Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas in Blogland (A Rant)

Charlie: When the Spaniards brought in Christianity, they tried to wipe out all the pagan rituals of the American Indian.

Joe: Yeah, but everybody around here is Catholic.

Charlie: That’s true, but, you see, they worship to the carved statues of saints. They don’t worship to God.

Joe: We believe in God.

Charlie: Yeah, but it’s still a form of idolatry, except now those idols represent Christian heroes, like saints instead of pagan gods. [The Milagro Beanfield War (1988 movie)]

I see certain articles come recommended from time to time on Christmas.  Some I agree with (Christmas is too commercialized and is the rejoicing over the coming of Christ is overlooked).  Others seem distracting (on Santa being an anagram for Satan) and some become rather insulting if you consider what is being said (that Christmas is pagan and those who celebrate Christmas are celebrating a pagan deity or are being deceived into worshipping a pagan deity).

As you might suspect, my interest is in number topic three.  I mean I don't have any use for Santa Claus, but I think that is a symptom of the trivialization of Christmas and not the cause.

The quote I gave from the dialogue in the Milagro Beanfield War is representative of what is assumed by such claims.  The character Charlie starts with the assumption that the Hispanic practices are pagan, worshipping idols instead of God and sticks to this view despite the fact that Joe makes clear that they believe in God and don't practice pagan idolatry.  Charlie is essentially unwilling to consider his assumptions are wrong.  Icons and statues must be idols because in Pre-Columbus America, the natives were pagan and worshipped idols.  Thus he ends up offending people by his insistence that they must have a pagan motivation.

Unfortunately some do make this error.  They assume that because a pagan celebration fell on December 25th and Christians celebrate Christmas then essentially Christmas is a pagan celebration.  You also see this for Halloween and Samhain; and Easter/St. Valentine's Day and Lupercalia and so on.  You could probably do this for any other holiday as well.

For that matter you could find some anti-Halloween people celebrating "Reformation Day" and accuse them of really celebrating Halloween (^_~).  You'd be wrong to do so, but the principle is the same.

The assumption is an error.  Basically speaking, it is as follows:

  • [Objectionable Practice in History] took place on [Day X]
  • Some Christians have [holy days] on [Day X]
  • Therefore these [holy days] actually celebrate [Objectionable Practice in History].

The problem is, just because we celebrate Christmas on the same day as the pagans celebrated Sol Invictus and Mithras or the celebration of Saturnalia (pertaining to Saturn), does not mean our intentions are to worship these deities.  It's a post hoc fallacy.  There are 365 days in a year, and it stands to reason that some holidays and holy days are going to overlap.  Hanukah falls in the same season as Christmas, but Christians don't observe Hanukah and Jews don't observe Christmas even if the dates come close together.  Nobody would ever assume they were.

That some false god happened to be worshipped by some pagans in the Third Century AD is not the "Reason for the Season" among Christians who celebrate Christmas.  To us, these false gods are forgotten and irrelevant and the celebration of the Birth of Christ, our Savior, is what we celebrate.  Even if others also forget Christ and turn the holiday into a secular gift giving, their interest is not a pagan celebration.

Even if Christians took over pagan days to replace pagan holidays with Christian ones, who cares?  It shows the triumph of God over the pagan beliefs.  Where is Mithras or Sol Invictus or Saturn now? 

Gloria in excelsis Deo — we believe in God and celebrate Him.

Ask the average person celebrating Christmas about Mithras or Sol Invictus or Saturn and you'll probably get a blank look.  I know of them simply because I studied the history of Pagan Rome.  However, on December 25th, when I go to Mass, it is to rejoice in what God has done for our salvation.

Personally I have to ask, Who is really giving attention to Saturn, Mithras and Sol Invictus?  The people who celebrate Christmas?  Or the people who go around telling people about how Christmas is really pagan?

Think about it — and then leave us in peace to celebrate Christ.

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