Re: Why is Christmas on December 24?

Gil Hardwick (
Mon, 17 Apr 1995 02:14:17 GMT

In article <3m2pad$>, Lennart Regebro ( writes:
>Mid-summer festivals aren't a salubration of the death of the sun. Its a
>salubration of the sun when it is at its peak. Mid-summer festivals
>are still the second popular holiday in sweden, although it never have
>adopted any christianity. We're stubborn in Sweden. :)

To the original question in the header, the European Saturnalia (L.
*satus*; sowing, planting) begins December 17 for one week (17-24) of
fasting over the summer (oops, your winter) solstace, then a further
week (24-31) of feasting and celebrating the end of sowing.

I can only suppose that in Sweden crops are sown and harvested in
summer, while everything there closes down for the remainder due to
being snow-bound and in darkness in any event. No wonder mid-summer
festivals are popular there, although my guess is that they have a
different mythical origin from those much further south along the

The Gregorian Calender places the start of the Christian New Year on
the next day following the end of the Saturnalia, which is now January
1, claiming that the start of that week is actually their God's son's
birthday and that we are celebrating his birth. Well, no great harm
done I guess, except that the shift in emphasis served to deny people
recognition of their hard work getting the crop in, and asserted
instead that it is the Church doing the society the favour.

The whole thing is something of an idiosyncracy anyway down here in
the Antipodes, as we have similarly finished sowing traditional crops
by our (Mediterranean) mid-winter and have them off by early summer.
After that the swelter starts and we take our holidays not because we
have anything to celebrate at that time of year, but because the work
is finished and it is just too damned hot to do anything else apart
from feeding stock over the dry spell.

We don't usually start again until about mid-March, before the first
winter rains come.

We nevertheless still go out of our way to feast on traditional cooked
fare under the stern eye of the fundy administration even at those
temperatures. Some of our pommie immigrants have begun to challenge
their authority by holding the feast in July, which certainly appears
more appropriate except that they have chosen to continue calling it

Seems we're stubborn in Australia too, or just a tad gonked . . .

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