Happy Heathen Holidays ~ Part III in Guest Post by DCP

In case you can't tell...those are animals hanging from that tree.

While lying low and recuperating from emergency gallbladder surgery, I came across this article (10 Reasons I Hate Christmas. Love, The Grinch)  on the Elephant Journal (where John is now a columnist – Thanks for the plug ).  Sara Miller has gotten it right.  Many of the “traditional” holiday customs are not Christian at all, but lend their origins to various pagan practices associated with very different holidays. 

As an Asatruar, I celebrate the traditional Germanic holiday of Yule.  Yule is the most important holiday in the heathen year.  It is a celebration of the winter solstice, and a reminder that, despite the extremely long nights and cold, harsh days, the tide has turned and from this point onward the days will grow longer.  Yule is a time for us to reflect on our spiritual practices and devotion, and to celebrate the accomplishments of the previous year.

Most of the modern “Christmas traditions” have their roots in pagan ritual, including Norse, Roman, Germanic, and Druid.  Here is a small list:   

  •  Christmas tree– The Norse would pull a green conifer into the house during Yule to remind themselves of the coming of spring and the greening of the landscape.  The Romans would hang fruit and candles from evergreen boughs. 
  • Santa Claus– Associated with St. Nicholas, known for his secret gift giving, Germanic and Scandinavian peoples have long associated Santa Claus with Odin, the wandering chief deity of the Germanic pantheon.
  • 12 days of Christmas– Christmas does not have twelve days, but Yule does.  A Yule log was chosen at the beginning of the festival, cut from the trunk of a large tree.  It was hoped that the log would be big enough to burn throughout the entire twelve days of the festival. 
  • Christmas Dinner– Both the Norse and the Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice with feasting.  Yule is typified by feasting and drinking, and the Roman ritual of Saturnalia, dedicated to the god Saturn, also included feasts
  • Mistletoe– We can thank the Druids for this tradition.  Mistletoe was a magical plant to the Druids, and the tradition of kissing underneath sprigs of mistletoe was a fertility ritual. 
  • Timing of Christmas– “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:8. This well-known fact from the Biblical Christmas story reveals the greatest holiday fraud ever, CHRIST WASN’T EVEN BORN IN DECEMBER!  Judean shepherd would not be watching their flocks in the fields in the middle of winter; this is a springtime activity.  However, in 320 AD, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25.  Why December 25th?  This date represented the height of the solstice celebration to Mithras, a Persian sun god.  The Pope hoped that placing the Mass of Christ during this time would allow the holiday to supersede pagan rituals. 

So, if you celebrate Christmas, bear in mind that the vast majority of your traditions and rituals are not Christian in nature, but owe their origins to Pagan festivals.  If you are like me and don’t particularly care for Christmas, use these facts as an excuse to ridicule the holiday for its hypocrisy.  In my own Yule celebrations I created a Yule tree in typical Norse style, fashioned after the Great Temple at Uppsala.

Be good to each other.   

Thanks DCP for another great post.  I appreciate you taking the time from your recovery to post. 

Buddhist and Heathens ~ Part I in Guest Post by DCP

Viking Karma ~ Part II in Guest Post by DCP

Update!

Check here  here  here for some examples of general rants on Christmas. 

And here is an American Douche complaining about “Pagan Propaganda”. An example of Christian viewpoint from the comments:

I would like to reiterate a point. Paganism lost out to Christianity for a reason, whether it was the charismatic apostles of Christ, or merely skillful manipulation of material elements. The barbarism of paganism is nothing to glorify. The basic thought of “fate” as governing life trapped man in an empty spiritual world. It was fatalism that allowed for no hope of a positive outcome to life’s travails.

Their forms of worship were primitive and cruel. They cut upon animals and humans, they cast wood and stone to portend the “future.” And the absolute faith in Astrology was so negative, that even the Caesars were forced to prohibit its use from time-to-time. I am glad to be a Christian. I have experienced a variety of faiths through first-hand observation; I wouldn’t sacrifice the faith of my forefathers for anything, short of heaven itself.

Have a Wonderful Pagan Holiday Everyone!
John
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21 thoughts on “Happy Heathen Holidays ~ Part III in Guest Post by DCP

  1. It’s all well and good and a bit entertaining to rip on the fabrication known as Christmas, but Buddhists do so at their peril. It’s not as if Buddhism doesn’t have its own share of seasonal myths surrounding the Buddha.

    For example, are we really to believe that the Buddha was born, became enlightened, and died on the same calendar day of the year?

    And why do the Mahayana celebrate this event in December, while the Theravada celebrate it in the spring?

    There are also birth stories regarding the Buddha that parallel the virgin birth myth of Jesus. There is a story that the Buddha was not born vaginally, but sprouted out of his mother’s side (there might actually be a grain of truth to this, as it is possible the Buddha’s birth was very difficult and his mother had the equivalent of a C-section). His birth was also reportedly attended by a variety of animals and supposedly the Buddha was equipped with the power of speech immediately upon his birth.

    While these stories may not be part of the “official” canon, they are nonetheless part of the myth. So it behooves us Buddhists to recall that, as we point out the fabrications built into the Christmas story, we, too, live in a glass house.

