My sister-in-law called me today. My niece and nephew are in school. They are studying family history and had questions for me. And that made me wonder what those who do not celebrate Christmas do today. And then I decided that because the kids are in school, it's a good day to learn a new word!
Syncretism: mixing together different elements. Also: mixing together beliefs or conflicting principles.
Good in art. Bad in life.
As I walk through Walmart, Sears, Target and all the other stores, I am inundated with holiday music, flashing lights, animated figures and just a whole lot of “stuff” and I wonder how many people really know where holidays originate from? And do they even care what they are celebrating? Is it just a party time? A way to celebrate? An event with no meaning?
Anyone can do the research online and figure out that most holidays originate from pagan religions. I have such a deep belief in Jehovah that I just don’t want to be a participant in pagan rituals! I doubt that most of us knowingly want to do that. But unknowingly, most of us are. Is it time to “get smart”?
December 25 was the end of a week long ancient Roman festival known as Saturnalia which marked the winter solstice, the return of the sun, and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. It was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. It was the birthdate of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness.
Christ was most likely born in the fall of the year, before winter set in around Jerusalem. Not on December 25th! I doubt there would be flocks in the fields on December 25th in Israel.
Each of the traditions of Christmas can be traced back to a pagan ritual. Trees, lights, presents, mistletoe, etc. And although we may not believe we are honoring these pagan rituals, we are doing just that. It is worshiping a true God mixed with false pagan customs. It’s called syncretism.
As I study and learn more, I have given up many of my childhood holiday customs. I no longer celebrate these events. Yet I am married to a man who's family celebrates this day as the biggest event of the year. So I am working to merge what I believe with how he wants to honor his family traditions. It has been interesting to say the least.
And it has opened my eyes to a whole world out there who, for whatever reason, do not celebrate traditional US holidays. We close our stores, restaurants, movie theaters on this day and believe that everyone celebrates a traditional Christian holiday. Yet there are millions who do not put up a tree, light a candle, bake a turkey or open gifts on this day. Why do we insist on pushing our values on others? When will we even start to acknowledge those who do not have today as a holiday in their lives?
Ever stop to think about the evolution of holidays in the US alone? Ask your parents how they celebrated them. Ask your grandparents. Commercialism has truly taken over in just the last 40 – 50 years. It didn’t used to be like this at all. And I have to wonder where it’s headed.
Regardless of “what” we believe, do we know why we believe it? And more importantly, do we understand what it represents? Do we think the Messiah would be happy knowing that we are celebrating His birth by syncretizing it with pagan rituals? On a pagan date? Good questions to ponder on a quiet snowy night.
Now, syncretizing in art is another thing. That can be where the true celebration begins…by bringing together conflicting principles, mixing together different elements and designing new ways to play.
A new word today. Syncretism. I plan to use it more in my life as an artist.