Every December, people start reminding us to “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” which, incidentally, I’d say is a pretty good idea. If it means curbing the annual orgy of materialistic spending – flooding corporate chain mega-stores to snatch up every last piece of plastic crap made in Chinese sweat-shops by 9-year old kids because the altar of television has indoctrinated the masses to believe that this gizmo or that gadget is the essential item to prove their love for their children, show their own self-worth, and find true happiness and sex appeal, then I’d say, yeah, bring on the bearded transient who drove the money-changers from the temple (not to mention the whole “water into wine” thing).
However, I’d like to take a moment to urge us all to remember another and much older tradition. Feel free to keep the Christ in Christmas, but allow me to keep the Sun in the Son’s Day.
Christmas is, in essence, a corruption of the Winter Solstice; the time when our ancestors (and many of us today) mark the passing of the longest night on earth by taking part in a ritualized rebirth of the Sun. By lighting candles and using them to decorate evergreen trees (themselves a symbol of life in the midst of the death of the old year), people helped bring back the light of the world, the Sun. A little research reveals that pretty much every “Christmas tradition” is a Solstice tradition that’s been around for millennia before the birth of Jesus. From exchanging gifts to decorating trees, from mistletoe to candlelight services (hell, maybe even fruitcake); it’s the ancient rites of our ancestors that we are celebrating whether we know it or not.
I don’t point this out in order to disparage Christian belief or tradition. I have nothing against most Christians that I’ve personally dealt with. I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t mind Christians individually; it’s only when two or more are gathered in His name that I begin to worry: That’s when the institution of the Church rises and women get burned at the stake, sacred groves get chopped down, Africans get enslaved, Indigenous Peoples get genocized, and peasants and workers starve while the ruling class (of which the priests and ministers are part) wallow in luxury. So I’m not against anyone from calling themselves Christian, I just wish more of them would follow the teachings of Jesus instead of the bureaucracy of despots in robes. People would do well to remember that Marx didn’t say that Jesus or Faith or God or Spirituality was the opiate of the masses, but Religion. The distinction makes a world of difference.
So the point of all of this is simply this: Enjoy your holiday however you see fit, but perhaps there’s room to consider the true origins of the rituals you keep. I feel that it is a great disservice to our ancestors (for those of us with European origins) to discount and belittle their traditional beliefs simply because they were persecuted and terrorized by an invading force that believed in conversion at the point of a sword. Celebrate the birth of the Son, if that’s your chosen belief; but keep the Sun in the Son’s Birthday. Jesus will forgive you, your ancestors will thank you, and you just might find yourself a little more connected to the natural rhythms of this Earth that organized religion has done so much to destroy.
Peace, love, and Happy Solstice!