASA/SpaceX missions? It'd be great!

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On the Chesterton theme, let’s remember that Arias was not just any presbyter in the Alexandrina Church. He was a popular influential preacher (said t have introduced hymn-singing in to Christian worship) AND the most important catechist in the largest most cosmopolitan and intellectually sophisticated city in the Empire. As such he would be in intimate dialogue with Neoplatonists who were accustomed to thinking about a metaphysical One from which emanated other entities that eventually filtered down to some lowly demi-urge who actually created the world. “There was a time when the Son was not” would have made a lot more sense to a Neoplatonist covert than gobbledygook about a co-eternal one of three Persons.

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I was surprised that there wasn’t more discussion of the assumption that Columbus was Italian. Although I haven’t heard Americans question this, my impression is that there is quite a bit of skepticism in Western Europe. You’ll get questions like “Why was his Spanish so much better than his Genoese?” and “Why use Hebrew in the letters to his sons?” (hinting at Iberian crypto-Jew origins, AFAICT).

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Oct 10, 2022·edited Oct 10, 2022

“Non native citizens of the US”


If you’re not a native citizen of the US, what are you?

These kinds of statements are always time-sensitive.

I was born in the geographical United States. Which is a nation that has existed for over 2 centuries.

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> My best counterexample is 9-11, which seems to have semi-organically become a nationwide day of remembrance, although realistically that seems to mostly involve newspapers publishing “It’s the somethingth anniversary of 9-11 today, never forget!”. Any more . . . exuberant . . . commemorations tend to be considered insensitive (eg this).

I have a memory of reading an article about the Japanese holiday celebrating the atom bombing of Japan. In my memory, it came from Azrael's collection of essays on Outpost Nine, but archives of that page don't seem to contain it.

Anyway, a big theme of the piece was that (1) the holiday is viewed like any other as a day on which you get together with your friends and throw a party; (2) WWII veterans tend to find this offensive; and (3) their opinion doesn't really matter because there are barely any of them, so they have to just observe the holiday their own way privately with each other.

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Mohammad was a murderous slaver and almost nobody objects to him being basically worshipped by hundreds of millions of people (to the point that murdering people for insulting him isn't a rare occurence).

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I thought that December 25 was chosen for Jesus’ birthday, not only because of the solstice and correspondence to pagan celebrations, etc. but also so that then, the “brit” (ritual circumcision) would occur on Jan 1, which occurs 8 days after birth (count the day of birth, given Jewish days begin at sundown, etc.). This then puts the naming of Yeshua on the very significant solar calendar day of the first of the year. This makes sense, because Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on Jan 7. This strongly implies a dispute among the split church as to whether to set Jesus’ birthday or circumcision day as Jan 1, and then which to celebrate: birthday or circumcision day. Up until the revision of the Latinate Mass, apparently Jan 1 as a festival of the Circumcision of Christ was celebrated by the Catholic Church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_the_Circumcision_of_Christ?wprov=sfti1

But it is now an “Octave Day” celebrating Mary. In any case, the fortuitous ability to have both days overlap pagan holidays was surely a bonus.

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Oct 11, 2022·edited Oct 11, 2022

I think that the real reason the "Arian heresy" was so important was that it was incompatible with Neo-Platonism, whose metaphysics logically require the existence of exactly one creator God--no more, no less--yet a God which was a trinity of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Orthodox Christology was based on Plato's conception of God, not on the scriptures, which didn't even posit a Trinity.

(IIRC, all the verses referring to the Holy Spirit either refer to divine inspiration, just as in the Old Testament, or aren't found in any texts from before the time of the Arian controversy. Also, we know from letters, and from the rest of the New Testament, that the formula "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" wasn't used regularly for baptisms in at least the first 2 centuries of Christianity. I've twice read that The Holy Spirit out-competed God the Mother to fill out the necessary Trinity. IIRC the worship of Mary, Mother of God, was strongest in those Coptic areas which had worshipped God the Mother as the third person of the Trinity circa the 3rd thru 5th centuries. But I can't recall where I read this. If anyone has references to the early Christian Trinity of God the Father, the Mother, and the Son, please reply.)

