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…
Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson
Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.
Matt, you make a good point, and one that stands to be bolstered.Christmas falls near winter solistice, an astronomical event well-celebrated by the cultures of the world. Why is it that the Christian’s celebration, with their God being born of a virgin in a manger, storms the whole time of year and is now practically the only version worth telling? Santa Claus and the mythology surrounding him is the only other enduringly interesting aspect of the Christmas season, and that was born of your friend and mine, Saint Nicholas, who gave presents to children during the winter season because he loved them. Whatever the culture, it is an underdog’s journey to resist the bohemoth holy day that is the mass of Christ.
No matter; the coolest holiday doesn’t make a religion true. It just makes it cool.