Friday, October 13, 2006

Thought on cultural appropriation


If the UUs had stolen the Christmas tree from the pagans:
-We would call it a “ritual pagan tree”
-We would talk to our kids about how what it means to the pagans
and what it means to secular culture are two different things,
though UUs can certainly understand it as a symbol of the renewal of life.
-We would object to commercialization of this pagan religious symbol.


But since the Christians were the ones who stole the Christmas tree from the pagans:
-The tree is named after Christ’s mass
-And if you call it a “holiday tree” and/or don’t put one up at City
Hall you’re insulting Jesus.

17 comments:

Joel Monka said...

For what it's worth, a lot of fundamental Christian denominations don't do "Christmas" trees, or the Pagan Easter eggs and bunnies.

CK said...

The church I went to in Maryland outside of DC didn't celebrate either holiday on Sunday. Every Sunday celebrated Christ's birth, resurrection and death--why the need for pagan rituals?

They also used wine for communion. (And yet were die-hard Protestants, some of whom thought "Rome" was close to being the Whore of Babylon.)

Jaume said...

Just two comments:
-The "Pagans" did not exist as such. "Pagan" is a Christian word, just as "Satan" is also a Christian word.

-Traditions are not stolen. They are reinterpreted.

boyinthebands said...

CK: instrumental or non-? Sunday School material or "Bible only"? I think I know what kind of church you mean, or am getting close

Joel Monka said...

"-The "Pagans" did not exist as such. "Pagan" is a Christian word,..." Yes, "Pagan" is a Christian word and not a specific religion- but it is a useful word, when multiple religions are involved, none of which are Christian. I could have delivered a dissertation on the festival of Eostre, the Teutonic Goddess of the Dawn- but that would have only explained the eggs. To get to the Easter bunnies, I would have to then have pursued the Dutch Oschter haas, which has still older roots I'd have to fetch one of my tomes on mythology to find the correct spellings of. What's wrong with simply saying "Pagan", which most dictionaries list as first definition "One who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew"?

Chalicechick said...

OK, fair enough on the fundamentalists.

I also tend to think that traditions are typically more adapted than stolen, I was just making a point.

CC

Steve Caldwell said...

It's my understanding that our New England Puritan Congregationalist ancestors would not have celebrated Christmas ... at least not the way that modern-day Mainline Protestants and most Unitarian Universalists would celebrate it.

Reason and scripture would have told them that the Bible never says anything about celebrating Christmas, Christmas Trees, Christmas Eve services, etc ... the traditional trappings of the season were entirely too "popish" for them.

Chalicechick said...

Does my post say someplace that every Christian has a Christmas tree or that every denomination celebrates Christmas with them?

I don't think "the Christians" implies "every single Christian." If it does, I do apologize to the non-evergreen-inclined.

CC

PG said...

For "Christian" in CC's post, read, "Type of Christian who sees that there is no tree at City Hall and writes letters to the editor about the decline of Western Civilization signalled thereby."

Incidentally, this pagan's family (Hindu, ergo not "Christian, Muslim or Jew") is big into the commercial aspects of Christmas. My mom would cheerfully bedeck our house in angels she doesn't believe exist if I didn't plead with her not to. (Plea based more on tackiness than agonisticism.)

I'm for the commercial Christmas as one of the things that bring Americans together. We may not believe in the same god(s), or any god, but we all can swear on the dollar sign. If we don't raise our kids to demand stuff every Dec. 25, how will they be known as Americans in other parts of the world?

Joel Monka said...

PG- for real American commercialism, complete with kids' demands, look to Halloween. It's already, by money spent, our #2 holiday and at its current rate of growth could well surpass Christmas soon- and it has the advantage of being (at least as we treat it)almost uniquely American.

kim said...

I was raised to consider Christmas, which we definitely DID celebrate, as a secular holiday. It had no religious overtones at all, and was, indeed, an "American" holiday.
We also had our own peculiar method of celebrating it, but that's not relevant to this discussion.
Many many kids list Halloween as their favorite holiday -- and it's the costumes they love more than the candy.
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, which is very American, though that's not why I love it. You are all invited to come join us for Thanksgiving dinner if you RSVP in time.

CK said...

CC, I was just reminiscing based on Joel's comment. FWIW, I think that your instinct is mostly right.

Boy in the Bands, the chuch I went to (RPCBowie.org) didn't do "Bible only" in Sunday School (I actually helped create one of their curricula), although they were pretty close.

As far as view of the sacraments, it was surprisingly low, compared to other churches where they used wine/bread and celebrated it every week. I am forgetting my technical terms, but I think instrumental is the right one. Their view of baptism was pretty low, close to requiring 'conversion' at some point (they weren't paedocommunionists) and not assuming the kid was a saved Christian until they demonstrated otherwise.

Very much a Banner of Truth church (if that helps), although there were a few Doug Wilsonites (who didn't agree entirely with the sacramental views). I had some discussions with the pastor on the halfway covenant and all that jazz--I thought they were being inconsistent, they thought they were avoiding Romishness.

I digress.

Though on reflection, I guess I haven't gone too far from my Puritan roots in joining Unitarian Universalism...

PG said...

The trouble with Halloween is that it is so difficult for adults really to join in the orgy of commercialism. You can dress up basically as a whore (c.f. Mean Girls) and go to an actual orgy, but if you don't have children, it's quite difficult to be part of traditional Halloween past the age of trick-or-treating being cool. I remember the first Halloween after college, my apartmentmate and I bought lots of candy in anticipation of kids' knocking on our door. Not a single one knocked, and we ended up pawning it off on the pizza dude. I had a truly lousy Christmas a couple of years ago, but at least I still felt like I'd done Christmas. I haven't done Halloween in years.

Also, it's possible not to be really aware of Halloween traditions. A family friend who grew up in India and came to the U.S. for his medical residency was living in NYC in the early 1980s. He moved from there to begin practicing in East Texas. The first Halloween he was there, he was completely at a loss of what to do when kids rang his bell and said "Trick or treat!" He handed out money until his wife figured it out and ran to WalMart to buy some candy. I don't think it's possible to be unaware of Christmas -- its commercial aspects have been imported to India and probably many other nations where Christians are a small minority. (I'm not even sure the original Christians in India, those converted by St. Thomas, celebrated Christmas as it was in the West until the Brits showed up.)

kim said...

I used to be involved with a group of adults who always had a costume party around Halloween. 'Course, they had several costume parties the rest of the year too.

Jaume said...

Joel: Christians call themselves "Christians" and Muslims call themselves "Muslims", but Pagans never called themselves "Pagans". As I said, it is a Christian term. Christians started calling Pagans all the rest (except for Jews, which were people of the same Book and also of the city). And this non-discerning attitude is the same that calls "primitive" any tribe that does not respond to Western standards of behaviour, and that prevails in those dictionaries you quote.


Of course I do not mean the "Neopagans", the ones who are around now, because this is a set of new religions altogether, vaguely based on the original ones.

Joel Monka said...

The Neopagans I know about- I am one. And in fact I call myself Pagan. If you are a worshipper of Oestre and were offended by having your faith lumped in with the Oschter haas by my use of the generic word "Pagan", I humbly apologise. If you are not, I don't understand what point is served by the distinction.

PG said...

Making the "there's no Halloween for grownups" point more amusingly than I did.