21
$\begingroup$

My antagonist, a typical Scrooge-like character, has travelled back in time to stop Christmas from ever becoming celebrated.

What is the smallest change I could make to history to stop Christmas from happening? I don't want to completely change today's society as we know it (although obviously there would be some change), so the smallest change possible would be ideal. Any details of any other possible side-effects from this change would be great to hear about too.

Another festival type event happening around the end of December / beginning of January is only acceptable if it is suitably different from Christmas, but if you can eliminate the festival altogether this would be the best answer.

$\endgroup$
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ Have you consulted the Grinch? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 20 '16 at 17:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Time travel? You seen this? You heard about this? Send Seinfeld back to around 200 AD to popularize an alternate festival. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Dec 20 '16 at 19:03
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Go back to 363 CE with a medical kit, and keep the Roman Emperor Julian from dying in battle. This keeps Christianity from taking over the Empire, driving all other religions underground, and stealing their festivals. Instead of Christmas, we have a proper Winter Solstice feast. The Christian minority keep their celebration of Jesus' birth in the spring, where it should be according to the stories in their Bible. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 20 '16 at 19:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf You'd have to kill Constantine at Milvian Bridge. Many of Julian's generals were already Christian, and Christianity had a lot of inertia at that point. Regarding Jesus' birth in spring, Dec 25 was established as Christmas in the Philocalian Calendar of 354, predating Julian's emperor-ship of 360. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 20 '16 at 19:41
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ I disagree with some of the comments; Christmas - while it would not be called the same thing - was a pagan ritual first, symbolic of birth and fertility, so you'd have to go further back than Jesus to get rid of those trees :) $\endgroup$ – Mikey Dec 20 '16 at 21:45

14 Answers 14

21
$\begingroup$

There's two events that would have a major impact on these ghastly festivities:

Protestants and their wild parties:
One of these dates back to the 1500s/1600s. It seems that around this time the great King James the 1st has overdone it by making people start celebrating the day with a play.
It is during the time of the Reformation that the date of making small presents and acknowledgements to each other seems to have been moved from Saint Nicholas (the 6th of December) to God's Son and Our Saviour (25th of December).
An effective date is not easily found, but at least you know where to start making changes.

The big fat red man with belly & beard:
If on the other hand you want to get rid of today's commercialization of the festivities, I would suggest killing the guy that redesigned Santa Claus for Coca Cola.


On the importance of murder:
Many seem to believe that killing someone means getting rid of them before they do something. That is wrong. Getting rid of someone before they do something is sometimes the right way to go about business, but often it might not be.

In the example of the Coca Cola Claus (further CCC) making the guy originally hired to create the imagery disappear before they get hired will just get someone else hired. The eventual imagery might be different but the effect will stay the same.

By getting rid of him after he's been hired will send a message to the company though. Such a message can be used to keep them from pursuing a certain venture, especially when they're made responsible for the death(s)1.

1Rinse & Repeat

$\endgroup$
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Why murder is always the go-to option for time travellers? Why not engineer a situation where he never works for Coca-Cola? $\endgroup$ – M i ech Dec 21 '16 at 1:40
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Coca Cola did not create the modern image of Santa: snopes.com/holidays/christmas/santa/cocacola.asp $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Dec 21 '16 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors that is good to know, although it doesn't really change the fact that Coca Cola will likely not make huge campaigns with the image created by someone that was killed while producing it; even if he was just a copy-cat $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Dec 21 '16 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Miech because then someone else will be hired instead to do the same thing; murder is a deterrent telling the company that their idea is a bad bad bad idea and should not be followed through $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Dec 21 '16 at 9:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For the redesigned Santa, you could go ever more extreme and get rid of Saint Nicholas (in his early childhood) instead. Without him, he wouldn't be able to directly (or indirectly) inspire Santa. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Dec 21 '16 at 13:10
16
$\begingroup$

There have always been celebrations around the winter solstice. The Romans had them, the Greeks had them. Even the Stone Age humans had them. I doubt we can remove these without having a huge influence on modern society. What we can do is change Christmas significantly. To do this you could try travelling back in time to one of the early meetings of Christian leaders and persuading them (by force or by pretending to be an angel) that God really wants The feast of St Crispin to be his big celebration. By doing this Christmas would become a smaller celebration. Probably around the level of Easter, perhaps people would give to charity more and go to Some more Church services around Christmas but it would not be the celebration it is today.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 22 '16 at 15:54
15
$\begingroup$

Spread the celebration beyond Rome earlier

Christian scriptures do not include a date or even a season for Jesus's birth. December 25 was a ret-con, established by the western church in the 4th century and chosen to coincide with a major Roman festival. The early church overlaid Christmas on a Roman festival because Rome was a huge concern in their lives.

