Monday, December 06, 2010

Winterlude, Winterlude, My Little Daisy

 
We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ. The War on Christmas is over, and likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history. Mr Pickles explained that the Christian festival has previously been ambushed by those intent on re-branding Christmas as a bland 'Winter festival' [continues]

In a major victory for common- sense, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said local authorities should not introduce politically correct versions such as “Winterval”....Birmingham’s annual Winterval festival was designed to appeal to all cultures, while Lambeth council in London sparked fury when it ordered its Christmas lights to be called “winter” or even “celebrity” lights to avoid upsetting other faiths.



Where are all those people who may be offended by calling Christmas, ‘Christmas’? What about the people who offend the Christian community when ‘they’ call it Winterval, again revealing this lack of quality of mind? Why is offence assumed before anything is spoken, written or visualised? Who indeed are the purveyors of PC [continues]

He said: "In Bradford we have celebrated Diwali, then Eid, then Christmas. If you drive through Bradford now, you will see the lights actually name them. We do not have some daft idea like 'Winterval' which nobody wants apart from a few secularists.


Except a leftie Christmas would be called "Winterval" as they would want to offend the oppressed ethnic minorities, despite evidence that many muslims and hindus celebrate Christmas.


And Birmingham City Council chiefs renamed Christmas as Winterval in 1997 and 1998. The move was heavily criticised by non-Christian and Christian groups alike as PC madness.

Christmas is a time to remember what and who Christ came for. In this age of Political Correctness we have people trying to use ‘Xmas’ and ‘Winterval’ for fear of causing offence to others who want to celebrate Christmas without the ‘Jesus’ bit. People who do not even recognise Jesus as their Lord and Saviour are trying to dictate to us how we should celebrate the birth of our Lord. Well we must be resolute in our [continues]

But it isn’t only the serious world of jobs and work where there have been changes. Some of our most famous holidays and celebrations have also received the PC makeover. Surely there’s nothing offensive about Christmas, you say. Not true. Apparently it might offend some people, so now it should be referred to as “Winterval” (that’s a combination of “winter” and “interval” in case you didn’t realise [or possibly from the word "festival"].) And Easter is now the “Spring Festival”, so that no one feels excluded. So, where’s it going to end? Will we one day be living in “The United Monarchdom” (instead of the “The United Kingdom“) [continues]

The battle in the United States usually concerns crèches on public property or carols in the schools, and is fought in the packed trenches of the federal court system by groups like the ACLU. In the UK the argument is over the replacement of Christmas by “Winter Holiday”, “Winter Festival”, or — worst of all — “Winterval”. 

Anyway, as it's Christmas time, Happy Christmas. Or Happy Winterval, if you'd prefer. I certainly don't prefer it, but that's the PC age we live in now.

So, this time next week, we’ll be in December, the festive month of Christmas (or Winterval, if we’re being abhorrently PC about the names of Britain’s festivities — I call it Christmas, and I don’t even like Christmas all that much)....


Councils up and down the country would prefer to bury Christmas under a blanket of PC nonsense and relabel it ‘Winterval’ or some other stupid name. We must make sure this does not happen and we can all play our bit in this. If you see signs of this nonsense in your borough you must complain about these quisling fascists. The foreigners that live here and do not celebrate Christmas are especially vocal here and we have to watch them like a hawk [continues]
London Patriot (a fascist site)


A clutch of councils have cancelled Christmas and replaced it with multicultural holidays in a bid to be right-on. Changes have included banning carols and even rebranding the celebrations “Winterval”.


YOU MEAN WE CAN A CHRISTMAS WITHOUT ALL THOSE TOUCHY FEELIE PC WORLD MORONS CALLING WINTERVAL?


BRING IT ON...


AND IF IT OFFENDS ANY OTHER CULTURE HERE...


Christians too, see their faith denigrated and marginalised. Local councils have banned Nativity plays. Christmas is rebranded by the PC loonies as ‘Winterval’. I understand people are angry. I understand why they fear the loss of their culture and identity. I share those feelings. The Koran is a hate-filled manual for conquering [continues]

34 comments:

ZZ said...

Happy Hanukkah!

Oh wait, that makes me a Zionist invader. Please forgive me. Here's my wallet.

Gavin Burrows said...

"And Easter is now the “Spring Festival”, so that no one feels excluded."

Those cunning PC fiends are now pretending Easter is some kind of Spring festival! Whatever next..?

SK said...

