I have no problem giving Christmas greetings to my friends and associates, both local and in other countries. Even though these greetings are sometimes sent to non-Christian friends. And I certainly do not need some back-room Brussels pen pushers, fresh out of university and overly excited to be given the task of writing a brief (incidentally Brussels issues thousands of such briefs monthly and nobody really gives a damn) to dictate to me that we should all be more inclusive when it comes to personal beliefs. I have enough common sense on my own to send ‘happy holiday’ greetings to any of my friends and associates who feel perturbed should they be given a specific Christian Christmas greeting.
This latest Brussels saga is one of many storms in a bloody teacup which spiralled out of all proportion. The fact that these ‘perpetrators’ inked a paper which supposedly fell under the aegis of a European Commissioner who happened to be Maltese is neither here nor there. Except for the local Nationalists in opposition and their coterie of right-wing zealots, led by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi.
This MP has a history of right wing hysterics. He has always been projected in the media to be an Opus Dei chap, dedicated to showing off his adulatory relationship with the Christian statuaries of his home town and who also took the trouble to visit the tomb of our Saviour in Jerusalem. With free accommodation by the Hilton Fenechs of course. And naturally accompanied in case of solitary boredom.
This latest Brussels saga is one of many storms in a bloody teacup which spiralled out of all proportion.
The problem is not local with chaps like Jason Azzopardi. The problem is elsewhere in Europe where the Far Right pounced on this stupid non-story and projected it as proof of a European conspiracy to abolish Christianity. The far right has always used and abused Christianity in order to achieve power. The Catholic Church’s own flirtations with the Nazi and Fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco (and Tiso and so many others) continued unabated from the 1920s right up to and after the end of the Second World War. Even though Hitler himself stated in 1933 that ‘one is either a German or a Christian…you cannot be both.’
The Far Right in other European countries is dangerous. Really dangerous. Locally, the extreme right is the matter of loonies and fringe eccentrics, up to now. In other EU countries, it is worryingly getting worse year in, year out. Just last October, groups of violent neo-fascists infiltrated a protest against COVID-19 vaccine passes in Rome, attacking a hospital and a trade union building. Without dwelling on Eastern European countries such as Hungary, political parties characterised as far-right have joined governing coalitions in Austria, Italy, Estonia and Finland. They are getting more vocal and more unrestrained. They have used the fear of the COVID pandemic to their advantage. And now they are using this Christmas non-story and milk it for all it’s worth.
The far right has always used and abused Christianity in order to achieve power.
Poor Pope Francis should have known better than to comment on such a non-story. He should have known that his comments would be used as sound bites by those whose only intention is to use the Church for their own extreme and dangerous purposes. His chequered past and his synergic flirtations with the Fascist military Junta in Argentina when he was a priest should have amply reminded him to not give more fodder to those who want to really destroy democracy.
All this because it is really a non-story. Keeping Christmas Christian is so gross that any literate person should laugh all this nonsense off instead of debating it. Because the crux of the matter is that there is absolutely nothing Christian at all with how Christians and the church celebrates Christmas.
The origin of Christmas
Christmas started being celebrated in the fourth century AD, suggesting that it had almost nothing to do with Jesus Christ. In ancient Rome there was a feast called Saturnalia that celebrated the solstice. What is the solstice? It’s the day that the sun starts coming back, the days start getting longer. And most of the traditions that we have that relate to Christmas relate to the solstice, which was celebrated in ancient Rome on December 25. The church merely changed the name of the celebration. The practice of gift giving and candle lighting all came from the solstice celebrations which preceded Christianity by centuries.
One of Pope Francis’s titles used to date is Pontifex Maximus. This was the Latin title used by the high priest of Rome of the state religion who worshipped the deity referred to as Sol Invictus. The invincible sun. Even Constantine the Great, the emperor who legalised Christianity and turned it into a state religion, still built victory arches dedicated to Sol Invictus after Christianity became legalised.
The Norse celebrated Yule for the same above reasons from December 21st. Hence the word Yuletide. And the German ‘barbarians’ similarly celebrated the period and honoured the pagan god Oden. They celebrated Modraniht – Night of the Mothers – on Christmas Eve. Mithraism also celebrated December 25th as being the day when Mithras was born. Mithras was the god of the unconquerable sun. In fact, December 24-25 was also celebrated by the ancient Iranians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Syrians and Greeks.
The Druids performed the ritual of peace under the powerful mistletoe during the winter solstice. And if you ever wondered why our saints have a halo around their heads in every drawing or statue, the halo is the artistic derivative of the same Sol Invictus; the rays of the sun projected over the heads of those ‘touched by God’.
The Christmas tree tradition emerged from the “sacred trees” of Northern European mythology such as Yggdrasil, the giant ash tree at the centre of the Norse cosmos that holds all the worlds in its roots and branches. St. Boniface came upon one such sacred tree during his mission to the Germanic tribes in 723. Upon finding devotees preparing to sacrifice a child to Thor at the “Thunder Oak,” Boniface intervened and ‘miraculously’ chopped down the tree with one swift swing. He used its wood to build a Christian chapel, and in the spot where the oak had stood, he placed a small fir tree. And thus started the tradition of the ‘Christian’ Christmas tree. They started to hang an apple on it, so little red balls on green trees — get the picture here?
I could go on and on for ages on this topic. But I should end this article by sending my most sincere Christmas wishes to all the readers of The Journal. One could also offer a prayer to all The Journal’s readers, in keeping with the spirit of the season. But the problem is that, to this day, all Christian prayers end with one word: Amen. Amen, however, was a major ancient Egyptian deity who was attested from the Old Kingdom together with his wife Amunet. After the rebellion of Thebes against the Hyksos in the 16th century BC, Amen was fused with the Sun god, Ra, as Amen-Ra or Amun-Re. Later, in Greece, he was worshipped as Zeus Ammon.
Now there’s a centuries old lesson in inclusivity if you’re searching for one.