The 4th century is pretty late, though. So don't wait until then. In the first decades of the existence of this new religion, spread its message, including the celebration of this day, among other nations, like Greece. Ancient Greece had a lot of festivals; choose one that has the thematic or timing elements you prefer, one that's not in winter. Establish the church early, and by the time church councils are meeting in later centuries, the date will already be fixed. Instead of the orthodox churches following the Roman church on establishing Christmas, as happened in our world, the Roman church will follow the Greek church if the Greek festival gets there first.

The church is still going to need to deal with Rome, but that's ok -- there are other events, undated in Christian scriptures, that could be overlaid on Roman festivals. The church could designate a date in late December as the day commemorating a significant miracle, perhaps the one about bringing a man back from the dead or the one about feeding a crowd with a few loaves and fishes. Rebirth in the depth of winter and feeding people in times of agricultural scarcity are both themes that could catch on. So you still get a holiday in December, but one that's clearly not as important as either the birth or death/resurrection of Jesus. The later acretions -- gift-giving, bigger festivities, secular hoopla -- would move to the new date for Christmas.

Santa might need to trade his big fur coat in for a beach towel and sunglasses, but people are remarkably resilient about these things.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for human resilience, especially in the face of retro-history $\endgroup$ – sq33G Dec 21 '16 at 12:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As posted elsewhere, the decision for Jesus's birthday was primarily based on aligning Jesus' death with his conception, then marking out 9 months from his conception. Jesus' death was always identified to be either 25 March in the West or 6 April in the East. The solstice thing just does not make sense, as neither 25 Dec nor 6 Jan exactly matches either the solstice or the Saturnalia. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 21 '16 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion December 25 makes perfect sense for a solstice celebration. Imagine you are a human living long ago who does not understand orbital mechanics. You just know the days are getting shorter, until one day the day gets slightly longer and the trend reverses. A few days after, you celebrate the impending doom of eternal night being averted. $\endgroup$ – user1975 Dec 21 '16 at 16:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Snowman Ancient astronomers were significantly more better at observing celestial mechanics than you are giving them credit for. MUL.APIN is an excellent record of celestial phenomena that was probably compiled over 3000 years ago. The ancients knew when the solstices were, exactly. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 21 '16 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ The ancients could determine solstice timing. I have no idea why Rome (is said to have) had a festival on Dec 25 rather than Dec 21. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 21 '16 at 16:32
10
$\begingroup$

Change the balance of power between Rome and Carthage.

If Carthage became the great imperial power instead of Rome you'd have the heart of the religion in a more equatorial region, removing the more northern requirement for a midwinter festival. You'd likely end up with a different festival appearing around the autumn harvest instead.

This may or may not completely change global culture for the next 2000 years. Destroying the rest of history is, as usual, left as an exercise for the reader.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that involve helping Hannibal beat the Romans? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 21 '16 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon, it's only one little war, that counts as a small change right? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 21 '16 at 17:04
8
$\begingroup$

Our modern Christmas is derived from the ancient Roman holidays of Saturnalia. This was re-interpreted by early Christians to allow an easier conversion of Roman citizens. Depending on which aspect of Christmas your protagonist does not like, you can try to influence the Pontifex Maximus to change this aspect or even abolish it all together.

If it is the religious aspect you loathe you could also try to get rid of Jesus early in his life. This might be terribly difficult, since neither exact time, look or locations are available (unless your protagonist has additional knowledge). Finding the PonMax is a lot easier, you can just ask around, it does not even matter much which one does the deed.

If it is the commercial aspect you loathe: Kill John Pemberton.