    • Hey Richard! I am well aware of the cosmology of the Buddha’s birth, most of which I find interesting but not an active part of my practice. There are some great commentary on the Buddha’s birth by Shunryu Suzuki, which once I locate Iwill send to you. He placed a very practical twist upon those fantastic stories.

      Ironically, I don’t mind when people toss stones at my glass Buddhist house. Since I tend to agree with them about the absurdity of many of those stories. What I do find interesting is the Christian persecution complex which arises again and again with pagans (or at least non-Christians) destroying Christmas. From my POV, they destroyed it themselves.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement though…

      It’s not as if Buddhism doesn’t have its own share of seasonal myths surrounding the Buddha

      Exactly! Myths, and most of the Buddhists I know admit to them being myths or fabrications. Granted myths and fabrications with a purpose but myths non-of-the-less. Far too many Christians don’t even know that they most treasured day is soaked in pagan ritual and the early Christians disdain for indigenous tradition and religion.

      Ok, back to my presents!

      Happy Holidays!

      John

      • I will look forward to reading the material by Shunryu Suzuki when you find it. I agree with you that the sense of persecution psychology possessed by Christians who take affront to any commentary on the veracity of their legends (it’s not all Christians) is really quite amusing, even if they don’t see the humor of it.

        • Hopefully I can find it. I have too many random files…I need to be more organized! As a closing comment, I think that most Christians by believing and promoting a restrictive comsology (you are gong to heaven, you are not going to heaven for ABC) in essense show a lack of respect for other religions.

          This is not to say that this applies to all Christians but a restricted heaven is a core concept in Christianity. And while some Buddhist sects and schools have similar cosmologies, it is not a core foundation of Buddhism.

          Cheers,

          John

  2. You raise a good point, Richard. All of our stories have been influenced by time and external viewpoints. Most of the Norse stories we are familiar with were written down by Snorri Sturlesson at least 200 years after Scandinavians converted to Christianity. It is believed that much of our core literature has a Christian undertone, as Snorri could not actively write about pagan practices.

    That being said, bear in mind that many of these pagan practices were knowingly usurped by Christians of power. As pagans, most of us do not mind others celebrating their holidays and enjoying their beliefs, but it does chap our hides when we are ridiculed for even bringing up the idea that these rituals were initiated by our forbearers, not Christians.

  3. Good article 🙂 I went to check out the rest of that american Douche’s article on “pagan propaganda” and literally almost puked. Hmmm, you think maybe the pagan’s lost out to christianity because THEY FUCKING KILLED THEM! Convert or die! Yah real saints there christianity. clearly your message of death and destruction to force followers worked, good job. the anger is building but I won’t rant further. To those to like to celebrate the Holidays, no matter what you call them or what you are, with friends, family, and fun (or two of the three as I know how trying family can be), whether there is spirituality behind it or not, Cheers to you!

    • Yeah, the pulled my main and my backup, LOL. No, the surgery had to be done NOW, like, no going home from the emergency room but straight into surgery. It couldn’t wait, hence the emergency.

  4. To write an angry article like this without pointing out that this has become a high consumer holiday that has surpassed Christmas the religious holiday. To write about how Christians co-oped these pagen rituals without mentioning that irony is unfortunate. Most of us are consumers before anything else. Yes, even us pedantic and high minded Buddhists can be catagorised as consumers first. Without addressing this consumer component, the article falls flat in making an original contribution to this new (offically tiresome) holiday ritual of pointing out hypocricsys of Christmas (leaving out ourselves is always nice).

    • Well. Just want to quickly remind everyone that I do bring up Buddhist hypocracies from time to time – especially from the “pedantic and high-minded” Buddhists…

      Also, from personal experience, while this topic is an annual favorite, it seems that the point has yet been brought home to those that look at me cross-eyed when I mention any of the above.

      Isn’t it a fact that ANY holiday in the West is a high consumer holiday? Mentioning that would be even more redundant. I assume everyone, Christian or not, understands this aspect of American holiday consumerism.

      Thanks for your comment, Lone Pine!

      Cheers,

      John

        • Give it time. Give it time. I reread the post and don’t see the huge difficulty. I enjoy Buddhist cosmology and tradition, even if I don’t necessarily buy into it, I at least try to know the origins. I figure people would like to know where their symbols come from.

          Since when are Badgers “high-minded”….an owl maybe.

    • Lone Pine, the horrible consumerism of the holiday season is another issue entirely, one that I could rant about at nauseum in several other articles. Jesus’ philosophy was one of peace and understanding, somethig we can all get behind (I would hope). It is unfortunate that the Christmas season has become one exemplified as “buy, buy, buy” instead of “peace, joy, understanding.”

      But as I said before, that is an entirely separate issue. Personally, I have no real problem with Christmas (other than a slight distaste) except when intolerance comes into play simply when true origins of customs and traditions are discussed. As long as there are articles being written such as the American Thinker article, the accurate and opposing points of view should be voiced.

  5. Hi John,

    You know I love your blog and am an avid reader, but I’m afraid I won’t be taking up your challenge to “use these facts as an excuse to ridicule the holiday for its hypocrisy”.

