On December 12th, 1997, Catholic World News reported that the town of Bryan, Ohio had permitted an avowed atheist, Jerald Lasky, to protest the religious use of governmental property by adding a sunburst image to a Christmas nativity scene. The sunburst was to honor the winter solstice occuring on December 21st, a traditional pagan festival day.
I suppose we are to be shocked and appalled that pagan symbols should be allowed to intrude into Christian celebrations?
Below is a nativity scene by Pinturicchio and his assistants from 1492-94, in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican. There are probably hundreds of similar depictions of the nativity scene I could have selected, as this particular one is not unique in any respect.
Note that there are no less than five pagan sun images in this painting! One behind the head of the infant Jesus, another two behind the heads of Mary and Joseph and another two behind the heads of two angels. Had Mr. Lasky secretly placed his pagan sunburst behind the head of the infant Jesus, or either of this parents, most Catholics, indeed most Christians, would have thought nothing of seeing such a sight. However, because this sunburst is openly declared pagan and atheistic we are to be outraged, but baptized sanitized sun images behind the heads of "holy" people are acceptable?
From a photo by M. Sarri
Just how did we come to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th anyway? Do we know for a fact that this was the date of Christ's birth? Is the winter solstice of December 21st related in any way to Christmas? Just what is the winter solstice anyway?
For the answers see Celebrating the Birth of the Sun.