If the scriptures had been "emphatic" about the Nicaean conception of God, there wouldn't have been any argument. If the matter had been theologically important to Jesus, he could've cleared it up in a few sentences. The distinction isn't as simple as "Christ is God or he isn't"; it really is incoherent metaphysics. There's only a contradiction between Jesus being God, and being begotten by God, when "God" is defined using Platonist metaphysics. Platonists insist that "God" must be /defined/ by an essence. Jesus is thus either of the same essence/substance as God, or is not God by definition, /and anything that is not God is by definition not perfect/. And if Jesus wasn't perfect, then your sins aren't forgiven and you're going to Hell.

Arianism WAS a big deal. The "fall of the Roman Empire" and Europe's entry into its second Dark Age? Was caused by the Orthodox Christians in their frenzy to exterminate Arians. The Western Roman Empire was churning along pretty well under the Goths and Vandals with little cultural change after the Arian Odoacer, with the support of the Roman Senate, expelled the Western Emperor Nepos in 476. Most of the art and architecture made under them was indistinguishable from that made under the Romans. It was Justinian's 20-year crusade against Arianism which physically destroyed the people and infrastructure of the Western Roman Empire, and the economy of the Eastern Empire, nearly a century after the "fall" of the last Western emperor. It was Charlemagne's later 30-year crusade against Arianism which finished the task of exterminating the Arians. They had ruled continental Europe in 500 AD, and were completely eliminated by 800 AD, as was almost everything they wrote; and the people who killed them, were all Christians who specifically said they killed them because they were heretics.

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"Christianity without the divinity of Christ, as a person of the Triune God, is not Christianity. The highest-profile modern followers of Arian theology are the LDS and JW movements, which I'm grateful to note are pretty broadly acknowledged to be outside the pale of historic, Biblical Christianity."

LDS are not Arians. We believe that Christ is fully divine and that His Father is fully divine. We do believe that they are separate beings, and if you want to argue that this makes us polytheistic or "beyond the pale of historic, Biblical Christianity," you are entitled to your opinion, I don't really care. But if we care about getting facts right it simply is not the case that LDS believe in Arianism.

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I am grateful to Deiseach for so clearly explicating the reasons I should stop tarrying at agnosticism and go full-blown atheist. I have never quite seen the truly alien heart of Christianity with such clarity, so thanks for that.

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> whether Columbus was good or bad for the world, he was presumably good for us

I don't think you need to qualify this, and I think it goes straight to the real point we should be debating; I think Columbus (and the subsequent European colonisation of the Americas for which he is in this context a synecdoche) was absolutely a great thing for the world, and for everyone alive today.

I think that modern civilisation is better than barbarism, I think that literacy is better than illiteracy, I think that science is better than ignorance, I think that modern medicine is better than witch doctors, I think that a steady food supply is better than periodic famine, I think that no slavery and no human sacrifice is better than slavery and human sacrifice, I think that being rich is better than being poor, and I think that modern civilised values are better than the values of prehistoric tribes.

I think that the slow but steady spread of all these good things from their origin points to other parts of the world is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of man, and that it should be celebrated. I think that everyone, regardless of their ancestry, who lives in the Americas today is a lot better off for it, and those of Native American ancestry should be most grateful of all.

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Just came here to say thanks for the discussion. I liked it better than the post and have learned a lot.

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>Dia de la Raza, celebrating the undeniable fact that Hispanics literally would not exist if not for October 12, 1492

>Oooh, I like this one.

I don't know about this one, Scott. Suggesting an American national holiday be renamed to "race day" might win the award for "most likely to make people on *all* sides angry"

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> We can ditch Cinco de Mayo (boring, unrelated to America, non-inclusive of non-Mexican Hispanics), save Columbus Day, and have an extra excuse to eat tacos. Let’s do it!