As always with time travel: Side effects may occur and be completely unforeseeable.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ While Christmas was associated with the Saturnalia in the past, most of those influences have been pushed out in favor of other influences from northern Europe (namely the Christmas tree) and involving St. Nicholas (namely the gift-giving). $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 20 '16 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Getting rid of Coca Cola as a whole seems a rather vey mind-boggingly big change.. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Dec 20 '16 at 17:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is comparatively easy. Yes, it might be overkill. Regarding Saturnalia: Christmas incorporated a lot of different influences, whatever the church saw fit for the sake of conversion. So I went for the earliest Christian adaptation I knew of. $\endgroup$ – fer-rum Dec 20 '16 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Not only is getting rid of Coca Cola a big change, it would literally ruin whiskey and rum drinking. $\endgroup$ – user1975 Dec 21 '16 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Snowman I must object! It would indeed strengthen whiskey culture! $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Dec 21 '16 at 16:32
7
$\begingroup$

You'd have to make winter not happen. That means going back to the beginning of time to displace the earth's rotational axle to be exactly perpendicular to the orbit around the sun.

Astronomical events such as solstices will otherwise always generate somesort of reverence.

As a side-note, you'd probably also destroy life as we know this by doing this - and you may get rid of the moon in the process.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Destroying all life? I like this. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 21 '16 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Except that it doesn't really prevent the defining of the year from occurring might well make it harder to detect the precession but the year itself can still be worked out by observing the sun's movement through the stars and constellations. No doubt that the ancient Mayans, Babylonians and Greeks would have all had a good handle on this long before modern Christianity. $\endgroup$ – MttJocy Dec 22 '16 at 1:55
5
$\begingroup$

As the whole nativity thing is a mish mash of even older stories and all of this is fiction any way, why not mess with the main characters? What fun you could have with getting the three wise men lost, the shepherds flock being struck by a foot and mouth epidemic prohibiting their movement and the donkey going lame. Obviously the on going foot and mouth epidemic prevents any one entering the oxen's stable so the Inn Keeper has to find them a room after all. It's always cloudy whenever there is any kind of celestial event, so that's that sorted. No story, no Christmas.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest "spring for someone's room at the inn." That whole sleep in the barn thing was part of God's plan to make sure the family would be where the wise men could find them. Barring that, swap out the Frankincense and Myrrh with heroin and crystal meth. By the next morning nobody would remember why they were there. This answer is close enough for me. $\endgroup$ – T.Rob Dec 21 '16 at 5:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @T.Rob The wise men visited Jesus when he was about two years old. Also the bible doesn't state it were three wise men, just three gifts. It could have been an whole army, or just two. $\endgroup$ – Mixxiphoid Dec 21 '16 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Mixxiphoid The common story of Christmas is three wise men though. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 21 '16 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon correct, the Catholic tradition carried three names, therefore it is commonly said there are only three. $\endgroup$ – Mixxiphoid Dec 21 '16 at 17:23
4
$\begingroup$

It is said, that Jesus was born in March, so therefore, Christmas should be set in March.

However, as with many other holidays, the "celebration" was set close to an older, existing holiday from a different religion. The reason for this was to make it easier for people to convert to Catholicism.

So this is why we celebrate Christmas in December instead in March.

Now, to stop people from celebrating Christmas as we know it, try to stop it from being moved to December.

You can also stop Coca Cola, from bringing their version of Santa Claus into their commercial. (Because, they had a big influence on how Santa looks like today).

These 2 slight changes and Christmas won't be recognizable for most people.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Exactly this. It was easier to convert the pagan people of Europe to Christianity when large parts of their culture could stay. The people were less likely to convert if they had to rearrange their whole lives and calendars, thus keeping the non-essentials and filling them with Christian aspects was easier. $\endgroup$ – Mixxiphoid Dec 21 '16 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ "It is said..." - citation required. $\endgroup$ – Shadow Dec 22 '16 at 1:58
3
$\begingroup$

Kill Saint Nicolas as a child

unfortunately you are out of luck here, if you want modern society, you need Christianity, which means you are going to get Christmas, but we have another option, change Christmas. If saint Nicolas was killed as a child, then most of the Christmas traditions we know and love would disappear.