You know, I think we should go back to the kind of Christmases we had when this was a proper Christian country, run by proper enthusiastic Christians, like Oliver Cromwell.

Sam Dodsworth said...

In Tooting we have celebrated Diwali, then Eid, then Christmas. If you drive through Tooting now you will see the lights are rather carefully generic and say things like "Sponsored by Anand Pan Centre" in quite small, unilluminated letters.

You will also wonder who, exactly, it is that has celebrated Christmas before the end of December. Perhaps it is one of those Julian Calendar things, or possibly Lunar Christmas.

You will also very probably be stuck in traffic for some considerable time.

Andrew Stevens said...

Those cunning PC fiends are now pretending Easter is some kind of Spring festival! Whatever next..?

To a serious Christian, rather than the people being quoted here whose grandparents were Christian and therefore are vicariously insulted on Christians' behalf, wiping away the religious significance of Easter is much, much more serious than doing so to Christmas since Easter has, in fact, been the central Christian holiday for nearly 2000 years. Making Easter into merely a spring festival is far worse than turning Christmas into a winter one.

Gavin Burrows said...

"Making Easter into merely a spring festival is far worse than turning Christmas into a winter one."

I'm not sure why it's "merely" a Spring festival. Spring's a fairly significant point in the year, isn't it?

These berks tend to bleat about tradition being undermined, but if it was just a matter of keeping to tradition they'd never have become Christian festivals in the first place - they'd have stayed pagan celebrations of pivotal points in the calendar.

Andrew Stevens said...

That does apply to Christmas, certainly, but Easter wasn't linked to a pagan holiday, but to Passover for sound theological reasons. That's why Easter is a movable feast on our solar calendar since it is linked to the lunisolar calendar of Judaism instead.

(Yes, I also have heard the modern theories about Ishtar and the pagan origins of Easter and all of that. None of it has any basis in fact, although the corresponding stuff about Christmas might well be true.)

Gavin Burrows said...

I've always understood that Easter came from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre. Not sure I've ever heard of any connection to Ishtar, how was that made to work? (My first, perhaps cynical, impression is that people are sticking together names from different cultures just because they sound a bit similar. But perhaps I should hear the theory out.)

Certainly all those eggs and hares look pretty much like the symbols of a fertility cult to me! And weren't virtually all the major Christian festivals given the dates of earlier ones?

I've also always imagined that Easter had a variable date as it marked a variable point. (The onset of Spring, not the shortest day.)But that's probably what i've assumed, rather than read.

I do like to tease these 'Christians by tradition' by telling them they should also observe Lent and make Church-going compulsory again. They don't always seem keen, for some reason...

Gavin Burrows said...

Oh yes, also Eostre was originally given a month! Which might pinning the festival to a few days necessarily fuzzy!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre

SK said...

It's worth remembering that no one can '[make] Easter into merely a spring festival'; what secularists can do is stop the general social celebration of Easter and instead celebrate a spring festival. But Christians, in that case, will continue to celebrate Easter quite independently from the wider culture (in the same way as Christians in other countries where Easter is not a public holiday still celebrate it).

The etymology of 'Easter' doesn't seem to be very certain; the one thing that seems fairly clear, from a tiny bit of research with the online OED, is that it comes from the Old High German word for 'dawn'. Now, the Saxons also had a goddess of the dawn with a similar name to the word for 'dawn' (hardly surprisingly), but as to whether the Christian festival was simply named 'dawn' (not unreasonably, given what Easter's about -- it makes as much sense as 'Advent', anyway) or whether it was named for the goddess of the dawn, well, that seems to be entirely a matter of conjecture.

Andrew Rilstone said...

This is actually quite complicated, though, isn't it?

Some elements of Easter are purely secular -- eating pancakes, searching for chocolate eggs, going to B & Q, hoping that you will be the grandest lady in the Easter parade. Some elements are purely religious -- palm crosses, stripping the alter, four hours vigil, sunrise communion.

Some of the folk traditions have liturgical connections with the Christian Easter -- you eat eggs, milk and sugar on Shrove Tuesday because you are going to give them up for Lent -- but no-one suggests that pancake races have some holy significance. Anyone might join in an easter egg hunt; only a fairly active Christian would be likely to go to Good Friday vigil.