A different holiday switch for Columbus Day has actually been my personal solution to having the "Italian American Heritage Day" celebrating a problematic guy. St Francis of Assisi's Feast Day is Oct 6th, pretty close to Columbus Day, and he's a much more stand-up Italian guy (I've done very little personal research on him besides scanning his WikiPedia page for a "controversies" section and am fully prepared to eat those words if someone has some dirt on him). I've always wanted to do for his feast day vis-a-vis Italian culture what we did to St Patrick's feast day for the Irish, allowing us to dispense of all this Columbus Day business.

This doesn't solve for the lack of a holiday about the American myth of exploration and discovery, but I never got the sense that that was what it was truly about learning about it in elementary school. I definitely remember memorizing the names of Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, but not exactly being led to inspiration about setting out from comfort to discover new frontiers. Maybe that's more of an indictment of American schooling as an institution than Columbus Day though!

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My headcanon for Cinco de Mayo is based on the (probably dubious) historical theory that the Mexican defeat of France commemorated by Cinco de Mayo eliminated the possibility of a French-aligned regime providing assistance to the Confederacy. Which is why it is not a major holiday in Mexico but is in the United States.

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I missed the chance to comment on the original post, but I'm disappointed nobody took up the presumably playful Hitler reference. As far as I can tell, modern-day fans of Hitler absolutely do fit the mythologized criteria: they believe he wanted to peacefully settle Jewish people in Madagascar but couldn't because he lost the naval war before it started, and also that he never wanted war in the first place but was forced to preemptively strike so the world powers that hated him for no reason other than him being pro-German couldn't attack him first. Also, depending on the fan's individual proclivities, that he was a devout Christian (or not). Oh and also that he was a great lover of art and of animals, and never wanted to hurt anyone.

Thus the Santa Claus version is an overly-sensitive art student who liked cosplay and attending the equivalent of Rammstein concerts. Art holding up a mirror and all that.

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Had to come down and respond to #3. When I was taking a world religions class in college, it was taught that "Son of God" was actually just a title, another way of saying "Divinely Chosen King". For example, Solomon and King David were both referred to as the "Son of God". With this interpretation, it now makes sense why (at least one that I know of) the Gospels starts with a long recounting of Jesus's pedigree: the fact that he's supposedly descended from King David means he has a legitimate claim to the Son of God throne, hence he is LITERALLY the KING of the Jews (allegedly). Here's a Wikipedia article: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_of_God

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My take as a Jew (free/secular, so take it with a grain of salt) on the whole trinity debacle is rather simple - it's the kind of crazy you get when religion starts being about what you*believe in*, instead of what you *do*.

Religion is referred to as *practice* in English Jewish communities because that is the defining feature of the religious life - whether you keep the Shabbat, eat Kosher, ect'. I know many religious (as in, practicing) Jews who are agnostic or even atheists, it can be problematic for them personally (whether because of family tensions or cognitive dissonance) but it's still clear to the people around them they are religious, as this is the meaning of being religious Jew.

from this perspective, worries about theological issues like the trinity, removed from any practical concern of the religious Law, exist because Cristians put believe in the center stage. Trinity disputes are useful for religious consolidation exactly because they are *practically* meaningless - different groups needed something to argue about, and there was no substantial *practice*.

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I have to point out that we don't celebrate Washington's birthday, or Lincoln's birthday, any more. Instead we celebrate the anodyne "Presidents' Day", which rarely involves the mention of any specific President.

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> Thus, note that in Israel Hanukkah is a Big Deal holiday, while Christmas is observed mostly by tourists/pilgrims.

Having lived in Israel for three years, I can confirm that the first part of this really isn't true. Hanukkah is hardly noticed, and most people don't even get any days off of work.

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