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December 25th, 2004 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

My brother points out that today we celebrate the “Christian appropriation of paganism.” He labels it syncretism, but that’s a tad misleading. Christianity did not just adapt the pagan practices, but baptized them. The celebrations we now understand as Christmas gained new meanings with the introduction of the Christian tradition, a tradition so powerful (true?) that pagan elements of the traditions seem to have been broadly forgotten, only to be revived in our post-Christian age. Even the Christmas icon, Santa Claus, cannot be separated from the Christian Saint Nicholas. Call it syncretism, if you will, but don’t expect to make Christians ashamed or fearful that the celebration is somehow less meaningful or less Christian as a result. Rather, it simply points to the overwhelming power of the Christian story…

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.