Here’s an excerpt from one of Augustine’s Christmas sermons, delivered on 25 December 401:
Stop these latest sacrileges, stop this craze for vanities and pointless games, stop these customs, which no longer take place in honour of demons but still follow the rites of demons … Yesterday, after vespers, the whole city was aflame with stinking fires; the entire sky was covered with smoke! If you make little of the matter of religion, think at least of the wrong that you do to the community. We know, brothers, that it is kids who have done this, but the parents must have let them sin.
The tone of the sermon tells us that few of his hearers were more than nominal Christians. The purpose of all these fires, according to Heim, was ostensibly to help the dying sun rekindle its fires. The real purpose, of course, was fun!
1. Frangipane 8, 5 = PL 46, 996. See Dom Morin, Miscellanea agostiniana, Rome, 1930, p. 223-4. All quoted from F. Heim, Solstice d’hiver, solstice d’ete dans la predication chretienne du ve siecle. Latomus 58 (1999), p. 640-660, p. 649.