My post the other day about what to call the winter solstice celebration got me thinking about all the other traditions I’ve grown up with at this time of year. How many of them have roots in Christianity? I dug around a bit and here’s what I found:
- December 25th – JC’s birthday? Well maybe, but the evidence seems to say probably not. That date was chosen to coincide with the pagan festivals happening in Germany and other places in Europe.
- Christmas Trees – The idea of hacking down a tree and putting it in your house also seems to come originally from those ubiquitous pagans, the only difference is the type of tree used. Regardless, the tree has no obvious Christian symbolism.
- Christmas lights – Edward Johnson, an employee of Thomas Edison, was the first person to put (electric) lights on a tree. He was an engineer, and therefore probably just did it because it was cool; symbolism be damned.
- Mistletoe – Yeah yeah, pagans again. Oh, and druids.
- Santa Claus – He has many aliases, but they all point back to Saint Nicholas. Yes he was sainted, but it seems to me he was just a nice guy who liked to give stuff to kids. That takes care of gift giving too.
- Holly – This one seems to be Christian; the leaves are the crown of thorns, the berries are JC’s blood. Oh well, we never had holly anyway.
- Rudolph – This one was invented by an advertiser in 1939. Advertisers don’t do symbolism.
- Yule Log – Burning the log gave eternal life to sun worshippers apparently. Maybe the ash had a high SPF.
- Mince Pies – No idea where these came from, but they taste good so I’m going to carry on making and eating them.
So apart from the holly, nothing inherently Christian there. I don’t see any problem with having nicely wrapped copies of The Origin of Species under your beautifully decorated tree, or a menorah next to it.