Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There Were Pageants Before Christmas

In a story about the Winter solstice, NPR asks, "Why do we celebrate Christmas just a few days after the winter solstice when almost no one thinks Jesus was born on December 25th?"

The lights on houses, the decorated trees, the Yule log, the holly, the mistletoe - these are all pre-Christian traditions associated with celebrations of the solstice, in celebration of pre-Christian Gods. After at least a few hundred years of practice, these tradition were adopted by Christians for a holiday that gained its current popularity only in the last two hundred years (Christmas celebrations were banned by the Puritans in the USA because of the pagan practices associated with such; Christmas gained ground as a big holy day -or "holiday"- in the USA in the 1800s). I don't mind one religion appropriating the practices of another -- it happens all the time -- but I don't understand why Christians say things like, "Christ is the reason for the season." Do they really not know that not even most Christian theologians think Jesus was born in December?

Why is it okay for so many Christians to practice winter pagan traditions, Christianizing them for their own purposes, but it's not okay to do the same thing with the traditions for Halloween? I have more respect for someone who believes their religion prevents them from engaging in any of these rituals rather than deciding Christmas is okay but Halloween is evil.

Cue Dar Williams.

On a side note: I met my husband because we were both visiting the Neolithic monument at Newgrange, which is profiled in the NPR story. Love you, babe.

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