By contrast a lot of elements of the folk Christmas -- the children's nativity play, the crib, carol singing, the angel or star on the Christmas tree -- have, at the very least, been drawn from the Christian festival. (Santa Claus himself as clearly got some connection with the Christian St Nicholas.) But lots of people who are not in the least bit religious quite like those bits of the festival. Some of them even like the more explicitly Christian parts, like Nine Lessons And Carols. You might not expect your atheist friend to come to church on Christmas morning, but it wouldn't be very surprising if he joined in the carol singing round the Christmas tree.

The only comparable example I can think of -- of a Christian Easter tradition that has "made the jump" into the popular folk Easter -- is the practice of eating Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. But this has largely been prohibited by the Political Correctness Brigade, which is why you can buy them all year round.

So I don't think there is really any question of "turning Easter into" a spring festival of bunnies, eggs, bonnets etc. I think that there have always been two festivals: the bunnies have never had much to do with the Ressurection and the Ressurection has never had much to do with the bunnies. People have always gone to church, or the Easter Parade, or both, as they see fit. I suppose that, if there are fewer Christians about than there used to be, you see more of the secular ceremony and less of the religious one. (The BBC used to treat Good Friday as a day for new relgious drama, church services and talking heads shows with bishops. Nowadays, you are lucky if they show a repeat of The Robe on BBC2.)

Whereas Christmas has always been "one festival", or possibly "two festivals so hopelessly entwined that you cna't really do one without the other." Could you really get through a Very Religious Christmas without eating a mince pie? Could you really get through a Totally Secualr Christmas without singing The Little Drummer Boy, at least once?

Andrew Rilstone said...

"East it is to date Easter /
If you but recall /
That upon the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox/
She doth always fall"

Andrew Stevens said...

Let us keep in mind that Easter is purely the English name for the holiday and, yes, in English it was named after the Old English month it happened to usually fall in which was probably named after a pagan goddess. It is a serious error though to believe that this implies any pagan origin of the holiday. In all other European languages, the holiday is called some variant of Pasch, an archaic name for Passover. (You can do a web search with terms 'easter' and 'ishtar' and you'll find a bunch of links which lay out the theory, but I don't think there's a lot of consistency to them.)

Mr. Rilstone is correct about the concurrent purely secular holiday and I wasn't arguing that anybody should be mad about it, merely arguing that I believe the religious holiday Easter, and not Christmas, should be the central holiday for serious Christians. Christ's resurrection is far more theologically significant than his birth.

I like the verse about when Easter falls, but all of that rigmarole was originally designed to try to get Easter to fall on 14 Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, i.e. right around Passover.

SK said...

'[I]n English it was named after the Old English month it happened to usually fall in which was probably named after a pagan goddess'

Well, 'probably' is going a bit far there. According to my cursory research there is a whole one count 'em one source which attests to that theory. And that same source is the only one which even alludes to the existence of such a goddess.

More accurate, as far as I can tell, would be 'in English it may have been named after the Old English month in which it happened to fall, and that month may or may not have existed, and if it did, may or may not have been named after a possible goddess'.

But yes, the point about even this wild theory only even seeming to apply in English is well-made.

Gavin Burrows said...

”Let us keep in mind that Easter is purely the English name for the holiday...

Well, except it’s not of course. It’s the Old English name, itself rooted in the Anglo Saxon. The modern German ‘Ostern’ sounds suspiciously similar to me. The passover-derived names could conceivably have come later, and been related to the spread of Christianity across Europe. As you point out, Easter would have been the first festival to install in those times, certainly before Christmas. (Though admittedly Nordic names for Easter are passover-related too.)

I must confess to being at something of a loss as to what Andrew imagines people did during Spring in pre-Christian times. Back then, Winter didn’t just mean turning the heating up and watching more telly. You would have considered yourself lucky to survive it. And of course its impact would have been accentuated in our more Northern climes. Traditionally, Spring was important enough to be regarded as the start of the year. (Though dates and measures varied across times and places.)

I am similarly at a loss as to what t’other Andrew would consider to be pagan fertility symbols if eggs and hares are merely “secular”. The hare was, after all, the animal associated with Eostre. (Similarly Christmas incorporated trees, mistletoe and drinking. But mostly drinking.)

I also note that the Bede seems to lose some of his Venerability here, despite normally being regarded as (for his time) one of the more reliable sources. We might also add that it was hardly in the interests of his history of Christianisation to play up the pagan roots of things. But my argument is based less on nomenclature than on the nature of folk customs.

”the bunnies have never had much to do with the Resurrection and the Resurrection has never had much to do with the bunnies.”

I would suggest the exact opposite. What better time to tell a tale of death and resurrection than when the world is being resurrected?

”That's why Easter is a movable feast on our solar calendar since it is linked to the lunisolar calendar of Judaism instead.”

It’s widely held that, as society developed, we moved from a solar calendar to a lunar one. Seeing pre-Christian culture as something uniform leads to such ludicrous sights as Druids gathering at Stonehenge. (A great British tradition stretching all the way back to the Nineteen Eighties.)

I think we need to get past this binary relationship of ‘Christian past’ and ‘secular modernity’. I’d say we should have a stab at being trinary, if there was any such word. Talk of keeping pagan traditions alive can seem like mere New Ageyness. But in an era where our rapacious relationship to the Earth is offset only by a few ritual penances, I’d say it sounded like a pleasant alternative to Consumer Fest and Happy Love Day.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I am similarly at a loss as to what t’other Andrew would consider to be pagan fertility symbols if eggs and hares are merely “secular”. The hare was, after all, the animal associated with Eostre.

You misunderstand me, Sir. Right now, at this moment, if Mr Smith gives Mrs Smith a Milk Tray Easter Egg, or if all the little Smiths have Hot Cross Buns for breakfast and then go out and role cheese down a hill, they do not regard themselves as doing something at all "holy", but entirely non-religious. Where if they go to Church on Easter Sunday and sing Thine Be, The Glory, Risen, Conquering Son, they percieve themselves as doing something Religious. On the origins of the traditions, I have nothing whatever to say. It may be that the tradition of Chocolate Bunnies in spring may be related to the Ancient Britians worshipping a Bunny God. It might be the invention of the Cadburies marketing department. Or it might be that Ancient and Modern Britains independently came up with the idea that Bunnies and Spring go together because, er, you see a lot of bunnies in the spring time.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I would suggest the exact opposite. What better time to tell a tale of death and resurrection than when the world is being resurrected?

Yes. And no.

Yes, Bunnies are connected to spring; bunnies are connected to the world being resurrected; the resurrectin of Jesus is connected to the resurrection of the world, therefore, bunnies are connected to the resurrection of Jesus.

No, the majority of people who give each other bunny shaped chocolates, or who arrange egg-hunts for their children, do not think "We are doing this because Jesus came back to life" or even "We are doing this because a long time ago people thought Jesus came back to life, and that's a nice thought, even though we don't ourselves believe it."

No, I don't think that the bunnies originally had any liturgical connection with anything in Christianity. You don't have to dig very deep to work out that there was a Christian origin to the tradition of eating buns with a cross on them on, er, the day of the crucifixion. But I don't think there's any comparable reason why we got into the habit of eating rabbit shaped confectionary on the day of the resurrection. I think their origins are independent.

But I very much agree that Passover, Easter, whatever may be left of an Ancient British spring festvial, and quite a lot of the modern Spring traditions all fit together and match pretty well. (Where the Christian Christmas and the Secular/Pagan winterfestival have never really gone together terribly well.) It's easy to incorpate spring traditions into Easter because Easter actually is a spring festival.

Andrew Stevens said...

The passover-derived names could conceivably have come later, and been related to the spread of Christianity across Europe.

While admitting that, prior to research, one could think this, it's not actually true. The Council of Nicea recognized Easter Sunday (under a variant of the word Pasch) in 325 AD, which was prior to the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons. The earliest known reference to Easter occurs in the mid-2nd century (Homily on the Pascha) and refers to it as a well-established custom. Bede himself says that the Easter customs had died out and been replaced by Christian Paschal season customs (and there's a very good chance those Easter customs developed post-Christ, though predating the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons). It's actually extremely hard, if not impossible, to imagine a religious tradition originating among the Anglo-Saxons and then migrating to the Mediterranean rather than the other way around.

The Easter bunny and Easter eggs do not appear until the 17th century. If they have ancient origins, it's because of Christians reaching back into the pagan past rather than a tradition that grew up side-by-side with the religious holiday.

