You are on page 1of 1

Usener's Christmas: A Contribution to the Modern Construct of Late Antique Solar Syncretism, in: Die Metamorphosen der Philologie.

Hermann Usener und seine Folgen, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2011. 139-152 This article appears in the Acta of a conference in Paris held in 2009. I was there by invitation, and was one of only a few Classicists present. Most presenters were historians, interested in Usener and his impact on nineteenth century research. My own paper focuses on one of his studies, namely his views on the origin of Christmas, which is still influential today. Hence my contribution differs somewhat from the majority of the papers in this volume. It is, so to say, a case study of one of Usener's better known works, namely his Weihnachtsfest . The impact of this work cannot be overstated. Jan Bremmer some twenty-odd years ago identified this as one of the few areas of Usener's research that has "withstood the test of time". Martin Wallraff still considers Usener's study of this topic to be the fundamental one of the last 125 years. I hope to change some minds on that score, but beyond some modest revisionism I hope more specifically to explore the interaction between a specific scholarly concept syncretistic solar cult as an incipient form of pagan monotheism - and the development of Usener's views on Christmas. If that in turn sheds some light on the tension between (philological) method and (universalist) theory in the work of Usener and his contemporaries, I will be well satisfied. Being a case study, my article will inevitably grapple with bits of Usener-style philological analysis of minute details. My apologies. I do hope to be more concise than Usener was in such matters. The full text of this article can be downloaded here.