Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Trees – For Christians Only!

It’s that time of year again – the time to be merry whether you like it or not. It’s also that time of year when at least half of all Americans spend four weeks squawking about how oppressed they are because other people aren’t Christian too. I’m being generous in that assessment because the most recent Pew survey found that 78.4% of Americans identify as Christian, and while I realize that not all Christians are Bible-thumping spit-sprinklers, I’ve also listened to my elderly Catholic aunt go on often enough about “keeping the Christ in Christmas” to know that evangelicals don’t have a monopoly on yuletide ignorance.

Those of you who have read my previous post on the matter will know that X has been used to symbolize Christ since at least the 16th century -- a period in which one really didn't go around not believing in Christ all willy-nilly.

This is what persecution looks like, just FYI.

Earlier today I saw someone on Facebook passing around that ridiculous photo of the sign at the Christmas tree farm that says “For Sale – Christmas Trees $45 – For Christians Only!” My first thought was, “How can they tell?”

A quick Google of the phrase “Christmas trees for Christians only” revealed that the Christmas Tree Issue is a matter of HOT DEBATE on discussion forums all across the Midwest, due to a Biblical passage found in Jeremiah 10:2-4:

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not.

Uh oh, you guys, that sounds an awful lot like the Bible forbids Christmas trees.

And then I fell into a 40-minute rabbit hole of forum-reading that left me sitting with my mouth gaping open, which I try never to do because my granddad always warned me that it attracts flies, wondering if these people could possibly be serious. Not only have the True Christians™ (I’m not joking; they’re using a trademark on that) cottoned on that CHRISTMAS TREES ARE HEEEAAAAATHEN YOU GUYS but they’re also getting upset over the natural evolution of decorative traditions with time. A choice quote:

Not only do they want us to believe that the Christmas tree is to be a part of the holiday tradition, what I'm now seeing is a departure from the traditional way of dressing up the tree. I've seen a whole lot of Christmas trees in my lifetime, and have decorated a whole lot of them, and I have NEVER (not until the last couple of years or so) seen the lights strung vertically. So, while I totally agree with you that there is a perversion of what the holiday (adopted by Christians) was intended to be, they now are using that perversion to completely kill off the Christmas holiday altogether. Vertically- dressed lights. Purple Christmas lights that look like they were left over from Halloween. Silly- looking, artsy-fartsy, contemporary Christmas decorations showing up in stores.

You must not be that fucking old if you don't remember these.

But, if it’s not part of the holiday tradition, then what are you so upset about? OMG you guys, I just can’t even. I am completely unable to even. Later down the thread someone who claims to be a reverend accuses another user of throwing “queer orgies around the pagan tree” and as far as I can tell he’s completely serious, and also wants us to contact him privately for pastoral advice. Yuck.

Naturally, no one mentions that the entire holiday of Christmas itself is pagan in origin, as I have discussed before. According to Leicester University researcher Philip Shaw, early Christians sought to preserve pagan traditions out of a sense of fascination with them, and out of the need to preserve what they saw as their own heritage.

Early Christians didn’t see a need to celebrate Christ’s birth, but when the heretical belief that Christ was not a man but a spiritual entity began to take hold, the early Church chose to humanize him with a celebration of his birth that, conveniently, coincided with the midwinter parties people were already throwing.

Though the modern Christmas tree has its roots in early modern Germany, it may derive from the Polish pagan tradition of suspending an evergreen branch called a Podlaznicka from the ceiling, and draping it with nuts, apples, colored paper, cookies, ribbons, colored wafers, and stars made from straw. Believers invested this branch with the power to bring prosperity and a successful harvest in the coming year.

I think I'll put one up this year. I need a successful harvest.