In Scott C. Lowe (ed.), Christmas: Philosophy For Everyone. Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

Authors
Guy Bennett-Hunter
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
On the 24th and 25th of December every year two very different stories are told: one in people’s homes, by the fireplace or Christmas tree, to pyjamaed but excited and sleepless children; the other to people of all ages in the more imposing setting of candlelit churches and cathedrals. I want to ask, in this essay: Does the telling of these two stories have anything in common? What can we learn by comparing them? The first one, the one I call the ‘secular’ mythology, is the story of Father Christmas. The second, ‘sacred’ mythology is the religious reason why Christmas was ever celebrated as Christmas at all. Although the figure of Santa partly originated in an early Christian bishop (and partly in pagan figures), he has these days become rather more secularized—even, for some, a symbol of secular commercialism. I want to compare these two mythologies as they might effect the way in which we think about Christmas today. I think that philosophical reflection along these lines will allow us to draw some interesting conclusions relevant to theology and the philosophy of religion.
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