It may or may not come as a shock to you that pretty much every major holiday you and I celebrate has been pilfered from some other religion or culture. This doesn’t need anymore introduction than that, so without further ado, here are the top four holiday thefts:
In ancient times, the Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain, where we believe many Halloween traditions originated. It took place on October 31st in Ireland and England. During the celebration, the souls of the dead were said to roam about, as were various monsters, demons, and a plethora of other wickedly Satanic creatures that we typically see on Halloween.
Leave it to Halloween to ironically be the least sinister of these four holiday thefts. Don’t worry, it gets a lot worse from here on out. Enjoy the history lesson.
3. Valentine’s Day
Most historians attribute the true beginnings of Valentine’s Day to the ancient Romans. From February 13th to 15th, they celebrated Lupercalia. Goats and dogs were slaughtered and skinned. Those skins were then used by men to whip the women, who had lined up for them (were the skins washed first? Disgusting). Maybe that’s why women are still “hit on” today. Okay, probably not. They believed that the whippings would increase fertility. Those silly Romans.
Then there was a lottery held, and men would be paired up with the women they chose for the remainder of the celebration. Debauchery ensued. I’m sure I don’t need to describe what they were doing. When were condoms invented? Hmmm…I bet there were quite a few November babies in ancient Rome!
A Roman emperor, centuries later, went on to put two men by the name of Valentine to death, and many believe that this occasion is responsible for our holiday’s name acquisition. The history is certainly hazy, but one thing is agreed upon: Valentine’s Day was stolen from the Roman celebration of Lupercalia.
At least we adapted it to be more peaceful.
We were all taught that Thanksgiving is about sharing. The first settlers who had fled from Europe struggled in winter, and became great friends with the natives they met in the new world. Turkeys…cranberry sauce…mashed potatoes…love and rainbows. Right?
Not quite. So I’ll start off by saying that this isn’t so much of a literal theft as it is a figurative one. History’s winners tend to be the ones to write about it, and so the truth about what really happened in the first years is somewhat murky. Most of it is embellished or blatantly fabricated. So, let’s just say that with Thanksgiving, the truth was stolen instead of the holiday itself.
The natives and the new settlers weren’t really what you might call friends. More like frenemies. Both were struggling through a harsh winter, and so they leaned on one another for various types of support. But that’s the extent of their shaky alliance.
Technologically, the settlers were more advanced. They also had completely different religious beliefs, completely different economic beliefs, completely different concepts of government, and a completely different sense of how society functions at the most fundamental levels. So the settlers didn’t think much of the natives.
In Connecticut, the natives were celebrating their own Thanksgiving when a group of Puritans decided to crash the party. The Puritans swept through the village and butchered upwards of 700 people with rocks, guns, and flames. Women and children included.
John Winthrop (you may have heard of him; he’s a popular character in our fictitious history books), the governor of Massachusetts Bay, decided to celebrate God’s slaughter of the native village by proclaiming the day Thanksgiving in 1637. Yeah, you read that correctly. God was the one that did that there pillagin’ and plunderin’. It happened, so He must’ve wanted it…Right?
After that naughty event, the routine slaughter of Native Americans was followed by a period of “thanksgiving”. George Washington then proclaimed the real Thanksgiving in 1789 in order to commemorate the construction of a new nation, but our basic knowledge of where typical Thanksgiving symbols come from is still somewhat flawed, i.e. completely untrue.
So our history books stole Thanksgiving’s true origins and meanings from the Native Americans. That’s theft enough.
And the number one holiday that we stole from someone else…
1. Christmas (You Probably Saw This Coming A Mile Away)
These days, a lot of people are starting to figure out that Christmas is not Christ’s birthday. Truth be told, we don’t really have any clear indication or what day (or even what year) Jesus was born. That’s not much of a problem for Christians, though, since they stole the holiday from someone else anyway. It was never about Jesus–It was about recruiting more Christians and spreading their beliefs.
So where did Christmas really come from? Why, it came from a celebration that signified the victory of good over evil! You might not want details since they’re pretty dark, but whatever…I’m going to provide them anyway.
In ancient Rome (yes, we really like to steal things from the Romans), there was a weeklong celebration called Saturnalia leading up to December 25th. Imagine if we gave every member of congress and law enforcement in the country the week off, and told everyone to enjoy a period of rest and relaxation without laws of any kind, and you’ll have a basic idea of what happened during the celebration.
They boozed it up, they got naked, they fornicated with one another (some didn’t have a choice, because who was going to stop them?), and enjoyed many of our species’ more primal urges anywhere they pleased. Maybe some of the plebeians even made it through the week alive.
The festival opened with each community choosing some poor fool who was then forced to engage in any number of unpleasant debaucheries. This person was the symbol of everything evil in the world. And what we do to evil? Why, we destroy it of course! And thus the festival of Saturnalia was concluded with the slaughter of whomever was chosen as the symbol of evil. At least he got a few good meals and a decent lay or two before he departed for the next world.
What does this have to do with Christmas? Nothing at all, because that wasn’t the point. Christian leaders during the fourth century were having a tough time finding believers, and so they decided to adopt the celebration by proclaiming Jesus Christ’s birthday on December 25th in hopes of recruiting Pagans.
Needless to say, it worked.
So what is there left to say? Probably only that no one should be at all upset over where these holidays came from. Instead, pay more attention to how they evolved and what they mean to us today.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the post. Feel free to leave a message or comment below. Let me know which fake holiday is your favorite!