A Christmas Miracle.

As a child every Christmas morning I remember hearing the famous lines of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” A song which every Black child across America has had to have heard at least once if not a million times before.

“Hang all the mistletoe, I’m gonna get to know you better, This Christmas!

Donny Hathaway – This Christmas

Mama would have the yams cooking and you could smell the butter and brown sugar boiling together in the oven as the candied yams baked. The aromas were almost more tantalizing than the food itself! The most exciting part as a child was finally getting to raid my gifts that were gently wrapped under the Christmas tree and then to call my friends to ask them “what did you get for Christmas?”

I remember sitting through church services as a child and hearing about the birthdate of Jesus, the stories of Mary, Joseph, The three wise men, a baby in a manger, a lamb, some frankincense and myrrh. I didn’t know exactly what a manger was or what the lamb had to do with anything less on had ever seen nor would have known that frankincense and myrrh were something one could smell. As a young child immaculate conception was also an out of this world topic to me and actually still is as an adult. Indeed the story is so amazing how Mary became pregnant with a baby by Joseph and Joseph never touched Mary that the baby must have indeed come from God otherwise we all are completely crazy. Maybe we are.

So where does Santa Claus, his reindeer, drinking, being merry, kissing under the mistletoe and the Christmas Tree come from. Surely there were no Evergreen trees in Jerusalem near the manger of sweet baby Jesus. Surely Jesus never spoke of the gospel of Santa Claus! As far as drinking and being merry with drunkenness! Jesus surely approved of having wine in moderation but the Good Lord Jesus surely despised drunkenness. I would assume, if I could so loosely do so that he may be open to letting his people turn up a little extra for his birthday though.

The origins of the Christmas celebration come from a little known Pagan era festival named “Saturnaila”. A week long period of lawlessness, drunkenness, sex and debauchery lasting from December 17th-25th. During the week long festival Romans would engage in acts such as forcing victims to indulge in excessive eating and physical pleasures and then brutally murdering them on December 25th as a show of sacrifice to the Pagan God Saturn. Other acts included widespread drinking, going door to door in the nude while singing songs and engaging in rape and/or other sexual liberties with neighbors while eating on human shaped biscuits. The human shaped biscuits that they enjoyed are the gingerbread men we enjoy today during the Christmas holiday. No wonder why little Gingy was always trying to run away from the townspeople! He knew well what they were up to!

The gift giving of Christmas comes from the Pre- Christian Rome tradition of having the deposed give gifts to the God of Saturn during the festival of Saturnalia. This traditional custom was later expanded to the general public. The Christian Church would eventually adopt this custom under the guise of receiving gifts from Saint Nicholas.

Early Christian depiction of Nicholas of Myra. Born March 15 270 (Patara, Roman Empire). Death December 6 343 (Myra, Byzantine Empire)

So who is Saint Nick? Saint Nick is Nicholas of Myra. Nicholas of Myra was a Turkish high Bishop who sat on the Council of Nicea and was rumored to have helped to have formed the creation of the New Testament Bible. During the council his opposition to Arianism lead him to fight with the Arian heretic Arius. Due to the incident he was said to have been written out of all accounts of ever being involved with the Council of Nicea. Nicholas of Myra was canonized into sainthood many years after his death in the 19th century. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children, prostitutes, repentant thieves, the falsely accused, merchants, sailors, brewers, fishermen, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers and unmarried people.

Byzantine Era depiction of Nicholas of Myra. Old Saint Nick may have been a Black Man.

Many years after the death of Nicholas loyalists of the Nicholas Cult moved his remains from his burial site in Rome to a new burial site in Italy which supplanted and replaced the buried Grandmother deity or Pasqua Epiphania. The Pasqua Epiphania deity was said to have filled her children’s stockings with gifts. The Grandmother deity was ousted from her shrine which became the center of the Nicholas cult. To honor the death of Nicholas members of the cult exchanged gifts on December 6th, the anniversary of the death of Nicholas of Myra. Say “Saint Nicholas” five times as fast as possible and what does it start to sound like? Santa Claus!

The customs of the Nicholas cult would spread further north and be adopted by German and Celtic Pagans. In a bid for a more united Christian front the Christian Church would eventually adopt the custom of the Nicholas cult of gift giving by acknowledging him as a Saint who gave gifts as you should as well. The only difference was the date change from December 6th to December 25th.

Early Christianity, while trying to win over the masses imported the festival of Saturnalia into the Christian dogma with hopes to convert large numbers of Pagans by letting them continue their traditions. The only thing was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia so Christian leaders re named and re branded December 25th as the birthdate of Jesus.

Yet and still even with the re naming and re branding the “holiday” was celebrated in the same fashion it had always been celebrated in. The people engaged in more drinks, more sex, more lewdness and more human sacrifice and humiliations. As part of the Saturnalia festivals in the 18th and 19th centuries Christian leaders forced Rabbi’s from the ghettos of Rome to dress as clowns and march through the streets while getting rocks and other projectiles thrown at them. This was a Christmas Main Event that gives a new meaning to the phrase dashing through the snow.

Christmas is one of those things that are shrouded in mystery. For children it is supposed to be mysterious. As a child, you wanted to believe that a fat man was sneaking into your house to deliver you gifts under the tree. You didn’t have a care at all that you had no clue who this man was you just wanted your gifts. To guarantee that you got the gifts that you requested you’d even leave out a plate of cookies and a cup of milk. Upon waking up you would realize that the cookies and milk were gone but that box that you so hoped was a masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull playset turned out to be just another jogging suit. Now that’s what I call a fucking Christmas Miracle.

Author: Armstrong Ransome

I break bread, ribs and hundred dollar bills.

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