Mince Pies and Crisps
It is dark outside and winter is upon us, but as our ancestors whose lives depended upon the seasons understood, even in the depths and darkness of winter, that the light of spring will soon begin to work its regenerative power. This ancient Festival of Light with its celebration of the rebirth of the sun was adopted by the Christian Church in the fourth century when Pope Julius declared the 25th of December as the official birthday of Jesus Christ. The birth of the Son supplanted the birth of the sun and the birth of Christ became the new focal point of this ancient festival.
Even though the festival was embossed with the stamp of Christ is has never become entirely separated from its pre-Christian roots. The use of foliage or wintergreen, including mistletoe, as well as the yule logs that were burned to provide light and heat for the festival, are just two of the traditions that survive, even if the log has been turned into a chocolate one! The Christian church has continued to add to this celebratory cocktail with its own embellishments and rites. The cult of the crib thrived in the middle ages and its vestiges are still with us in the form of nativity plays and crib services.
These traditions and their inherent paganism have not gone unchallenged through church history and many of the protestant reformers including John Calvin and the early Presbyterians refused to recognise Christmas as Christian. During the Commonwealth period, the church tried to suppress Christmas but this met with a significant level of passive and active resistance. Following the restoration of the monarchy the feasting returned and aided in the following centuries by Charles Dickens, Prince Albert and consumer culture, it has continued to develop into what it is today.
It seems that Christmas is here to stay and I guess that it will continue to evolve and develop to reflect our ever-changing culture with its shifting values and patterns of belief. Personally, I like mince pies, Christmas lights, Stollen cake, Slade, winter walks with my family, a warm house, new socks and lots of crisps. What about you? What do you like about Christmas?
Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector