(Daven’s Note: This is a reprint from The Daily Press and is used here by permission. I saw this article and knew that I had to link it here, and in the interest of keeping it available for future reference, I’m reposting it here. I hope that you all will respect their copyright and not reprint it without their permission.)
So it’s happened again, just as it does every year around this time: A concerted effort to subvert the real meaning of the holiday and twist it into something far removed from its origins.
To take an ancient and revered celebration and rebrand it.
That’s right – it’s the annual War on Wicca.
No, no. Just kidding. What I’m really talking about is the annual War on Paganism, of which Wicca is a small subset.
That’s right: Every year, pagan symbols and festivities stretching back thousands of years are co-opted in the name of Christmas. Without thanks or barest acknowledgment.
Christmas trees everywhere, but no mention of the pagans and their reverence for evergreens or lighting the yule log to chase away midwinter gloom, and whose “Yule” is now synonymous with Christmas.
No gratitude for evergreen wreaths and holly – pagan symbols of the feminine and masculine and of sacred cycles.
None for borrowing Santa Claus – an iconic figure in various pagan cultures, from a fourth-century Turkish bishop to Father Yule, the Winter King.
Mistletoe today may reference chaste romance, but it echoes the earthy sexuality of pagan Saturnalia celebrations in mid-December to honor the Roman god of agriculture. Saturnalias were jolly days of feasts and exchanging gifts.
Winter Solstice has morphed from a pagan mid-winter festival of the birth of the sun into a celebration of the birth of the son.
And December 25 has gone from the birthday of the Roman god Mithra to … well, you know.
“Most religions – one is built on another, built on another,” notes Betsy Ashby of the Pagan Resource Center. “Anybody who thinks their religion is original is deluding themselves.”
The resource center was located in Windsor, but recently relocated to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Ashby declines to say how she and her family celebrate Solstice – “For us, it’s a time of family; we do not do the commercial thing.”
Lots of Christians would applaud this. Of course, many would also say she’s on the path to eternal damnation. If only she believed in eternal damnation.
The good news about the perceived marginalization or underappreciation of Christmas is that complaints have declined in recent years.
They do still crop up now and then, as in this Feedback complaint in Monday’s paper, from a reader upset about a general decline in wishing others “Merry Christmas”:
“Why is there a systematic campaign to destroy the roots of Christianity?”
Editor Ernie Gates did a fine job pointing out that 1) people do still say “Merry Christmas” and 2) the hype over the so-called and dubious “War on Christmas” is fading. Finally. Even on Fox News, which churned those muddy waters in the first place.
But for those who truly believe Christmas is being undermined, its sectarian roots overtaken by the secular, a little history would go a long way.
It would show that modern religious celebrations and symbols are commonly the co-opted and reinterpreted versions of more ancient ones – outside of modern inventions like Kwanzaa or Festivas.
It would also show that Christians piggybacked their holiday surrounding the birth of Jesus onto pagan celebrations, the better to reach converts and, in those dangerous early days when being Christian could get you killed, to hide in plain sight.
And it would show that there’s more common ground among different faiths and their holidays than, unfortunately, many would care to acknowledge.
Not being pagan or Christian, myself, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. Burn your yule log or sing your Christmas matins – more power to you.
But, as noted in a recent Slate article, some Christians don’t appreciate a level playing field. One spokeswoman at a conservative Christian group was displeased when a clothing company gave equal time to various holidays in a television ad.
“As a Christian, I don’t put Christmas on the same plane as winter solstice,” noted Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family. “It kind of felt like a poke in the eye.”
I suspect pagans know the feeling.
Contact Dietrich at 247-7892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2010, Newport News, Va., Daily Press
Originally posted 2010-02-22 00:00:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter