HOW THE CHURCH STOLE YULE
©2000-2001 Ingeborg S. Nordén
This parody is dedicated to all pagans who get carpal-tunnel syndrome deleting the "keep-Christ-in-Christmas" glurge from their mailbox every December...and who are tired of seeing misguided people turn every secular holiday custom into a theology lesson.
I had looked forward to attending a Yuletide gathering with my friends in Sweden last year. Unfortunately, the holiday atmosphere was almost ruined by a gate-crashing evangelist; it seems that somebody's over-zealous Christian grandfather had tracked us down. "HOW DARE YOU!" he roared. "Taking a celebration of the Savior's birth and turning it into a pagan feast--you should all be ashamed of yourselves!"
I straightened up in my chair, trying to speak as calmly as possible. "Begging your pardon, sir, but this was a pagan feast to begin with."
The old man snorted in disbelief. "Hah! I suppose the next thing you'll tell me is that the Bible doesn't mention Christmas..."
"It mentions Jesus' birth, but does not give a date or even a season...besides, too many Biblical details would rule out a birth date in the middle of winter."
"Perhaps so, but didn't the church institute Christmas to replace other holidays that celebrate the birth of a god?"
"In the Mediterranean area that might be true--but this is Sweden! Yule was never about anybody's birth up here, not even a sun god's."
"But I always heard..."
"Forget the stories they told in Sunday school." I pointed at the fir tree standing in one corner of the cabin. "You know why we have one of these?"
"Everlasting life, man's hope for salvation..."
"Wrong! Your own ancestors used to hang offerings to the gods on trees in the forest...and brought the trees inside after the church tried to make them stop."
"Oh, dear Lord!" The old man turned pale and trembled nervously.
I suppressed a triumphant grin as I pointed to the bright red bows and ornaments that some guests had brought. "What about these?"
"The blood of Christ, shed for the sins of the world?"
"Wrong again! Red is the color of Thor, Odin's son; at a time when so many evil spirits take advantage of the dark and cold, it's good to have him on our side!" A few cheers broke out from the guests, as they raised their mugs and called out: "Hail Thor!"
The old man shook his head in disbelief. "The candles in the window--don't they show that Christ is the Light of the World?"
"Hardly! Look outside...the sky is pitch black and it's only 4 p.m. Your ancestors didn't need religious reasons to see in the dark."
"True enough. But what about all the straw used for the ornaments? That must have something to do with Jesus' lying in a manger, doesn't it?"
"Nope. It's just what your ancestors had handy; even rich Norsemen had dirt floors and covered them with straw."
The old man sighed desperately, scanning the room for anything he could legitimately turn into a Christian symbol. No angels or stars anywhere on our tree, though...and no bells for calling back lost sheep, either. Finally, he had an inspiration: the wreath that one of us had nailed to the door. "Doesn't this remind you of God's eternal love for his children?"
"No; we see it as a symbol of the year, and of the circle of life here in Midgard. Everything that is born grows, dies, and returns in time..."
The old man started to turn around and head back outside...but not before another guest had offered him a bite of ham. "Now, THIS probably doesn't have anything to do with Jesus," he admitted. "The Boy was born Jewish, after all, and pigs aren't kosher!"
"You're finally catching on! Your ancestors usually chose special animals for sacrificial feasts; pigs were sacred to one of our gods, and his name wasn't Jesus."
"Hail Freyr, Njord's son, bringer of life and prosperity!" a guest chimed in. I winked in his direction, rubbing the rune pendant around my neck.
If the old man had had any appetite, it vanished in a hurry. "I--I'd better get home and tell my friends they had better not celebrate Christmas this year. Not if they want to save their souls!" He ran through the half-open door as fast as his bony legs could take him, murmuring prayers as my fellow Heathens cheered and shook each other's hands.