If you're willing to bend modern society being the same, then just kill wee little baby Jesus.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You know, he already came back once after his enemies killed him. (Jesus, not St. Nick) Good luck. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 20 '16 at 17:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @kingledion This time we'll seal the tomb with something heavier than a rock. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 20 '16 at 17:26
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon the weight of our guilt should do nicely, what with having just murdered a child. $\endgroup$ – Delioth Dec 20 '16 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Note that in Europe there is a separate feast to Saint Nicolas, celebrated on either the 5th or 6th of december. Most people do not give presents to each other with Christmas, but rather with the feast of Saint Nicolas. The celebration of Christmas in Europe has nothing to do with Saint Nicolas. $\endgroup$ – Mixxiphoid Dec 21 '16 at 9:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon if we take parts of the bible as history, the reason Herod failed to kill Jesus was because the family fled to Egypt, and was thus not in Herod's domain for a time. $\endgroup$ – Delioth Dec 21 '16 at 16:55
3
$\begingroup$

Buy the manuscript for A Chirstmas Carol from Charles Dickens before it is published, and immediately burn it.

This will achieve two things: One, get rid of Christmas as a secular holiday, and two, get rid of an irritating guilt-trip style story.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Well, this is a small change. Go back in time to when Abraham was about to kill his son because of the voices in his head. He is most likely babbling (and drooling) out his intentions to himself while his terrified son is tied up. Sneak up behind him and chloroform him. Untie his son. Give the young man a weapon and tell him you have used magic to put his father to sleep so that he, the son, can decide what to do with him... this might solve a whole lot of problems; we could be exploring major sections of the Milky Way by now.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ While this is, in some sense, a 'small change', it is also something that would completely change society as we know it (either that, or nothing would change at all). It probably wouldn't entirely get rid of the properties of Christmas that make the 'Scrooge-like character' so unhappy either - see eg. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia - and so doesn't really solve the problem $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Dec 21 '16 at 21:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, chloroform doesn't work as quickly as people think. $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai Dec 21 '16 at 22:46
2
$\begingroup$

Create More Date Controversy

There are several Christian churches today, particularly Church of Christ branches, that refuse to celebrate Christmas because it isn't biblical. They note that we do not know the date, so it is a falsehood to claim that as the date of Christ's birth.

Given that established pattern, you might be able to stall Christmas in its early years by painting the celebrants as unholy savages guilty of modifying God's Word. Certainly you could attack it during the Reformation and at least cut out the Protestants from celebrating it.

Your one major risk: a celebration in dark of winter is almost inevitable. You might stop Christmas, but I bet something replaces it. "It came without trees and without toys, it came without God or silver bell noise. It happened just from fear of the dark, so now we celebrate First Spark. Or something like that, because you see, Christmas is more than just Christianity!"

So maybe use your machine to cause something horrible to happen every solstice. Do that enough years, people will come to dread that time of the year.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Causing something terrible each year seems like it could become a relatively big change. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 21 '16 at 16:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon I agree... but I couldn't think of anything small that wouldn't have some festival pop up in its place. He asked for the smallest change... that might be it. $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 21 '16 at 23:31
2
$\begingroup$

Totally discredit Jesus.

One evening, after visiting Magdalena and coming from her home, he is attacked and murdered by someone claiming to be a jealous punter. Totally destroys the whole religion.

Let Islam take over.

The Siege of Vienna in 1683 could have ended differently, and the thread starter might ask us how to get rid of Ramadan...

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ "the smallest change possible would be ideal." $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai Dec 21 '16 at 22:47
0
$\begingroup$

Since the question is asking for the "smallest change", I'd assume changing the outcome of wars as some others suggested is a little bit.. excessive. I'd rather try to significantly change the story behind that dreaded holiday, and hope that history (or rather future?) takes care of the rest. For the moment, let's assume the historic content of the bible is true..

Our time traveller could convince Augustus to call off the census, making Josef and Mary's trip unnecessary, which might lead to Jesus at least being born somewhere else, at a different time, or not at all. At the very least, it gets rid of the nativity scenes. At best, he grows up as a regular carpenter like his father, and nothing worth celebrating happens.

Or, our time traveller could influence Pilatus to dissuade him from the crucifixion, taking away much of Jesus' fame and martyr status. (or prevent Judas from ratting Jesus out to the Roman authorities, perhaps?)

Or, our time traveller could try to get hold of biblical manuscripts and change or have them disappear, to at least change the date or turn the event (and most of Christianity) into something different than currently - but not necessarily less annoying.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.