Over the Thanksgiving holiday I repeatedly came across something from a person who seemed to feel that a real Christian couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, because evidently it was so deeply rooted in Pagan tradition. It’s every person’s right to express his or her opinion, but I find that kind of thinking rather sad.
This time of year is wonderful! For the next month or so several traditions have holiday seasons which overlap, and I suspect a lot of those traditions may owe a lot of their growth to anxious parents long ago, having to deal with a house-load of kids getting serious cabin fever. And I would not be surprised if a great deal of these celebrations – the particular fun things we do – are historically rooted in Pagan tradition. This doesn’t feel, to me, to be a bad thing.
We generally accept Paganism as among the most ancient of spiritual traditions. I accept that, too. The symbols of ancient traditions around the world, I believe, have their roots in visceral reactions to things – these symbols seem to be more pure in a way. When new faiths come along they generally see themselves as more enlightened paths, and will use the ancient symbols of whatever culture prevails. So the Easter egg is a symbol for Horus, the Egyptian god symbolized by the hawk – Horus performed an intercessory function between God and human similar in many respects to how early Christians viewed the role of Christ, so as Christianity moved into Egypt this association seems natural. And the hunt for eggs seems, then, a symbol of the seeking for the role of Christ in everyday circumstances or in the world at large. I would be very shocked, however, if those Christians of so long ago had anticipated the vast array of different ways we have today to dye and decorate eggs. A part of me wonders how they would react.
Oh, no! The Easter egg is Pagan and we’ve got to stop using it! This is a sad reaction. Rather, in our fun way we are honoring a millenia-old symbol, using an ancient and revered idea to underscore, or expand, our celebration of a relatively new faith, Christianity. By incorporating these ancient traditions, at least in part, we are also celebrating our ancestors. The ancient worshipers are not strangers to us – they are our forefathers. Where we are today is built on the lives of everyone who has gone before. Our use of ancient symbols in celebrations of today regardless of the faith or holiday celebrated, is also a good-hearted honoring of our fathers and mothers of old. Or at least, that’s how I see it.
For those who see the incorporation of Pagan traditions into an “enlightened” celebration as a dilution of faith, I can only say this – Truth is Truth and will always stand the test of time; honoring the faith of others can only honor your own. By bringing in the memories of our ancestors, even in silly stuff like the extra fun holiday traditions of every faith, we include them in our happiness. All of these people are our family, and we celebrate our happy moments – including holidays – with our family. We should honor and celebrate the happiness of others, too, because they are also part of our human family.
I love what Ben Stein has to say about a Jew celebrating Christmas: