added link 12/08/97
I hear lots of crying about how "Christmas is too commercialized." Maybe it is, for "Christmas" is the celebration of the birth of a character from Christian mythology, who depending on your beliefs is the savior of mens souls, a very charismatic teacher, the Son of God, or some dude in sandals who has been invented to have a religion named after him. The tradition of gift giving comes, some say, from the gifts brought by the "Three Wise Men" to the infant, Jesus. The fact that astrologers were thought "wise" is interesting, since astrologers as well as astronomers would be burned as witches by the Christians in a few hundred years. And even the name "Christmas" refers to the Christ child. But don't ever forget that the winter celebration was "binter celebration was "borrowed" by the Christians. The celebration on or around the winter solstice had been going on for centuries before Christ was supposed to have been born.
The pagan rituals still survive in the celebration most people call Christmas. The Christmas Tree, with its bright decorations was pilfered from the Druids and other worshippers of nature, who celebrated the beginning of a new year, with hopes of a good spring. Evergreens were chosen, as they were green even in the cold dark days of winter. They yield a hope that all things will soon be green and alive when the days grow longer and the snow melts. I dare say the Druids would be appalled at chopping down a healthy tree, however. The Druids were all but routed by the conquering Christians, but were allowed to keep their trees as a consolation prize, as long as they swore they were celebrating the birth of Jesus. The Druids also bring the tradition of mistletoe, they believed it had aphrodesiac powers, serving to unite mates so that they will be fruitful and achieve pregancy in order to populate the tribe. Alas, we only get a kiss these days.
Feasting is also a pagan ritual which has been corrupted by the Christians to have something to do with the "last supper" of Christ. In reality, animals were eaten in winter, as they "kept" and could be slaughtered at any time, the vegetables could not be preserved into the wieserved into the winter. The fall harvest had been finished off, and so the meat was killed and eaten. They also needed fat for fires and candles, and skins to keep warm. Again, the monks let many rituals be continued as an incentive to get the pagans into the fold. Paganism at the time was much more popular than Christianity, and it took hard work and a lot of repression and concessions to get people to follow the new "One God."
The Pagans were for the most part hedonists. They celebrated the union of man and woman as a gift from nature, and reveled in the joy of sex. They celebrated bountiful harvests by drinking heavily from the fermented fruit and grain they had produced. I'm certain that they felt that giving gifts and being friends was a celebration of their survival of another year, since that in itself was relatively rare. And the gifts were part of a bigger picture. Everyone in the tribe had a skill that was unique, some were hunters, some were tanners, some made bread, others made beer, wine and mead. The exchange of commodities was common, as it is how the tribe survived. The tanners made coats for the hunters in exchange for meat, the baker traded his wares for meat, and fat for shortening, and so on. Everyone traded with the brewers. They realized early on that spirits made the heart merry, and enhanced the celebrations. Thus was born the early version of the Jack Daniels gift set.
The Pagans celebrated the winter solstice for several reasons. One is that its passing meant that the days would grow longer, the ground would become warmer, and they could begin sowing seed for the next crop. Another reason is that the trees would soon become beautiful and green, a sign that the Earth Mother was awakening. A third reason is that they had more evening time on their hands. The land could not be worked, and besides the nights were long. So they were not as tired at nightfall because of the short day. Light the candles and pass the mead!
When the Christians came and forced a lot of new meanings on their celebrations, the old meanings were all but lost. The Christian monks were the only ones who had written language, so most of the recordings that have survived are the ones that are approved by the church. And after a few generations the Pagan's mythology was all but forgotten.
As for our subject today, looking at how we celebrate the winter holiday, well, I'd guess that Christ would disapprove. He was supposedly a simple carpenter and would not be into loud music and garish decor, or heavy drinking and eating. So the Christians are probably justified in saying that "Christmas has gotten too commercial." But the truth is, as humans we still hold many of the Pagan rituals because they are fun. It is good to have friends, and to show them our friendship by giving them gp by giving them gifts. It is fun to drink and party, and fun to have sex. We knew all these things before the Christians came and beat them out of us. And slowly but surely we are remembering them. Contrasting today with the Victorian era, We can see that the society has changed dramatically on the outside. But really, we are no more fun loving now than we were then. It's just that now, the church does not have the power over the culture, and it has a harder time imposing its "morality" on us. Don't think they will stop trying. They have infiltrated our legislature, and they have found that a vocal minority can look like a majority if they throw enough money at advertising and distribute enough guilt.
We aren't drifting away from the true meaning of the traditional winter celebration in its original, Pagan form. We are starting to trivialize the overwhelming Christian coloring of the holiday, which makes the Christians worry about losing more power. Don't forget that they persecuted and killed many great scientists and philosophers throughout history. We'd have been better off if they were merely another religion and not a power-hungry, bloodthirsty machine. So revel in the holidays, and remember that the true meaning is the celebration of life, and the earth's bounty, and individual success in surviving another year, not a guilt-ridden, cowtowing, whispering reverence to the source of the Christian Relighe Christian Religious machine's worldly power.
Update, December 1997: This article was selected to be included in the Paganet News, 1997 Yule edition, as further reading. If you enjoyed my commentary, I suggest you follow the above link to learn more.
Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 by John M. Meyer. All rights reserved. The Alien Mind is not associated with any earthly company or its products.
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