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Know Feliz: Who Stole Christmas? The Pagan Origins of the Holiday

Friday, December 18, 2020, 2:00 AM - 3:00 AM

This is a live, interactive presentation held via Zoom. Join the meeting here:
Passcode: 674710

Explore the Pagan origins of holiday traditions and stories.

Because Jesus of Nazareth is not the only divine figure whose birthday is celebrated at the winter solstice, we are frequently told that the early Christians "stole" the celebration from various Pagan cultures. Two motives are frequently given: that early Christians used existing celebrations to cloak their own, or that Christians co-opted solstice celebrations such as the Roman Saturnalia and bent them to their own theological uses. Beyond that, some have tried to reinterpret common seasonal symbols, claiming, for example, that Santa Claus flying through the sky is a folk memory of shamans who "flew" aided by red and white Amanita muscaria mushrooms. Within Christianity, Christmas customs have varied widely, from multi-day celebrations during parts of the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods, to the New England Puritans' complete banning of the holiday, following bans enforced at different times in Scotland and England.

Put together historically inaccurate narratives, misunderstandings of what ancient Pagans did at the winter solstice, and attempts by contemporary Pagans to reclaim the holiday, and we have quite a bit of sorting-out to do. Yet at the same time, Christmas-Yule-Winter Solstice retains its power in the Northern Hemisphere as a time of celebration that can bring people together, regardless of their religious paths.

Chas S. Clifton holds degrees from Reed College and the University of Colorado. After spending the 1980s as a journalist, he taught at Colorado State University-Pueblo until 2008. Since then he has concentrated on academic writing and editing. He was formerly co-chair of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group within the American Academy of Religion and edits The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, a peer-reviewed journal from Equinox Publishing in the UK.

Phone: (541) 312-1063
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