Welcome to this year’s edition of the History of the Holidays. I’m Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian. From now through the Spring or vernal equinox, most of the major secular and sacred holidays are celebrated. This is a series that recounts the history behind the major American holidays, some of the minor ones, and a few international ones as well.
Many of the sacred holidays in our American “Judeo-Christian” heritage have secular associations, as many of the seemingly secular holidays actually have religious roots.
One example of the mixture of sacred and secular was that — historically, in ancient Rome the death and resurrection of Attis, the god of vegetation, was celebrated on March 24 and 25, corresponding to the vernal equinox.
Sir James Frazer in his book The Golden Bough points out an interesting coincidence. Among certain Christians in places where the worship of Attis was known, the death of Jesus Christ was also celebrated on March 25, though there was little historical evidence supporting that date. A controversy is said to have raged between the pagan and Christian advocates, each attesting that they had prior claim.
Many Americans, even religious ones, are unaware of the history behind the holidays. If you are interested in Halloween, and how trick or treat became involved in it, you’ll like this series on the history of the holidays.
If you have ever wondered what the historical events are behind Chanukah, stay tuned.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian