Saturday, November 26, 2005

and so it begins (happy holidays)

Today I am amused and befuddled by this story, which has apparently made national headlines. Apparently some of our right-wing Christian friends are upset about the recent use of the term "Holiday Tree" on the City of Boston's website (as in "Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, 7 PM"). They complain yet again that Christmas has been stolen by the godless left. "'There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas,' Jerry Falwell told Fox Television."

Guess what...the tree is a PAGAN SYMBOL, for chris'sake! Jeez, I thought everybody knew that, but perhaps people who routinely condemn the beliefs of others without bothering to actually come to any real understanding of those beliefs just haven't spent much time studying their history...

Anyway, just thought I'd share some interesting bits I found while looking up the origins of the "Christmas" tree:

Pagan traditions: Many Pagan cultures used to cut down evergreen trees in December, moved them into the home or temple and decorated them. Modern-day Pagans still do. This was to recognize the winter solstice -- the time of the year that had the shortest daylight hours, and longest night of the year. This occurs annually sometime between DEC-20 to 23. They noticed that the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter. Not having evergreen trees, the ancient Egyptians considered the palm tree to symbolize resurrection. They decorated their homes with its branches during the winter solstice.

"The first decorating of an evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonia, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aessulapius after having been slain."

The ancient Pagan Romans decorated their "trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus [a fertility god]. They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god" Their mid-winter festival of Saturnalia started on DEC-17 and often lasted until a few days after the Solstice.

In Northern Europe, the ancient Druids tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the deity after which Wednesday was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the wassail bowl and the Yule log as symbols of the season. All predated Christianity.

And I guess (contrary to what I'd thought), there are references to holiday trees in the B-I-B-L-E:

The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them:
Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).

Happy Holidays from your resident heathen,
Kat E


Jay said...

Heh. People are ridiculous.

BeckyBumbleFuck said...

Nice bit of research there, babe. Conicidentally, I was just looking into Krampus, the pagan dude that apparently is the archenemy of St. Nicholas. (and 'scuse the stream of consciousness, but...) St. Nicholas Day is one of my most favorite minor holidays...who can argue with food and toys in your shoes, as your day starts?

Kat E said...

You need to read David Sedaris' story "6 to 8 Black Men". That is all I have to say about St. Nicholas...

Hypatia said...

Thank you so much for pointing out the pagan origins of the "Christmas" tree. I have been trying to point that out to Christians for years, even when I was a Christian. When I saw your comment, I was ready to start dancing. Thanks for the Jeremiah 10:2-4 quote. If more Christians would read that, I bet they would be rethinking their holiday practices.

Austin Cline said...

I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I linked to this article:

Kat E said...

Thanks for the comments, hypatia and austin! I was pretty amazed when I saw the Jeremiah verse as well. I'd assumed there'd be no mention at all of the trees in the bible, but to find something AGAINST their use there was a pleasant surprise.