Once upon a spring day, a virgin conceived a son, who was born right around the winter solstice — on the 25th of December, as it happens. Grown into manhood, he was put to death on another spring day, a Friday, and descended into the underworld, only to return in glory on the following Sunday.

Of course, no one these days celebrates the life of Attis, son of the virgin Nana, the earthly incarnation of the goddess Cybele, who came to Rome from distant Phrygia about 204 BCE. Her temple no longer stands; in its place stands St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, and that pretty much explains why Attis isn't a household word these days.

Meanwhile, the usual "Keep Christ in Christmas" crowd is out and about this time of year, drumming up business for the deity du jour. It seems unkind to throw water on them, especially since it's December and likely to freeze, so I don't make a point of telling them things like this in person. Besides, they do serve a useful purpose; they remind people that the holidays exist for reasons other than buying stuff. And, truth be told, the Christ Child, whatever day he may have been born, wound up being a pretty good role model in his own right. And if some of his followers seem to favor the wrath of the Father rather than the kindness of the Son — well, we are but imperfect creatures after all.

The Vent

#81
14 December 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill