Open Thread – December 25th, 2010

By Razib Khan | December 25, 2010 12:03 pm

This is a scheduled post (As many of my posts are by the way. Shout out to the stupid readers who occasionally wonder why I’m not partying when a post goes live on Friday night!). Merry Christmas! I’m probably playing around with my HTC Evo 4G if you’re reading this on Saturday, or eating, etc.

What do you think of Christmas? A friend pointed out that Christmas’ religious origins may be clear in the name (Christ’s mass), but the world holiday itself originally meant holy day, and had clear religious connotations. Christmas seems an appropriate holiday for the de facto post-Christian pagan environment of the modern USA. Elements of most European Christmas celebrations draw rather obviously from pre-Christian mythos, customs, and tradition, though because of the nature of human cognition many of them are not too difficult to reinterpret in a Christian manner. That’s obviously what happened. And in turn the specific and distinctive Christian coloring of the holiday has become attenuated in much of the West. The secular and commercialized version of Christmas has even spread to Japan.

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  • Bob

    Pagan? No. We bring a tree into the house and worship it for Christian religious reasons!

  • bioIgnoramus

    “Santa and the subordinate Clauses”: sorry, I heard that joke for the first time today and am still enjoying it. Perhaps the Champagne and the Beaujolais help. What was that about religion, old boy?

  • jamie

    My dad defended Christmas celebrations by pointing out their pagan origins. Always seemed like a non sequitur, unless he were claiming to be a Pagan. I myself have never understood why agnostics and atheists would ever want a piece of Christmas. It’s such a schmaltzy Victorian invention.

  • onur

    My ex-Muslim atheist father defended the Muslim animal sacrifices (the only religious practice he observed apart from visiting relatives in Eids) pointing out their pagan origins (most pagans had animal sacrifices). Animal sacrifice didn’t seem one bit barbaric to him, as, in addition being practiced by most pagans, there was no difference between killing an animal later to eat it and buying an already dead animal – or part of it – from a butcher shop to eat or eating a hamburger according to my father.

  • http://deleted jamie


  • Zachary Latif

    I shared some thoughts on Christmas in my annual Christmas message and how it could serve to unite communities in Britain.

    Otherwise scheduled posting sounds cool (liked the shout-out) knew a friend who did scheduled posting on Twitter but for some reason I’ve never really embraced tech to that level; I should probably.

    Now back to Sepia lol.

  • omar

    Its the winter solistice. A great time to have a festival. Lots of gods needed to take birth at this time..especially in cold countries.

    I have a question for all the well-informed people on this blog: What was the mid-winter festival of the pre-islamic pagan arabs? As you probably know, their pre-islamic calendar was astronomically superior to the later “Islamic calendar” in that it did compensate for the lunar-solar disparity by using intercalation. Of course, intercalation was a priestly function and was tied up with the old pagan religion and got dropped (maybe it was just dropped for very specific reasons at one point of time, but things got frozen later)…anyway, their festival calendar was coordinated with the seasons and I am wondering what the winter festival was?

  • diana

    “What was the mid-winter festival of the pre-islamic pagan arabs?”

    Dunno….tell us! Tell us!

    I know that the Persians did a winter fire festival called Sadeh. But that’s not Arabs.

  • omar

    This is not a comment. its a post to revive this thread so that someone gives me an answer about the midwinter festival of the pagan arabs. if you dont, I will have to go and read a book, which is so 20th century….

  • Razib Khan

    can’t find anything on google books. perhaps mid-winter festivals are a feature of farming societies?


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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