A bright star shone above the Earth and three wise men followed it to their destination. They came a long way because of the knowledge they had of the events.
They came to meet the Pope, probably around 400 C.E.
“The pagans are enjoying Saturnalia way too much” the wise men told the Pope. “They’re dancing, singing, giving gifts to friends, burning trees. It’s woefully unbecoming a modern society and a threat to entice our followers to imbibe in the joyful celebration.”
“You are right,” the Pope agreed. “We must do something to ensure that we can maintain our control.”
Pope vs. Pagan Headgear
Therefore, the Pope and his followers came up with a plan.
They began to promote a celebration of Christ (Christ-Mass) during the same time as Saturnalia. When asked why have a celebration, they explained that it was to celebrate Christ’s birth.
The pagans were skeptical at first. “Didn’t you say Christ was born in the spring? Around March?” one asked. “I heard the Pope say he was born in August,” another chimed in helpfully.
The Pope said he had made a mistake, due to the change in the calendar system to the more modern Julian one. Christ was indeed born in December, the Pope assured everyone.
The pagans still didn’t like it.
“Saturnalia is fun. We get gifts, we have this cool tree, there’s dancing and singing,” they said.
“You can still do that,” the Pope professed. “It’s a birthday party after all, isn’t it?”
So the pagans began to celebrate both holidays, but as more and more were convinced to switch over to Christianity, Saturnalia fell out of favor. However, those pagans who still celebrated their cherished Saturnalia swore they’d take it back.
It took longer than they expected, but slowly and surely, the pagans have regained control of their celebration.
The pagans made their biggest push in the 1950s and 60s by adding massive parades and celebrations to the winter festival. They also brought in more symbols from other pagans beliefs, such as a rotund, bearded man giving gifts, and instead of burning logs as in the days of yore, they added colorful lights to the trees they dance around.
Through the 70s and 80s they advocated for more consumerism via bigger and better gifts. Spellbinding advertisements for big, shiny cars and glittery jewels predominate the airwaves. “Buy more! It will prove your love,” they proclaim.
So today the pagans have taken back the holiday—but have cleverly decided to keep it under the title “Christmas.”
The celebration keeps getting expanded too, now beginning on the Friday after Thanksgiving (Pagan Black Friday) and continuing through New Year's. There are competitions to have the biggest tree and brightest light displays. Children are taught that the best gifts are the most expensive and the ones hardest to acquire. In addition, of course, there are large gatherings to sing and perform in celebration of the holiday.
It has been a subtle takeover by the pagans, but they have finally reclaimed what was theirs. So far, the Pope has not responded.
The Thurber Brigade wishes everyone a Happy Holiday—no matter which one you celebrate!