Friday, December 18, 2009

Mishmash Christmas

I have been reading up on the origins of Christmas. What a mishmash from the past!

The history of the Santa character is just one example. Clicking the post title will take you to Wikipedia's history of Christmas and its symbols. The Christmas tree is a mutated version of the pagan soltice celebration and paganism's worship of trees. The fat jolly Santa of today is more an Americanization of several characters most not falling far from the bough of St. Nicholaus, but includes a a paganization drunken good times veer which the Puritans found vastly immoral.

Christmas itself is not the date of Christs' birth. I watched a Discovery channel show a year ago on the life of Christ, as researched by biblical scholars, that disputed whether Joseph and Mary would have been in Bethleham at all. Supposedly all Jews had to travel to the town of their birth for census purposes, relating to taxes, but the scholars argued that would have been an impossible command and makes unlikely the story in the first place.

It was allegedly relatively common in that era to claim immaculate conception rather than admit to sex prior to marraige which could get a woman killed. This too was mentioned in the series of shows I watched on the life of Christ.

Nonetheless, Christmas, a bizarre mixture of paganism and varied religious beliefs mashed up into a steaming mince meat pie, is a pleasant faire to swallow. The season is bright, cheery, magical and brimming in the possibility of goodwill towards mankind in a world where otherwise scrooginess, violence and judgement prevail.

1 comment :

  1. I always learned about Christmas from some of the early Jewish prophets though I did attend non Jewish school but did not listen in to the religion stuff (even if it might have been interesting.) I come to it from a different perspective therefore and always knew that the birthday of Jesus was established more for the needs of a group of men (and I do mean men , given that they took the gnostic gospels - many written by women out of the Bible all together. It is like any other political document. What gets in depends on who is in charge. This is also true of the Torah, I am sure).

    Josephus, the Jewish historian, has some really intriguing history of Jews and his early life- his family, brothers and sisters- that sort of thing. I never really shared it much with friends growing up (since I lived in a community with not many Jews like me) but was always amazed at what was taught or preached in some Churches and I would add the same is true of some temples or shuls. It is also true of Islam, especially with the role certain countries- virtual theocracies now profess is "true" to them.

    Much of what we know was all handed down orally so it is so diluted that much of it is fiction that has much in common with very many so called pagan religions. (I figure they re only pagans to those of us whose religions told us that. To them , they were fine). Even Christian theologians have intriguing perspectives on this and some vat disparity among interpretations.

    I have found even the gospels - if you read them as literature- are quite different in how they present what some believe to be "true". John is the most interesting of the four and the mot unique, the others are similar but all have varying accounts of his birth and that in and of itself tells us a lot!

    There is no doubt Jesus was a man who lived during that certain time period but I have always wondered especially why - when the Romans wanted him killed- it is the Jews who get attacked for being the ultimate killers. I am certain there were some who were not the pillars of their community they were supposed to be but I still fail to see how that became such a huge sin that we all had to pay for later on, sigh. Religion can be responsible for such horrible disasters (the shoah - what we call the Holocaust for ex) or even war. (Take your pick, Ireland, Iran, India vs Pakistan, the list is endless). I do like the good that some people do in religion - and by this I mean organized religion (hospitals, education etc- which might never have occurred in some places were it not for especially religious orders of women - but while I observe the customs of my faith, I do so more to keep the culture alive for my family than because I actually believe Moses for example actually talked to God!

    Like Bill Maher who like me is part Irish and part Jewish, I like what he said when a caller to one of his appearances on Larry King (CNN). The woman wondered what he'd do if God actually talked to him and Bill quickly replied, "I'd check myself into Belleview", meaning what used to be the psychiatric hospital in NYC. Now of course, Bellview is a large urban multidisciplinary hospital.