In any event, Easter has the date it has because that's when the Gospels actually say that Christ died and was resurrected. (Obviously this does not apply to Christmas since the Gospels are silent on when Christ was born.) The three possible explanations for its having the good fortune of occurring right near the beginning of spring are 1) God planned it that way, 2) the Gospel writers planned it that way, and 3) it's all just a big coincidence.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Isn't it the case that Jewish Passover takes place on a fixed day (14 Nisan, which ever day of the week it falls on -- not necessarily the Sabbath), and that the earliest Christians celebrated Easter on that date? And that enough people wanted to hold on to the old tradition that some came up with the handy word "quartodecimanists" to describe them? Do we know why the shift to the new, Lunar system of calculating Easter (making it a "movable feast") was adopted, and why it became so important? Was it because the Relatively Early Christians wanted to distinguish themselves from the Jews? Or because they wanted their festival to coincide with a Roman one? Or for some other reason?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Or was it just that the Christians thought it important for Easter to fall on a Sunday, because they couldn't expect people to go to church twice in one week? But if it comes to that, do we actually know when the Very Early Christians switched their Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? (Beyond "sometime between the middle of the first century and the middle of the fourth century" I mean?)

I once read a tract, either by the Jehovahs Witnesses or the Worldwide Church of God (niether holy, Roman, nor an Empire) which argued that the Resurrection was not, in fact, on Sunday. I seem to remember they made out a good case, but since I can't remember what it was, I'm not sure why I raised it.

Gavin Burrows said...

”You misunderstand me, Sir.’

Apologies if so! What I took you to mean (from this and previous posts)... the tabloids focus on non-existent PC threats to our great traditions, such as there being lights in the shopping centre and Morecambe and Wise on the telly when it is Christmas. This ruse to sell papers is pretty silly as these threats are non-existent, as demonstrated by the presence of lights in the shopping centre and listings for Morecambe and Wise in the Radio Times.

But it’s worse than that, because by focusing so intently on those forms they are pushing the content of those things further and further down. If we lightened up a bit, and forgot about the Daily Mail’s circulation drives, those forms would not be so fetishised, and the content would be more accessible for those what wants it.

...whereupon I blunder by and point out that there is a pagan content under the Christian content. While I don’t match your Christianity by calling myself a pagan, and wish not to worship Eostre or Ishtar or hang out with Ken Barlow, I contend that’s part of our heritage too and is in some way valuable.

”No, I don't think that the bunnies originally had any liturgical connection with anything in Christianity.”

The hares, sir! Eostre was symbolised by a hare! There may even be some barometer symbolism there, as the wild hare gets progressively emasculated into the domesticable, cuddly bunny. (Mind you, I couldn’t be bothered to research it!)

Anyway, I fear that here m’learned colleague rather misunderstands me. The Christian Easter doesn’t scratch its head for symbols and comes up with eggs and hares, it comes across them already present and incorporates/ imposes (delete as desired) itself upon them. “You can have your Spring festival, of course, but you know what it’s really about...”

”In any event, Easter has the date it has because that's when the Gospels actually say that Christ died and was resurrected.”

So if the date was imposed by events, like Remembrance Sunday, with no relationship to the annual cycle, doesn’t its original relationship to Passover seem something of a hefty co-incidence? To me that sounds like they were picking and choosing dates for what they represented not what they recorded.

”It's actually extremely hard, if not impossible, to imagine a religious tradition originating among the Anglo-Saxons and then migrating to the Mediterranean rather than the other way around.”

Okay then, lets’ not. Because Spring actually happens in most places. Eggs for example were used symbolically in Spring festivals in China, Egypt, Greece and Persia. All places which had very different relationships to the spread of Christianity.

”The Easter bunny and Easter eggs do not appear until the 17th century.”

As already said, Eostre was symbolised by a hare and she was hanging around before then. And, to quote from Christina Hole’s Dictionary of British Folk Customs:

“In the household accounts of Edward I for 1290, there is an entry of eighteenpence spent upon ‘four hundred and a half of eggs’, which were to be [decorated] and then distributed to the members of the Royal household.”

With all due respect to our learned colleague Mr. Stevens, I fear his researches here have rather been coloured by his country of origin, and it’s early puritan desires to expunge the pagan roots of its culture.

(Late addition! Christina Hole’s book also claims the hare became the rabbit in the USA! Wikipedia suggests “The Easter Bunny was introduced to the United States by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 18th century.”)

Andrew Rilstone said...

So if the date was imposed by events, like Remembrance Sunday, with no relationship to the annual cycle, doesn’t its original relationship to Passover seem something of a hefty co-incidence? To me that sounds like they were picking and choosing dates for what they represented not what they recorded.

