Friday, December 7, 2012

What's in a name?

Like many, I celebrate the Christmas season this time of year. Obviously I celebrate a secular Christmas since I am an atheist, but every now and then you come across a theist who won't accept that. They will say that if you aren't a Christian, you can't celebrate Christmas, or call it Christmas, or wish anyone a happy Christmas. That doing so would be hypocritical. I disagree for multiple reasons. For one, 'Christmas' is just the latest name this holiday season has become known as. Also, they do not realize that they are daily committing the same infraction that they are accusing me of. They only believe in the Christian god. But if they take issue with me celebrating a secular Christmas, why haven't they made up their own calendar yet? Time for specifics...

Monday
This name comes from 'Moon's day' and is related to the moon goddesses Selene (Greek) and Luna (Roman).

Tuesday
This day is named for gods of war. Tyr (Norse) was the inspiration for Twia/Tui (Tui's day), the Germanic god of war and the sky. This also came from the gods Mars (Roman) and Ares (Greek).

Wednesday
Wednesday is derived from 'Woden's day'. Woden was the Anglo/Saxon version of previous gods. Odin (Norse), Mercury (Roman) and Hermes (Greek).

Thursday
This day is 'Thor's Day'. Thor is the Norse god of thunder. The Roman's viewed this day in dedication to their god Jupiter.

Friday
This day is also named for a Norse god. This time the honors go to Freya (Freya's day). She was the Norse goddess of love and beauty. Similarly, the Romans recognized this day for Venus, and the Greeks, Aphrodite. Both were also the respective cultures goddess of love and beauty.

Saturday
'Saturn's day'. This day is named for Saturn, the Roman god of the  harvest/agriculture. The Greek counterpart to Saturn was Kronos.

Sunday
This is simply the day of the sun, or 'Sun's day'. The Greek god associated with this day was Helios, and the Roman god was Solis.

And now for the months...

January
This first month of the year is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, gates and doors, and endings and time.

February
Februa was the Roman festival of purification. This took place on the fifteenth day of the second month, which is where February drew it's name from.

March
March is Named for the Roman god of war, Mars. (Ares in Greek)

April
This months origin is a bit unsure. It either comes from the Roman goddess Aphrodite (Venus in Greek), or the Latin word 'aperire', which means 'to open' (like flowers).

May
This next month is named for the Roman goddess Maia. There was also a Greek Maia whom was the mother of Hermes.

June
June is named for another Roman goddess. This time that goddess is Juno (Junius in Latin), the goddess of marriage.

July
No supernatural origin here. July is named for none other than the Roman ruler Julius Caesar.

August
Much like July, August is named for a Roman leader. This time it's Augustus Caesar.

September
This month is named for the Latin word 'septem', which means 'seven'. This is because this was the seventh month of the year under the Roman calendar.

October
This month is named for the Latin word 'octo', which means 'eight '. This is because this was the eighth month of the year under the Roman calendar.

November
This month is named for the Latin word 'novem', which means 'nine'. This is because this was the ninth month of the year under the Roman calendar.

December
This month is named for the Latin word 'decem', which means 'ten'. This is because this was the tenth month of the year under the Roman calendar.

As we can plainly see, some names no longer make much sense any more (September to December), while most other months and days of the week are named for gods and goddesses that hardly anyone believes in anymore. So when a Christian takes issue with me using the term Christmas, or celebrating on Christmas, I like to ask them if they denounce and refuse to use the word Thursday since they don't believe in Thor. I think it's important for believers and non-believers alike to remember that names that once had a specific meaning long ago, may now be taken for granted.

Maybe we don't subscribe to the original concepts, but these words are part of our lexicon. The days used to be called different things, but these are the names we have adopted. Same for Christmas. It has been known as the Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, etc, and is now known as Christmas. Sure, the Christians may have named their version of this Winter festival for their Christ, but that doesn't mean we have to accept Christ to enjoy Christmas any more than one has to accept Freya in order to be happy about it being Friday. After all, it's just a name. What's ultimately important is what the day means for you.


-Brain Hulk

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