Friday, December 18, 2009

changing carols

Garrison Keillor wrote on that it is "wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite 'Silent Night.'" While I may agree with Mr. Keillor for aesthetic reasons, I disagree on theological grounds.

I think our version of "Silent Night" (#251 in Singing the Living Tradition) is actually quite nice. I'm more unhappy with "Joy to the world! the Word is come" (#245), which may be theologically and historically defensible, but is an abomination to my ears.

GK continues, "Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or..." Perhaps he is unaware that many of our beloved "Christmas traditions" have been borrowed from pagan and earth-centered faiths. Not only do holly, mistletoe and Christmas trees (and the YULE log!) come from pagan rituals, even the date is borrowed. Up until the year 330 CE or so, Jesus' birthday was celebrated on January 6th. Then they replaced the Roman holiday of Natalis Invicti, the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun, with the birth of Jesus, and celebrated not the sun but the "maker of the sun," on December 25th.

Holiday traditions--all human traditions--must evolve to continue serving the people who celebrate them. I understand that many people need and rely on absolutes; for such folks, there is nothing metaphorical about religion, and nothing should be changed about the various festivals and celebrations. I leave it to them, to deal with the cognitive dissonance of the historical fact that Christmas has changed.

For myself, I appreciate that we adapt our rituals, to stay fresh and meaningful. I still want some "old" rituals and elements, and I want some new understandings, too. As usual, it is all about balance. Rather than a moribund, brittle, unchanging faith, I need evolving, vital, relevant spiritual practices. Perhaps that is why they named the hymnal "Singing the Living Tradition"--because we are singing, and co-creating, our living faith.

Happy holidays to all, whichever and however you celebrate.


At 2:06 PM, Blogger Cynthia L. Landrum said...

Amen! As I said on my blog post about this, I'll be turning off "A Prairie Home Companion" after this vitriolic attack on UUs, Pagans, Jews, and intellectuals.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Joy said...

I just thought of something. I wonder if all the people doing Silent Night the right way are singing it in German. Because otherwise they are changing the words too.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

I think maybe I will celebrate Natalis Invicti or even the birthday of Horus this year. ;-)

I had hoped to be at Stonehenge this year but things didn't quite pan out. Maybe next year.

Happy winter solstice holidays to you and yours Chip.


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