I don't think it's a co-incidence. Neither would I necessarily appeal to divine providence. Jesus was Jewish; Jesus disciples were Jewish. If Jesus thought he was the Son of God, then it was the Jewish God he thought he was the son of. So on any view -- whether he was a lunatic or a liar or a leprachaun -- he would have seen his mission in terms of the Jewish religion.
The Gospels say that he consciously chose to go to Jerusalem at Passover. He specifically said that his death was going to be like the death of the Passover lamb. Of course he did: if he believed he had to die to save the world, he would have looked at in terms of the Jewish temple. What other kind of sacrifice would he have known about or thought about?

Yes, of course, you can say that that's a ret-con: that Mark or proto-Mark invented a date for Jesus' execution which fitted in with the theological significance it had taken on (but which Jesus himself never gave it). Or, slightly more plausibly, that the early Christians interpreted Jesus' death in terms of the Passover because that's when it happened to have happened, and the slightly less early Christians put those later beliefs into Jesus' mouth, even though he never really said them.

I would have thought, though, that occam's razor applies: isn't it easier to say "Jesus believed that God wanted him to die in Jerusalem at Passover Time; his followers, who became the early church, believed this; modern Christians still believe this."

But actually, that hardly matters for the present discussion. Even if the Jesus of Christianity is a more or less fictitious character, the fact is that the people who invented him were relating his imaginary death to the Jewish Passover at a very, very early stage.

Andrew Stevens said...

Isn't it the case that Jewish Passover takes place on a fixed day (14 Nisan, which ever day of the week it falls on -- not necessarily the Sabbath), and that the earliest Christians celebrated Easter on that date? And that enough people wanted to hold on to the old tradition that some came up with the handy word "quartodecimanists" to describe them? Do we know why the shift to the new, Lunar system of calculating Easter (making it a "movable feast") was adopted, and why it became so important? Was it because the Relatively Early Christians wanted to distinguish themselves from the Jews? Or because they wanted their festival to coincide with a Roman one? Or for some other reason?

14 Nisan was also a "movable feast" for the same reason that all Jewish holidays move relative to the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish calendar is lunisolar like the original Roman calendar before the Julian reforms and not a solar calendar like the Julian or Gregorian. The biggest reason why the date of Easter was changed was because different Jewish communities had different methods for reckoning their calendar so Christians were having their holiday on different days depending on what the local Jews were doing. Also, a decision was made (for unclear reasons) that Easter should always be held on a Sunday and 14 Nisan didn't have a specific day of the week. I think the biggest reason was simply standardization, but people had very strong opinions on what standard should be adopted and I couldn't hope to untangle what all their motives were. I suspect the change to Sunday was to differentiate from the Jews, but whole books have been written on that subject.

So if the date was imposed by events, like Remembrance Sunday, with no relationship to the annual cycle, doesn’t its original relationship to Passover seem something of a hefty co-incidence? To me that sounds like they were picking and choosing dates for what they represented not what they recorded.

That Jerusalem was preparing for Passover when Christ was crucified is definitively stated in the Gospels. Whether this is A) God's plan, B) the Gospel writers' plan, or C) just one big coincidence (i.e. Jesus really was crucified at that time, but God had nothing to do with it), I will leave up to you all individually to decide.

Okay then, lets’ not. Because Spring actually happens in most places. Eggs for example were used symbolically in Spring festivals in China, Egypt, Greece and Persia. All places which had very different relationships to the spread of Christianity.

I was responding to your sentence The passover-derived names could conceivably have come later [after Easter], and been related to the spread of Christianity across Europe. which I found implausible. I agree that many cultures would have had spring festivals which could have been incorporated into the Christian celebration.

Andrew Stevens said...

I fear his researches here have rather been coloured by his country of origin, and it’s early puritan desires to expunge the pagan roots of its culture.

Not a bit of it. I often refer to myself among Christians as aspiring to be a "virtuous pagan" (among Jews as "righteous among the Gentiles"). I am much more closely attuned to the pagan Greco-Roman heritage of my culture than to its Judeo-Christian heritage (though the two are so intertwined that it's nearly impossible to study one without the other). I confess that I have no real interest in Anglo-Saxon paganism which, I guess, is also part of my ancestry and culture, but I certainly wouldn't wish to crowd it out or deny it its place.

I just don't think the Easter Bunny (or hare if you prefer) has anything to do with Eostre. Eggs and rabbits are obvious symbols of spring, occurring again and again and again in all different cultures. The evidence leads me to believe that all of the paganism was pretty much trampled out of Easter and, eventually, probably after the start of Protestantism, similar such symbols were used in similar ways by entirely different peoples.

I also don't believe that Easter was invented in order to supplant spring celebrations in the way that Christmas may well have been invented to supplant pre-existing pagan winter holidays (or at least to latch onto them). Mr. Rilstone may have a good point that Easter may have a natural connection with the spring festivals, but it's not a necessary connection. I believe that Osiris's resurrection was also celebrated shortly after his death and both of those supposedly happened in autumn, while both of Jesus's supposedly happened in spring.

Andrew Stevens said...

I think you have answered with A, Mr. Rilstone. Assuming you are a Trinitarian. If it was Jesus's plan to die on Passover, then it was God's plan. But if you are taking a purely secular view (i.e. Jesus chose to die on Passover because he believed it was God's plan even though God does not exist), then I admit that's a genuine fourth alternative, but so close to B as to make little difference.

SK said...

I'm just left wondering: where is the evidence for the claim that 'Eostre was symbolised by a hare!'?

If it's true (and given my research wa son the internet I wouldn't be surprised to find it isn't, but assuming for the moment it is) that the other source that even mentions Eostre is Bede, is it Bede who mentions the hare symbolism too?

Gavin Burrows said...

I have read these comments, and will respond soon as I get a chance.

For now though, I've got to go and attend a raucously traditional Spring festival.

(I wish.)

Andrew Stevens said...

SK, I was actually simply taking people's word that Eostre and the hare and egg symbolism went together. But looking into it, the evidence appears to be extremely skimpy, mostly relying on scholarly speculation rather than actual solid primary sources. For one thing, Eostre is only attested to by Bede as far as I can tell. Now I find Bede credible (I agree with Mr. Burrows that he is a solid source), but he doesn't mention anything about what went into her worship and no other reasonably contemporary figure discusses her at all. I can find no end of people on the Internet putting Eostre and bunnies and hares and eggs together, but a total lack of documentation for these claims. So I have difficulty giving credibility to any of these claims. It all appears to be modern speculation (i.e. 19th century or later) and some sort of attempt to reclaim Easter from the Christians, which seems entirely illegitimate to me.

Gavin Burrows said...

Okay, I’m back from the raucously traditional Spring festival and have removed the final garland from my hair. Where were we..?

”The Gospels say that he consciously chose to go to Jerusalem at Passover. He specifically said that his death was going to be like the death of the Passover lamb.”,

There may be some theological point here of which I am unaware. Let me set out my lumpen understanding and you can tell me what it lacks. By coming down to Earth, Jesus accepts he’ll be executed by those who cling to Earthly power. This isn’t like King saying “I may not get there with you.” Through not being Earthly, he knows this will happen, he foresees it. But I have always imagined that the distinction between this and him picking the time of this was just getting elided over. But you’re saying, clear and upfront, his going to Jerusalem at Passover was what Richard Littlejohn would describe as “putting himself on offer”?

”Easter has the date it has because that's when the Gospels actually say that Christ died and was resurrected.”

Ah, but our story starts in legend even then. For Passover was itself originally a Spring festival, upon which Exodus is then retconned! The first full moon after the equinox? The ripeness of the barley made an added test? A “Spring lamb” specified as the beast for slaughter? This site can be interesting on the historicisation of nomadic and pagan customs, though some of it does sound a little speculative.

”I just don't think the Easter Bunny (or hare if you prefer) has anything to do with Eostre. Eggs and rabbits are obvious symbols of spring, occurring again and again and again in all different cultures. The evidence leads me to believe that all of the paganism was pretty much trampled out of Easter.”

I have to say I find a big hole in the middle here. On one side, the evidence is so clear and obvious that it’s almost not worth talking about. On the other, it is simply swept away.

I also feel iy a little odd to harp upon the limited nature of the written evidence without acknowledging that very little got written down in Anglo-Saxon times. Edward I may have had written household accounts, I doubt many others did. (Though I note no-one’s come back to me on that point.) Should we just give up on the whole period, and revert to calling it the Dark Ages?

I don’t think this is like the Stupid Astrology book debate, in which some skeleton key has been found which rearranges everything. I don’t think anyone is saying that Christianity is just some ostentatious superstructure which merely collapses back down into pagan traditions, like flat-pack housing. It absorbs and uses many of those traditions, but that is not the same thing as saying it has a null-value of its own.

But I’ll concede the possibility that this is the Joseph Campbell and Chief Seattle debate. It is certainly true that people concoct ‘traditions’ all the tome. Druids gather at Stonehenge, possibly while munching chicken tika masala.

