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The Christmas Story
From your theory, you think I decorate for Christmas because you see the symbols I use as “belonging” to the Christians. You won’t find any baby Jesus or manger in my house. However you will find those symbols of returning Life and Light, the evergreens, candles, twinkly lights, stars, bright colors and shiny objects, which use is much older than Christian tradition. The celebration of the longest night of the year (quite long this far North!) and the dawn that ends the siege of the darkness. Eating, drinking, storytelling, games and gift giving in shared company are how humankind has celebrated the Cycle of Life from before written records existed. Every feast was based on shared bounty – the gift of food and drink to share with all, thus beginning the tradition of the host/hostess gift. So by following these traditions at the time of the Winter Solstice, Christians honor our ancient ancestors. And I am glad.
Lynne, I quite agree with you that much of the symbology of Christmas comes from an era that predates Christianity in Europe. Early Christians freely borrowed from pagan rituals – decorating trees, calling light back into the world after the winter solstice. These popular practices were adopted by early missionaries in Europe and adapted to the Christmas story as a way to make Christianity more compatable with local practices.
The timing of Christmas, December 25, was probably borrowed from the Mithraic mysteries (originally from Persia and India), popular in Roman culture at the time of Jesus, Mithra(s) being the son of the sun and reborn at this time of the year.
Indeed, no symbol or tradition “belongs” to any religion; they have all borrowed from one another. In the above meditation, I was simply looking at reasons for the long-lasting appeal of the Christmas story. As far as I know, Mithra(s) was never depicted as a baby in his cult rituals, and his followers were mostly military, so his cult died out in the West after the fall of Rome.
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