Tag: Religion

Lead up to the Jonestown Massacre

Reading time: 7 minutes
Most people have heard Jonestown Massacre in 1978, when 918 members of the Peoples Temple committed suicide by drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid under instructions of the leader of their cult, Jim Jones. How did Jones get this kind of influence over his followers, though, and why would they even consider suicide?

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How did we come to celebrate Christmas?

Reading time: 6 minutes
The western date for Jesus’ birth is quite arbitrary. It was chosen by Pope Leo I, bishop of Rome (440-461), to coincide with the Festival of the Saturnalia, when Romans worshipped Saturn, the sun god. This was the day of the solar equinox, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which officially marked the halfway point of winter.

The date of the feast varies within Christian denominations. Western Christians celebrate the Nativity on a fixed date, 25 December. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate it on 6 January together with Epiphany, the revelation of the infant Jesus to three wise men. The Greek and Russian Orthodox celebrate Christmas on 7 January and Epiphany on 19 January.

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Harking back: the ancient pagan festivities in our Christmas rituals

Reading time: 5 minutes
When we think of the Romans, gift-giving, carol-singing and celebrating the birth of Christ don’t immediately present themselves. Waging wars, general oppression and a never-ending desire to rule the world are more likely to spring to mind.

But various Christmas traditions come from ancient pagan festivities, including the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia.

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The busy Romans needed a mid-winter break too … and it lasted for 24 days

Reading time: 5 minutes
The actual reasons for celebrating Christmas at this particular time in the year have long been debated. Links have often been drawn to the winter solstice and the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Some people have also associated it with the supposed birthday of the god Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun”, since a fourth-century calendar describes both this and Christ’s birth as taking place on December 25.

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