Tag Archives: holidays

Today (Kind of) In History: St. Patrick

St. Patrick stain glass window

I don’t actually have a lot to debunk about St. Patrick Day.  More like just giving up tidbits of information. Feast Day March 17 is the official feast day for St. Patrick.  Theoretically, it’s the date of his death.  In truth, we have no idea when he died, nor, to the best of my knowledge, how he died.  Unlike many early saints, Patrick was not a martyr.  Had he died for his faith, the story of it would certainly have

Invoking the Templars; or, from Where Friday the 13th Came

Burning of the Knights Templar

Today’s post was inspired by a doctor’s visit when, in the waiting room, one patient abruptly informed another patient that Friday the 13th superstitions were based on the execution of the Templars. He also insisted most people don’t know that. Hasn’t everyone heard that story? Maybe it’s just a history major urban legend.  I sure thought most people had heard that claim. The fact is, it’s baloney. The Knights Templar on Friday the 13th On Friday, October 13, 1307, hundreds

The Historical War on Xmas

17th century notice punishing Christmas celebrants 5 shillings

For a long time, I often abbreviated Christianity and Christmas to Xtianity and Xmas in class for no better reason than it was quicker. Then, one day, I had a student complain the spelling was anti-Christian. This student had been a semester-long pain in the ass (accusing me of working witchcraft on the class, among other things), but I started refraining from using the phrases, in part because I didn’t know precisely where the spellings came from.  I have no

Inventing Celtic History, or My Continued Quarrel with “Cosmos”

Cosnos's idea of celtic art

The TV show Cosmos has managed to not offend me for several weeks, and this last episode certainly didn’t offend, it merely annoyed.  In its introduction to our understanding of the stars, host Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses a variety of myths surrounding constellations, particularly about the Pleiades. Among the ancient Celts and Druids of the British Isles, the Pleiades were thought to have a haunting significance.  On the day of the year that they reached the highest point in the

It’s Eostre Time Again, or a Parade of Logical Fallacies

19th Century illustration of Eostre

Back when I worked for About.com, I made a blog post debunking some of the common myths about Easter’s connection with pagan beliefs.  It gained, by far, the most comments of any post, and every year the post must show up in search engines, because I always got a new crop of complaints around this time of the year. After a couple of years, one commenter asked If I regretted writing the post, which I don’t.  I did regret continuing

Not at All Today in History: St. Valentine

Oh, Valentine’s Day, how you don’t make any sense. Valentine’s Day comes from the Catholic Feast of St. Valentine, but even that holiday is problematic.  There are at least three early saints with that name, and it’s not clear which one  Feb. 14 was meant to celebrate.  The Orthodox Church actually has two different feast days for two of them…but they are on July 6 and July 30.  Moreover, their stories grew up long after the fact of their lives

The Myth of a Pagan Christmas


Three times a year – Easter, Halloween, and Christmas – I find myself assaulted by claims of how Christian practices and beliefs were entirely cobbled together from pagan sources. There are filters I put on certain searches in order to limit my annoyance, but I still run into them. First, they are generally written with a tone of superiority and contempt. They aren’t neutrally providing information but instead putting forth arguments meant to ridicule and demean. OK, Christianity isn’t your