The TREE Of UNITY
This year, TRS decided to speak to peace and unity. So our tree was decorated with symbols of many different, but surprisingly similar and connected traditions.
You will find, Judaic, Christian and Islamic symbols on the tree, as well as those of the Winter Solstice, the Saturnalia, Shinto New Year, Peace Symbols and Yin Yang symbols, Kwanza, dream catchers (Native American), Chinese New Year and even those of the Hindu festival of light. In the coming years, we hope to add more.
At this time in the world, when people pull apart into what they consider their “unique” take on life and the afterlife, we thought it would be refreshing to trace and acknowledge the reality of and the beginnings of this holiday season.
We seem to think that Jesus was born and there was an immediate acceptance of this “son of God” and now we have what we think of as “Christmas”, manger and all. Not so fast...
By now, we know that according to the Bible and the Three Kings astronomy, Jesus was born in April, with the lambs and was really an Aires, not a Capricorn. So why celebrate at this time of year?
Every old culture seemed to have a winter festival. Folks looked to the earth as well as the sky to try to understand their lives. The winter solstice was central to this celebration. It was the time of celebration for the earth. Saturn (or Capricorn) was a time for reveling. For calling the warmth and fertility back to the earth. Odin’s tree, the Druids’s celebrations of trees and earth, acknowledging the earth’s fertility that had gone underground. The ever-green tree. The old pagan symbol.
“Pagan” simply means “of the country” in Latin. This was how the Romans described the “old” religions. (Old even to the Romans.) The Romans were well known for their ability to govern. To avoid social unrest, they simply declared the prevailing ways (beliefs) of those they conquered as Roman holidays.
In a power struggle in the fourth century Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of Rome. Seeing that Christianity was catching on, he separated himself from political rivals and solidified his base of power by doing so.
So, as Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it just fit into the current celebrations of the times and was called..Roman and Christian. Neat, huh?
Since Constantine made it fashionable and safe ( you remember the Coliseum..lions against the Christians?) to practice Christianity, Nicholas, a Christian bishop was able to stop the execution of three Christians who had gotten in a soldier’s way. He also anonymously gave money to a poor man with three daughters for whom he had no dowries. Much later, French nuns began to follow his kind example by placing stocking filled with food at the doors of poor families anonymously (hello Santa Claus).
It was in Queen Victoria’s time when the (originally pagan)Christmas tree was actually brought into the house.
So, sometimes the origins of familiar traditions aren’t that easy to identify and involve things you would never have imagined. Major card companies don’t yet have such historically correct cards. Maybe soon.(“On this day of remembrance for the political foresight of Emperor Constantine..the merriest of Holidays to you and yours”)
It should serve to remind us that we all came from the same place. The “new religion” of Judea branched off into what became the second division of this Semitic ethic, Christianity, and later on, the third part of this belief system was revealed to Mohammed by Gabriel and is known as Islam.
We are all made of the same stuff and whatever we call it, we all yearn for the peace and comfort of “home”. (You may read this as “God”)
And although we may need to feel distinct and special, let it not be at the cost of our lives. Remember,we humans are fragile creatures, whose physical forms are very vulnerable to violence. Our spirits may be forever, but even the most uneducated of us must realize that this “time on earth” cannot be without intense importance.
Sorry to say, we are all alike, and it is high time we come together in celebration. How difficult can that be? We are all the same species: upright biped mammals with opposable thumbs and the same decent brain size. Let’s figure it out.
Happy 2007! Make it the Best Yet!
Thanks to all those who contributed to the Tree of Unity: Kimiko Fuwa from Shishida Swallows Pre School who made the tree top (origami birds), the children who made their own ornaments. TRS staff and practitioners who helped with the rest of it.