“Why are the Christmas colors green and red?” I sometimes ask people. No one has thought about it. Well, of course they wouldn’t have. The tradition they have known does not suggest why these colors became associated with Christmas. And I’ve never read an explanation anywhere, but I think it’s obvious—to those who know the Solstice Celebrations that predated Christ Mass. Red and green are the colors of life—red for animals and green for plants. These are the colors of the juices that flow through living things. They were the colors of the Winter Solstice, adopted later by Christians in order to persuade pagans to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Then, just as planned, people forgot that red and green represented the return of life when the sun began to spend a few more minutes each day above the horizon. They forgot that lighted trees had been used both indoors and out for many centuries before such trees were associated with Jesus’ birth. I’m thinking in particular about the folks in my small village today, most of whom think only about the years they have witnessed and not much further back.
Most people are not students of history. We seem to have lost the need to remember how our ancestors lived. Since the industrial age and, now, the age of technology, people have all they can do to keep up with the new demands on their attention and skills—and little need to know what past generations knew. Of course, in truth we have forgotten or let slip a great deal of old time knowledge, including herbs and healing and the many mistakes mankind has made throughout history, useful lessons if we only kept them in memory. We have lost the perspective and wisdom history can give.
Many of us care a great deal about the traditions of our families and regions, customs we learned in childhood that still bring us comfort and joy. The ancient Pagans must have felt much the same. At the time of forced conversion, they must have been much happier with a celebration of the birth of Christ that looked and felt like what they had known as little children—lighted trees and those bright colors, especially red and green.
Tradition is proof enough of the rightness of our ways. This makes sense to anyone who has studied the Myers-Briggs ideas about character and personality. As laid out for us in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, about thirty-eight percent of a random population report being oriented to helpful deeds, to duty carried out faithfully, and to the protocol handed down by those who have gone before. Protocol minds work like a check list or flow chart–if this, then that. We depend upon these dutiful people to run our institutions and to keep the basics in. When protocol people learn about their particular gifts, they feel validated. “I always knew I worked like that but I couldn’t explain myself.”
There are three other general types of personality, the action folks, the objective thinkers or scientists, and the relationship people. None of these care as much about tradition as the protocol people, though some will tolerate ritual and celebration for the sake of the family (relationships) while others will say “bah humbug.” Action people will put up with a lot if it involves music or any action such as ice skating. They don’t bother about what the protocol people say is true based on tradition or what the philosophers say is not true based on observation. Much that is traditional cannot be observed today.
This breakdown is oversimplified, but you get the idea that there are many different approaches to tradition and celebration.
As a subjective compassionate, I am most interested in relationships, in how people treat one another, in whether a tradition or celebration is kind and good for us. I write to examine or question traditions that don’t go back all that far. I honor the old ways of my northern European ancestors. I write to recognize the simplicity of celebrating the return of the sun and the life that can go on under the sunshine of spring and summer.
In the spring I eat fresh greens, which will transform to good red blood.
But I will not argue with those who trust in and love a more recent tradition.