Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Putting the 'Pagan' Back in Christmas

Gerald Calvin, Staff Writer

“We love Jesus and we love Mithra,” said Kyle Long, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Clyde Park, Kansas. “For too long, Christmas has only been about the birth of Jesus. It’s time to change that.”

Long and his worship team have been concerned that many Christmas traditions are losing touch with their pagan roots. This season, they decided to initiate a campaign to restore the multiple reasons for the season, particularly its connections to the pagan gods Mithra and Saturn.

“In this time of Advent,” Long wrote in a pastoral letter to his parishioners, “we prepare for the return of the Son of God and the sun god.” Though a few members protested, most were pleased to learn the church would celebrate Saturnalia--a festival in honor of Saturn--on December 16, especially when it was announced that a beer garden would be included.

Worshippers who attend the midnight Christmas Eve service will experience an abundance of mistletoe. Sprigs of the greenery will be tied to rafters throughout the sanctuary. Kissing beneath the mistletoe is a tradition likely associated with Frigga, the Norse goddess of love. Long will preach his Christmas sermon about Frigga’s virtues and “may or may not” compare her to God’s love shown to humanity in the birth of Jesus.

In order to publicize Christ the Redeemer’s new Christmas emphasis, the church is running a massive advertising campaign. Radio ads encourage townspeople to “revel with us” at the Saturnalia. A large banner that reads “Wiccans Welcome” is draped across the front of the church. Church members were given bumper stickers for their cars that proclaim: Pagans Need Christmas, Too.

Though Clyde Park’s ministerial association is distancing itself from Long’s efforts, a local Wiccan group, Shamash Our Savior Wiccan Church, is praising the Lutherans. “This could usher in a new age of Wiccan-Christian dialogue,” said Sally Firebelly, a local witch. “Our relationship really suffered over the past few centuries when so many of our spiritual ancestors were burned at the stake.”

“Christmas is too wonderful to be hijacked by Christians. It’s time we shared,” said Long. Then, the Lutheran pastor grinned and said, “Wait until you see what we’re preparing for Easter!”


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