Science Questions

Why are scientists celebrating Christmas?

Sun, 20th Dec 2009

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Dissecting Christmas Dinner


Jeremy Krall asked:

Why are scientists promoting a religious holiday?


Dave -  I think this is very strange that weíre promoting an ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, when everyone used to get drunk because it was the winter solstice.  People used to eat lots because of all the animals were going to have to be slaughtered anyway because there wouldn't be enought to feed them in winter, especially in northern latitudes. Basically, it's the holiday which every religion, seems to use.

Helen -   I actually think itís that strange, in fact.  I think maybe it harks back to a really important part of human social evolution which is wanting to belong to a tribe. We want to belong.  We want to feel we're part of a group, because that was beneficial and it meant we could do better things in a group compared to just on our own.

So I think thatís maybe part of the reason we all join in to celebrate Christmas: weíre celebrating the same thing, and you know, whether it came from a different religion or not.  And why not?

Dave -   And of course itís also depressing at this time of year in those high latitudes. They wanted something to cheer them up whatever religion, so Christmas was ideal!

So scientists are just following the crowd!


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