Friday, November 11, 2005

Wal-Mart and The Origin of Christmas

Well, I suppose that the Catholic League's real reason for the boycott was the letter from the temporary customer service associate that made claims about the origins of modern Christmas. I'll republish the letter here:

Walmart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than "christmas" which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with "christmas" red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world.

While most of the claims are dubious, and one or a few false, the fact is that Christmas does have such types of origins. Is this what offended the Catholic League? Wal-Mart issued an apology, although they won't go back on their policy change of using the "Happy Holidays" greeting instead of "Merry Christmas".

But what of the fact that Christmas has pagan origins? Christmas isn't the only one. Much of the syncretism that occurred when Constantine declared Rome to be a Christian empire is still seen in church practices to this day. For example, the name "Easter" is directly derived from the Babylonian goddess of life, Ishtar. Lent comes from the 40 days of mourning that Samiramis did after her son, Tammuz was gored to death by a wild boar. Legend has it that Ishtar brought him back to life after these forty days. People eventually came to honor Ishtar by decorating eggs. The first orders of Nuns were from the temple prostitutes of the false gods of Rome. Christmas wasn't celebrated until the church felt the need to countermand the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

There are even some practices that have been theologized, but have roots in practical practices. Sprinkling water for baptism, for example, came from the impractical idea of melting enough snow in northern Europe to dunk people. Besides, getting wet in winter wasn't a good idea at the time - a baptism could mean death due to pneumonia. Because the practice was normalized, theological reasons were invented to continue the practice. People just don't like change.

There are so many examples and I haven't fully explored the ones I have set forth here. My point is, Christians shouldn't be afraid of the truth. If it's true, it's God's truth. If we don't like it, we need to change. The Catholic League should have taken the opportunity to set the record straight and propagate the gospel through bold humility instead of fiddling with a petty squabble with Wal-Mart.


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