I suppose this is a question anyone asks when they find themselves doing things that would otherwise be outside their sphere of activity. Trust me when I say, it can be asked of a great many of my activities, but for this blog we'll stick with decorated trees and nativities.
My evolution started with being in a house that vaguely reflected on the 'true' meaning of Christmas. I remember my mother mentioning somebody's birth, likely more than once, but this was couched in lectures about materialism, humility and avoidance of establishment dogma. Yes, we had a tree. It was decorated, with things my mother considered must-haves... glass balls, bubble lights and NO tinsel. These were in thought of, or in spite of our numerous cats, depending on which item you consider. These lectures were interspersed with descriptions of reincarnation, the death process and what a soul was -mostly from a Bhuddist perspective, so you can see where I got my ecclecticism? I was permitted to explore just about anything that wasn't going to send me to hell, which was a nebulous parameter, governed by my mother -again- who, I learned, knew a lot about some things, but didn't really understand Karma, or accountability for actions.
I think the most insulting thing that ever happened to me during my open and seeking years -when I was definitely NOT Christian was at my beloved Enchantments, when, after purchasing a pentacle for myself I was blessed, "Have a merry Christmas!" Ooh that boiled me! It's not like I hid my paganism, or that I was a cringing newbie in there, either. I held my own, rightfully, with the Adepts in that store from multiple traditions. That was where I was greeted by a Native Shaman as 'Sister,' too, along with many positive experiences which far outweighed this individual's insincerity. The public declaration that I didn't belong resonated along well-trodden nerves of disability, race and sexuality, which were, I felt, integral parts of the pagan tapestry I wove for myself. (A side note to this: that individual left the store a short while later. No one mentioned his absence, and I didn't ask.)
To be sure, race was more of an elephant in our house than any religious affiliations, but for me, the two were/are inseparable. I sign this blog 'Daughter O'Batala' because I am, in race, African, and in religion, a child of the Yoruba religion. At breaks, I'd bring home another part of myself to introduce to my shell-shocked family and just as happily board the plane before their senses returned. For years, my mother's greatest fear was me coming home with a black woman on my arm. All else paled. She referred to me as a 'witch,' but never as a bi or black woman. As it went with childhood teaching sessions edited for mom's comfort or purpose-of-the-moment, so it went with her descriptions of my adult life. I mentioned bringing home a live tree, and this was translated as "Gretchen's decorating for the holidays." to friends and family. She saw these as 'moments of sanity' in my otherwise Twilight Zone life.
I thought of these things when my husband mentioned the Christmas decorations. Being a Catholic, the Nativity is important to him. My opinions aside, it became my job to assemble the menagerie that is our holiday decor. I assembled the Nativity with the animals surrounding the babe and his parents, which seems more biblical than all these wise men gawking, while the animals wander in the yard and the barn gets cold. My Yule tree is as ecclectic as me, disobeying 'theme' for diversity. I love plants, and this year's poinsetta is basking in the window. She's also there for Guadalupe, who, before the Catholics assimilated her, was the Sun Goddess for the Aztecs. O'Batala is sincretized as Mary in Santeria, and the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of her manifestations, and thus, a form of my Father, so her candle can fill a place in both genres. I have candles for the dark month, too. I don't have anyone to celebrate Mother Night with or Solstice, but I will mark them as I always have, with prayers and flames and carefully chosen clothes. Certainly, my mother would find enough 'normal' in the picture to satisfy her demand that I comply with social requirements. Of course being married to a white man has civilized me, somewhat, as well.
My facebook page has 'a picture tells a thousand misconceptions' under my picture. This house is like that, too. You find what you're looking for, and nothing more than that. I am not as exclusionary as I once was. I am not so threatened by a crucifix that I refuse the placement of one at our door, nor is my husband offended at the African cross painting that hangs below it. Have I assimilated? No. Not by a long stretch of the imagination.
I'll put this to you, though. As you pass through the homes of friends and family, or businesses decorated for the season, holiday or Holy Days, what do you see? Do you assume their use of these age-old and rarely Christian-originated symbols represents the same things to them as they do to you, or are you willing to see things from a different perspective? How assimilated are you?
Blessed Be, all!