« links for 2004-12-13 | Main | Flame Wars vs Fluff Wars »

I'm Jesus Christ ... Get Me Out of Here!

Madame Tussaud's, esteemed waxwork maker to the Her Royal Betsy, recently unveiled their Christmas 2004 nativity scene. The cast was as follows:

Joseph - David Beckham
Mary - The Virgin Posh
The Three Wise Men - George "Gold" Bush, Tony "Frankincense" Blair, and Prince "Myrrh" Philip
Shepherds - Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant, and Graham Norton
Angel - Kylie Minogue

Anyway, as the BBC reported, some blighter punched Joseph in the face, the Catholic Church took offence, and the exhibit was closed. But the whole thing was more than some publicity gimmick, or misguided Tussaud stunt.

"The celebrities were voted into the roles by 300 people who visited the attraction in October. "
Who were they, and why were they there?

Christmas, as is often forgotten, is a festival replete with once-pagan rituals:

- In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

- In pre-Christian Rome, the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia were marked by much merrymaking. The Romans brought us the tradition of the Mummers. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who travelled from house to house entertaining their neighbours.

- The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule, and this symbolised the birth of the pagan Sun God, Mithras. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year. Huge Yule logs were burned in honour of the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Holly berries were thought to be a food of the gods.

- And the one symbol that is unites almost all the northern European winter solstices was the tree. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again.

Now, In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ´┐Żs birth would be celebrated on December 25 (despite it being more likely to have occurred nearer Passover in September). The change of birthday was a direct encouragement to pagans to swap faith, and over the years the Church has incorporated most of the above: Babylonian revelry, Mummery Carol Singing, Mithrian Candles, Yule Logs, Mistletoe, Holly and Christmas Trees. It took a while, but in 1521, we get the earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany. A prominent Lutheran minister of the day cried blasphemy: "Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ." [Source (from which shamelessly appropriated): Pagewise]

Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was furious about the Celebrity-filled nativity scene
"To have a very special part of Christianity depicted in this way and its most precious symbol, which is the coming of God into the world in Jesus Christ, seems to me to be not just disrespectful to Christians, it is also disrespectful to the heritage of Britain and also does damage to the culture of this country".
Well, there are eerie similarities between that tirade and the words of the Chief Druid of Milton Keynes in 1521, who raged at the placing of a star on the evergreen:
"To have a very special part of Yule depicted in this way and its most precious symbol, which is the rebirth of the land, seems to me to be not just disrespectful to pagans, it is also disrespectful to the heritage of Britain and also does damage to the culture of this country".
The Tussaud's exhibition is a prime example of pagans using the Church's own tricks against it. Yes, those 300 voters were all druids. And yes, the pagans are back. But this time, they've got celebrity on their side.


TrackBack URL for this entry:


heh - I didn't see the story behind all of this when it came out - I assumed that it was the Beckhams's bad taste christmas card (I really believed that they would have done that). But, as you show, it's actually an even better story than that - a microcosm of our democratic system, which comes up with some distasteful stuff from time to time, but is also undermined by the violence of drunken buffoons and narrow-minded outrage of the established institutions.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)