Have a Yourself a Very Druid Christmas

The holiday season always brings with it the whining of Christian traditionalists to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ and wanting to take all of us back to that ‘old time religion.’  I suppose most of these folks are not reading this blog, but if you get a chance, please remind them that the Christians stole December 25th from the pagans and no one really knows when Jesus was born.

The Winter Solstice was a popular December festival celebrating the coming light of spring as the days started to get longer, not shorter, following the first day of winter.  It was such a darn good celebration that Christian converts didn’t want to give it up.  Who can blame them?  They even took the now popular Christmas tree and transitioned that ancient fertility symbol into something for their own religion.  So if we reflect on Christmas and the Old Time Religion, we may need to study the Druids, who I’m told, really knew how to party.

When it comes to clashing traditions and complementary myths, there is no one better to turn to than gifted storyteller and mythology expert, the late Joseph Campbell.  He and Bill Moyers (journalist and Christian theologian) produced that series for public television in the 1980s.  In Program Two, “The Message of The Myth,” he said, “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”  Campbell showed us that today’s common perception of the word myth as an untrue story, like an urban legend, is a mistaken understanding.  As Karen Armstrong also said, “In popular parlance, a ‘myth’ is something that is not true.  But in the past, myth was not self-indulgent fantasy; rather…it helped people to live effectively in our confusing world…” (The Case for God, p.xi).

The following excerpt is one way Campbell and Moyers said it, again from Program Two (which I transcribed, so the sentence structure is mine).

MOYERS:  Far from undermining my faith, your work in mythology has liberated it from the cultural prisons to which it had been sentenced.

CAMPBELL:  Every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense, it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery.

The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions said, “But while myths may be both intended and understood as factual, it is clear that more often they are stories which point to truths of a kind that cannot be told in other ways, and which are not disturbed if the apparent ‘facts’ of the supposed case are shown to be otherwise…” (p.672).  So just in case any fundamentalists are reading this blog, myths are your friends, just as they are mine.  You may choose a literal interpretation of your myths, but by preserving the underlying metaphor, you are assuring the longevity of those stories.  It’s as simple as the story of the boy who cried wolf.  Does it matter if some kid really did this?  Of course not.  However, the underlying wisdom of that story can be applied to a medieval village or an Internet web site.  When fundamental religions cling to the details of the myth, they limit the possibilities offered by the lessons of the metaphor.

Whether we are talking about Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, or the Buddha, all traditions offer us myths to live by.  Describing these stories as myths does not demote them to the realm of fiction but strengthens their identity as timeless metaphors.  “Star Wars” is an example of contemporary fiction with common human metaphors that express timeless values.  Watch any of the movies again and identify themes like heroism, justice and oppression, good and evil, the vision quest, and love, just to name a few.

Joseph Campbell said: “It’s ridiculous to go back to the old time religion.  A friend of mine composed a song based on ‘The Old Time Religion.’

‘Give me the Old Time Religion

Let us worship Zarathustra

Just the way we usta’


He’s good enough for me.

All religions are true for their time if you can find what the truth is and separate it from the temporal inflection.  Just bring your same old religion into a new set of metaphors and you’ve got it.”  (In case your ancient religious history is rusty, Zarathustra was an Iranian prophet from c.6,000 BCE.)

No matter what holiday you celebrate, even if it’s just a day off work because of someone else’s religion, I hope your holidays are pleasant.  I plan on spending a perfectly Druid Holiday in the best city in the world: The Big Easy, New Orleans, NOLA.  I hope to make the Druids proud – and I’m ready, though I’m not entirely sure NOLA is ready for me.

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  • Dane  On November 29, 2014 at 2:57 am

    I think it might be a good thing to do a little more study on Christmas before you posted this blog. Before the Sun god was established as a part of the Roman God’s and celebrated during the winter solstice, Irenaeus (c. 130–202) Early Church Father, determined that the conception of Christ was on March 25th, that then lead him to believe (conjecture) that the birth of Christ would have been Dec 25th (winter solstice). The early church father loved to try to push the “timing” and symbols of times to help teach and remember events. Irenaeus believed that the SUN was created on the spring solstice (the universe was put into motion), subsequently then the conception time of Christ in due time happened at this time also. Although this is not the actual date of the birth of Christ, and it was never intended to be that, it was just a symbolic time, that in the darkest time of night, and the beginning of the longer days was when Jesus was born. Irenaeus used Malachi 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the SUN (Jesus) of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,” to support his view. This has more to do with Irenaeus, that then Constantine used to hang his hat on. Constantine saw a vision of the cross in the sun as he went off to war. It was not the Sun god that was his focus, but that this verse in Malachi is what God use to speak to this Roman Emperor. That after 300 years of on and off Christian persecution (Nero), there was now a Roman Emperor that is a Christian. Ironic :) This was also the time Saint Nicholas was a Bishop, an orphan boy inherited money and spent the rest of his life giving it away. His name in Dutch is Sinterklaas (Santo Claus) Kriss Kriss Kringle in German, meaning Christ Child.

    The Druid Tree (that has little or no documentation) is a devolving story – that starts in the Garden of Eden. Adam fell eating from the tree of of the knowledge of good and evil. God in the Jewish Temple had trees in it. The ornaments on our trees today are symbols of ornamental fruit hanging on the tree of life – the other tree in the garden. Jesus the second Adam and is the first fruits of God that hung on a tree – the tree of life – the cross. The Christmas tree is the symbol of the tree of life – the cross of Jesus.

    God Bless :)

    • All Things Religious  On November 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Thank you for reading, but your response reflects that you are living in the past. There is simply no need to connect Christmas to Irenaeus, or even more absurd, Adam and Eve. If you sincerely care about the Christ of Christmas then work on separating the holiday from materialism. If you need to validate your faith through history, then it’s not really faith, it is just ideology. -J.B.

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