Christmas Series: It’s All About Them

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December 3, 2012 by: Margret

Last week I wrote, “I…have decided to…[explore] everything I can about Christmas, trying to see it not just through the eyes of one who is thankful but also as it might affect those disgusted by all they experience.”

This week I have done just that, researching various belief systems, digging to find the source(s) of certain customs, investigating the whys and wherefores that make some of the paths appear more palatable than others. Many questions were answered and, as so frequently happens, even more popped to the surface. But that’s the nature of life, isn’t it? We find great satisfaction in learning yet our ingrained curiosity makes us interested in even more.

One more thing: I’ve never, ever had a problem with questions. Never. Nor do I feel threatened by conversation or discussion with someone who does not share my faith. Expanding our knowledge and understanding, and growing in wisdom, can only happen by opening doors…not by shutting oneself off from the world. So if you have a problem hearing about other beliefs, perhaps you should skip this week’s MMM and check back next week, Why? Because this week is all about “the other guy.” The rest of the month I’ll go more in-depth into specific dates and if they’re important, what the Bible teaches, figure how (if at all) other faiths and customs impact my relationship with God, decide what Christmas really means to me, then accept my marching orders for the following year. It’s your choice whether you stick around today or return next week. Either way, I look forward to sharing all of this and, as ever, hope to hear your assessment after you read.

So…about other religions. I discovered that around the world quite a few have major holidays and/or celebrations when the days are shortest and that a lot of those either encourage the sun to return or thank a particular god/goddess for bountiful harvest and protection of the food received. I listed them in alphabetical order, either by cultural name, name of religion, or of the god being worshipped. If you are interested in where I derived the information, please let me know and I’ll pass along the links. I’m sure there are plenty I’ve missed due to my own ignorance, and, if there are any mistakes in how something is conveyed the fault is mine. Also, please believe no disrespect is intended.

Dongzhi
A Chinese festival coinciding with the solstice, when tangyuan (sticky rice balls filled with sesame, peanut, or bean paste) is eaten to commemorate family unity and harmony.

Hanukkah
Jews celebrate the Maccabees victory over the Romans, when they threw them out of the temple and, for a short time, regained independence.

Islam
Mohammed is believed to have been born on December 25, but it is not a day of celebration. Rather it is a solemn occasion, a serious and reflective season, and those who are not believers are avoided so as not to desecrate the holiness.

Lohri
This Hindu festival is celebrated with a bonfire in honor of the fire god agni that prosperity would come. It is also a celebration of fertility and the joy of life. The day following Lohri, they are baptized in the river to wash away impurities and participate in acts of charity.

Mithra
On the shortest day of the year, Mithra (the Persian/Iranian god of the sun) is born, and the celebration of that birth occurs the night before. In addition, the entire month of December/January is dedicated to their god of wisdom: Ahura Mazda. Fires burn all night to defeat the power of darkness, acts of charity are performed, and other gods are honored, all to ensure the victory of the sun and the blessing of winter crops.

Pagans
Some pagans are satan worshippers, some are nature lovers. Because I want to acknowledge others beliefs, I mention them both here however I’m focusing on those who want to be one with nature, and to care for this place they call “Mother Earth.” These celebrate the solstice, often by lighting a multitude of candles to encourage the sun, and exchanging gifts.

Saint Nicholas (Netherlands)
In anticipation of his nighttime visit, children leave out their wooden clogs or other receptacles and receive apples, tangerines, clementines, walnuts, and hazelnuts.

Santa Lucia Day
She is honored in Sweden as the bringer of boats full of food to feed the hungry during a great famine.

Saturnalia
In ancient Roman times this was a day to honor Saturn, the god of sowing, and it was also a day of feasting, celebration, visiting friends, and gift-giving. Saturn’s wife, Ops, goddess of plenty, was celebrated the following day, as was Copsus, god of the storage bin.

Yule
This Icelandic and Nordic holiday is believed to be a time of magic focused on rebirth and renewal, as the sun makes its way back to the earth.

Possibly you’re asking why I’ve written about these other non-Christian beliefs. It’s a good question. You could say I’ve become increasingly upset about how followers of Jesus are portrayed, but it’s more than that. Truth be told, what our opponents say about us is often true: respect for others is sadly lacking.

During this season when we commemorate the birth of our Savior, it is imperative that we acknowledge other cultures also have their beliefs. Those beliefs may not be significant to us, but they are extremely important to those who live by them.

It is our responsibility as believers in the One who not only created everyone but asked His Son to come here to save them all to treat them with respect. So let’s do that. Let’s accept every single person where he/she is. Let’s recognize that everyone has a god-hole in his heart and not everyone has filled that hole with Jesus. Phrased differently – and much more simply – let’s love because we have been loved.

All of Heaven’s best to you and yours,
Margret

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