    The Christians I know readily accept that Christiantiy employed pre-existing celebrations, just as Buddhism did as it spread from country to country. That doesn’t make Christianity (or Buddhism) guilty of hypocracy.

    Of course it’s great if you wish to celebrate a Pagan holiday etc, but there is no need to ridicule other people’s cherished beliefs and traditions.

    Wishing you peace,

    Marcus

    • Hey Marcus,

      To be fair, the post is written by DCP and not myself so I will leave it to him to explain his words but I will state that I am not seeing the ridicule of other people’s cherished beliefs and traditions in this post. It is unfortunate that the questioning of the origins of certian symbols leads to so much ire from the Christian community.

      As a personal story, I was raised Greek Orthodox which differs a bit in symbology and belief than Catholocism and definately differs from most of the fundamental, evangelical Christian beliefs out here. On of the smaller differences is that Greek Orthodox don’t use the symbol of “the manger”. Being rather “Old School” the image is usually within a cave rather than a house or shack.

      In explaining this difference to a evangelical Christian, I was actually told that I was wrong and that it was definately some form of “lean-to” that Christ was born under. Now personally, I don’t care but I was amazed that this person had so little interest in where these images originated from. I didn’t think that pointing out how they evolved would lead to so much of an issue and I don’t consider tracing a ritual to its roots to be a form of ridicule.

      As always, Marcus, I appreciate your comment!

      Cheers,

      John

  6. Once again, the written (electronic) word fails to convey my “sarcastic voice”. I was being facetious. As I’ve said in other comments, I have no real problem with Christmas in and of itself; I still celebrate it with my Presbyterian and Lutheran family. Eveyone has the right to celebrate this time of year in their own cherished way.

    However, when my cherished ways are questioned simply because I choose to point out that they were here first and co-opted by others, I feel the need to point out the hypocrisy of the entire Christian holiday. It’s maybe a bit “eye for an eye”, but as Jack said in a previous comment, until these facts are accepted (and as long as the religious right keeps writing said articles, they clearl are not) these facts need to be reierated.

    Thanks for the comments.

  7. Hi John and DCP,

    I’m flabergasted to think that any Christian would be upset over the sugestion that a Christmas tree (for example) is a pre-Christian symbol adopted by Christianity.

    I’ve certainly yet to meet such a Christian (and in my forty-odd years of interest in religion I’ve met a lot of them). Do they really exist? Perhaps only in America, I don’t know.

    In any case – I’m surprised to find offensive against Christians with holes in their historical knowledge taking place here! Surely not many of them read this blog? In fact, I’d guess that those Christians who do come over here would not be at all surprised to learn that the symbols of Christmas pre-date the formation of their holiday.

    Anyway, on another point entirely, you’re absolutely right about the location of the nativity John. A manger is established in the gospels, but not a stable. The manger could just as easily been in open ground.

    The sybolism of your Orthodax picture is so righ in so many ways, the most striking, of course, being the figure of Christ – in a manger and swaddling clothes that pre-envisage the burial shroud and casket. Glorious stuff.

    All the very best,

    Marcus

    • Thanks Marcus!

      I too am flabergasted at the insistance of many Christians that every symbol is Christian in nature but again I direct you to the link on my post where a bunch of those American Evengelicals start ranting on everything pagan and even insist that it is “Pagan Propoganda”!

      I’ve certainly yet to meet such a Christian (and in my forty-odd years of interest in religion I’ve met a lot of them). Do they really exist? Perhaps only in America, I don’t know.

      Unfortunately I think the Evangelical movement is largely an American creation. Especially in the Bible Belt or anywhere in “God’s Country”. Most Christians are not like this but a grow segment of them are. Think “Rugged Individualism” meets group-think and throw in a dash of ignorance backed up by random Bible quotes.

      Yes, there are many examples of a rich Christian symbology in the Orthodox tradition. It is largely what kept me awake in church (since everything was in Greek and I don’t speak it).

      Cheers,
      John

    • Marcus,

      John has hit the nail squarely on the head. The Fundamentalist Christian viewpoint is a uniquely American phenomenon, and one that is becoming exceedingly problematic to the rest of us in this country. Distaste and ignorance over the true nature of Christmas symbolism are the least of our worries. The Fundamentalist Christian agenda has been an increasingly vocal and influential force in our country, and the sympathy of the Bush Administration has only given them momentum. Their particularly narrow world view has crept into all facets of our lives, including education (creationism vs. evolution), civil rights (gay and lesbian marriage), world politics (much of what is fueling the support for our action in the Middle East is a “God versus Allah” attitude), and daily life (some of the staunchest opponents of a government health program here in the ‘States are the conservative Fundamentalists who are solely (and misguidedly) concerned with issues such as abortion and euthanasia).

      The vast majority of my friends and colleagues are Christians, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. It is the small and extremely vocal group of extremists that are causing problems, and I will fight them tooth and nail in every way to oppose their agenda.

      Thanks for the interest in my statements Marcus, and please don’t let my own potentially opposing viewpoints dissuade you from enjoying John’s blog to the fullest.

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