An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
When looking at history thus far, occupations, colonization, displacement, and ethnic cleansing could all be seen as rich, universal human traditions. It's only been in recent years that we've (meaning the western world primarily) begun to think about feeling guilty about it. But there is another sort of occupation, colonization, displacement, and "ethnic" cleansing for which I don't think we'll ever think too feel guilty about - unless you are a Christian of a particularly guilt-ridden persuasion.
What am I talking about? Holidays.
It's become quite the fad for some to derisively point out that many Christian holidays (Easter and Christmas preeminently) were designed to supplant older pagan holidays and for this reason we are, I gather, supposed to feel a certain dejectedness for our "colonization" of a holiday rightly belonging to someone else. I've actually heard of some churches in certain denominations (yes, ECUSA for instance) trying to recapture the pagan heritage of certain holidays out of some misguided PC notion of cultural sensitivity...yes..cultural sensitivity to cultures that are long since dead and we know next to nothing about. It's an interesting phenomena, especially when piled on with the fact that not a few fundamentalist Christian sects really hate being reminded of this all and often therefore refuse either to make a big deal of Christmas or Easter or they will actually try and show that the cultural displacement charges are actually untrue. Sigh...what a waste of time.
Of greater interest, I think, is the fact that what comes around goes around. Has anyone noticed that a certain materialistic-secularized neo-paganism is presently occupying our holidays? Even the word "holiday" has lost its meaning...yes, by gum it actually used to be and pronounced HOLY-days and referred to a feast with rich meaning and traditions connected intimately with religious faith. Now its connected intimately to consumption of animal flesh and potato chips while lounging about in one's lawn chair watching football and trying to forget about the fast approaching Monday. Or, for the more active of you out there, it's now connected intimately to eating organic trail mix and a day of strapping rubber bands to your ankles and bouncing up and down to your immense and self-gratifying glee, until you organically puke your earth friendly guts out.
Either way, we all know how the culture wars over Christmas and Easter have been drummed up over the last decade or so. I suspect in large part this is due to the fact that religious folks are realizing that the cute little "easter bunny" and "santa clause" characters were not innocent decorative attachments to the HOLY-days, but in fact they were sleeper cells that have since unleashed a litany of terror attacks that have slaughtered all memory of the sacred. Or...emmm...something like that. Anyway...the war was over before it began. Perhaps we ought to let them have these "holidays" and their lawn chairs and their bungee cords while we focus on what we are doing in the context of our own Holy-days? Secretly, shhh...I sometimes REALLY like celebrating Easter on a different date than others...I even like calling it something OTHER than Easter. Besides making me seem culturally unique (all the rage these days don't ya know?), but it does also take me somewhat out of the context of the celebration of the materialistic-secularized neo-pagan holiday. I wouldn't lobby for the difference by this merit alone, but since there is precedent beyond myself for it I am happy to oblige tradition. Hmmmm...Old Calendar....hmmmm...
Recently, I found myself explaining some of the traditions surrounding St. Valentine to someone who suggested that "Valentine's Day" was originally a pagan holiday supplanted by Christians. I'm not sure that's true, but I do know if it is: the pagans are reclaiming it...with expensive roses, vast marketing schemes, and Vermont Teddy Bears(TM) as their liturgical implements.
Addendum: I heard this week that people are up in arms about Boston College (a Roman Catholic institution) putting up crucifixes in all their classrooms. This is related in part to my topic here, I think. I suppose if Tibetan Buddhists ran a college that there would be some that are ticked off at them putting up pictures of the DL? Right? Maybe this one:
Extra credit to any student who can identify the symbolism of the "award" being received here. I'm pretty sure it is organic earth-friendly throw up.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:38 AM [+] +++
You forgot an important element of the Valentine's Day Celebration: SUGAR! Remember the dime-store-esque valentines we gave to our classmates, with our laborious pencil chicken scratch? No more. Now each kid must give out candy with their licensed character cards. And I'm not talking a single Brach's mint here. Yesterday P got a BOX of soccer-ball themed chocolates, plus large tootsie pops, big boxes of candy hearts, etc. And as if that weren't enough, the Valentine's Day Party must now be an homage to more sugar. I have seen things like graham cracker houses, pasted together with the better part of a can of frosting, and decorated with several handfuls of candy.
Is it any wonder my kids take days to get back to normal? Of course, they're alread traumatized. They get to hand out the unpopular valentines...no licensed characters, no sugar-coated garbage attached. They can pay for their own darn therapy.
I don't get it, myself - the obsession that some people have with saying 'the Christians put those feasts there to supplant pagan feasts!'.
Yeah. We did. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to follow Christ without having to make a big deal out of not having something to talk about at the ancient water cooler equivalent... what's so wrong about that?