But, as with Chief Seattle, if there are anachronisms or incongruities then are we not obligated to point them out? If, for example, anyone was to suggest that the Celts had the Easter Bunny then we might quite reasonably that rabbits only came over here with the Romans. (Hares, alas, are a more complicated case due to mountain hares.) If we have traditions now and had them then, it seems more reasonable to assume the line than the break.

Gavin Burrows said...

”I also don't believe that Easter was invented in order to supplant spring celebrations in the way that Christmas may well have been invented to supplant pre-existing pagan winter holidays.”

I am quite surprised to see the little gag of my first post, which seemed to me uncontentious and unarguable, lead to all this. But here I confess I go some way towards agreeing with you! Easter not only fits with the death and resurrection theme, but was originally based upon an indigenous Spring festival. The relationship is more an organic morphing than a supplanter or imposition. Perhaps my not thinking any of that before marks me out as a dullard, but I genuinely hadn’t!

Gavin Burrows said...

Uh, entered a longer comment as well which I definitely saw posted here! Come back and not a sign of it!

Did anyone else see it or am I just imagining things?

Andrew Rilstone said...

(google thought it was spam; i told it otherwise)

Andrew Stevens said...

I was probably a bit oversensitive to your comment. After all this discussion and looking at it now, I actually find it relatively unobjectionable. I was mostly trying to point out that real Christians ought to have more affection for Easter than Christmas and should object more to the de-religiousing of Easter. My initial comment was aimed more at the people quoted in Mr. Rilstone's post who, I believe, are very unlikely to actually be Christians themselves (in the sense of, you know, actually believing in Christianity, rather than having grandparents who did).

I agree with almost all of what you say in your latest comments. I certainly agree that Passover itself was a spring festival. The only bit I have some objection to is:

I also feel it a little odd to harp upon the limited nature of the written evidence without acknowledging that very little got written down in Anglo-Saxon times. Edward I may have had written household accounts, I doubt many others did. (Though I note no-one’s come back to me on that point.) Should we just give up on the whole period, and revert to calling it the Dark Ages?

The fact that there are no records of Eostre's worship rituals is not evidence that they weren't all about eggs and bunnies. Maybe they were. But the people who claim they definitely were seem to be simply speculating (though it's quite possible that my own research is lacking and there is some sort of documentation which I haven't come across). And, while it's true that we don't know very much of what Easter celebrations were like in 9th century Britain due to lack of written records, there are plenty of written records between then and the 17th century when bunnies and eggs and things start turning up for the first time. So I believe there is evidence of a break rather than a line. I also think this break makes sense. It's when the Protestants showed up and started squeezing the fun out of Easter (the Puritans wouldn't celebrate it at all) that a secular celebration arises out of a backlash, complete with bunnies and baskets and colored eggs. I could be wrong about this, of course, but when I first researched this out of curiosity several years ago, I was astonished at how little support there was for the whole "pagan origins of Easter" bit which so many people are so confident about, particularly since it's not that hard to find pagan origins of many other things concerning Christianity, including Christmas and even the Eucharist (which I believe owes a great deal to Eastern mystery religions present in the Roman Empire at the time).

Gavin Burrows said...

”(google thought it was spam; i told it otherwise)”

Thanks, Andrew. (Though you will probably get petitions in support of Google.)

No argument about the main argument. Those who see ‘Christian’ as an oxymoron for ‘tradition’ then make the mangled composite (‘Chradition’?) into a code-word for xenophobia, they’re cutting the cloth to suit themselves and leading us somewhere nasty. The white Christmas they’re after is nothing to do with Bing Crosby. Which is why I like to ask them if they’re really into our traditions, why aren’t they standing in a stone circle? (Unless they’re Druids. Then I ask them why they are standing in a stone circle.)

I do like to know where things stem from. I have also wondered if being a bit more in tune with the pagany might make us a bit more greeny. (But whether that would actually put us in line with our ancestors is a more tricky question.)

And of course it would be absurd to argue that a shortage of evidence allows us to just make things up. I do think of the theory of Easter being named after Eostre as the dominant one, but that’s partly because there aren’t any others.

”...even the Eucharist (which I believe owes a great deal to Eastern mystery religions present in the Roman Empire at the time).’

Please don’t mention the mystery cults and the Eucharist or we’ll be here till Pentecost!

Anyway, homosexual frogs, you say...