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Traditions! Part 2

Last month we looked at traditions. As nations, cultures, and families we have our
“traditions.” They are important because they are a common ground for people upon
which they can meet. However, in many cases people do not know why we observe the
days and times we do.

Many traditions are simply accepted because it might represent some type of
celebration or gathering of family and friends. To summarize, traditions are often social
times where people come together to acknowledge and recognize something. For many
they point to party times where the celebration surrounds activities that prove anything
but beneficial for the whole, while the reason for the celebration is totally lost in a
cesspool of nonsense.

As a kid I loved traditions because they put a bit of expectation in my heart about a
particular day. I would sometimes imagine the people I would see and the fun I would
have. As a teenager, I had to recognize that some of the family gatherings became
times where those who were touchy would cause others to tiptoe around them to avoid
their negative responses when they became upset; and there were those who had great
expectations but who were left disillusioned. Then there were those who came out of
duty for the most part, found a corner and sat in it while watching various dynamics play
out. They didn’t need to watch the football games because they had a variety of games
going on from wrestling matches with the discontent, ducking sharp comments from the
angry, and a critical spirit from those who were disillusioned.

I realize family gatherings are not all like the one I have described, but we have to
admit when families with different ideas and emphasis come together at one place,
there are points of tension forcing individuals to dance around certain subjects and
matters. After all, we all need to learn to get along regardless of how diverse we are in
the name of “family.”

We forget that we are living in an imperfect world among imperfect people that are
in a fallen state. To have a perfect family that gets along all the time in spite of
personalities, opinions, preferences, and practices is a nice concept, but there are very
few families that can carry off such a feat. I remember one Thanksgiving Day when
there wasn’t even one fight among the members of my family. It became a memorial in
my mind that it is possible to have a peaceful celebration, but to happen on a consistent
basis would require a miracle.

Last month, I dealt with the Satanic Halloween, the often-thankless Thanksgiving,
and the pagan roots of Christmas. I was not trying to throw cold water on the activities,
but to shed light on the reasons these times of celebration exist. We assume much
about such times and often walk away presuming that tradition dictates that a certain
celebration is alright and to go any further as to the meaning and purpose behind it is all
quite unnecessary.

However, we must remember there is a spirit or intent behind each celebration. The
Bible is clear that we are to test all spirits. To come into agreement with the wrong spirit
will not only dull us down, but it will bring us into complete opposition to God, His will
and work. We must discern what kind of spirit we are opening ourselves up to and
coming into agreement with. Satan has hijacked our celebrations such as Resurrection
Sunday, while we have inserted our own emphasis, like in the case of Christmas, in
order to control the focus as a means to change the emphasis and attitude towards it. At
such times a battle can occur as to what will come out on top and ultimately, we end up
with a mixture that will bring both a contrast and separation down the line. (1
Corinthians 2:10-14; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 John 4:1)

Now we come to the other three observances that happen within the first four
months of the year. The first one is New Years. This festival is among the oldest and
most universally recognized. In fact, this celebration dates as far back to 2000 B.C. in
Mesopotamia. It was interesting to learn that different cultures celebrate this at different
times of the year. For instance, the Jews celebrate the New Year the same month they
celebrate Passover (Exodus 12:2). Others celebrate it around the different equinoxes. It
was the early Greeks who began the New Year around the winter solace. It was after
153 B.C. that they began to consistently celebrate the New Year on January 1 st .
We know that even in America many people started the New Year’s celebration on
Christmas, resulting in it being nothing but a week-long party that included a Mardi Gras
attitude where people dressed in costumes. Where do the other practices surrounding
the New Year come from?

The Romans derived the name for the month of January from the god, Janus who
had two faces, one looking backward and the other forward. This is why we start out
with Father Time ending the old year and a baby pointing to the new year. It was also
when one noted both regrets from the past and anticipation for the days ahead. Hence,
enters resolutions to do better to avoid regrets. However, much of it graduated into
superstition when people started to offer gifts to both people and their gods, possibly as
a type of appeasement.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day both religion and the secular world have pretty
much buried its pagan origins. The Catholics have hidden it by focusing on some
mysterious saint by the name of Valentine who was martyred around 270 A.D. Then
there is the secular take on it that centers around worldly love that gives romantic cards
along with presents, especially flowers and candy to the one true love. And, of course
some hope to be “hit by cupid’s arrows” which will create such a euphoric state that
lifeless relationships revive, as well as creating a romantic environment that arouses
great romance and love.

However, this celebration of a martyred saint was placed in the middle of February
as a means to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a
fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, a Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the
Roman founders, Romulus and Remus. And, what about the cute cherub that flies
around naked, launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers? He is pagan as well.
Some believe Cupid goes as far back as Nimrod who hunted man in Genesis 10:8-10.

He is probably best known as Cupid, who was a Roman god that had roots in the Greek
god of love, Eros. According to the Greek Archaic poets, Eros was a handsome
immortal who played with the emotions of gods and men, using arrows to incite love and
leaden ones to sow aversion. It wasn’t until the Hellenistic period that he began to be
portrayed as the mischievous, chubby child he finally became on Valentine’s Day cards.
Much of the practices of Easter celebrations are also pagan in origin. One of the
festivals associated with Easter is Mardi Gras. The tradition of Mardi Gras dates back
thousands of years to the pagan Roman celebrations of Saturnalia and Lupercalia
which celebrated the return of spring and fertility.

However, when Christianity arrived in Rome, the religious leaders decided to
incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, a task that would be easier
than abolishing the traditions. The result is the now excessive and debauchery of the
Mardi Gras season, which is a prelude to the Catholic Lent; the 40 days of fasting and
penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Easter was to celebrate the spring and new life. Eggs and flowers are used because
they were symbols of female fertility, but the European traditions are not far behind with
the presentation of the bunny with its amazing reproductive potential. The symbolism of
the hare (rabbit) has many interesting ritual and religious roles attached to it. Hares
were given ritual burial alongside humans during the Neolithic age in Europe. They
symbolized “rebirth.” During the Iron Age, ritual burials for hares were common and
Julius Caesar mentioned that in Britain, hares were not eaten due to their religious

It seems where man and festivals exist, they become traditions that appear to be
innocent up front but at the core they are fraught with paganism. Their original
meanings are long forgotten, but nevertheless the intent and spirit is still there to rob
what is sacred, kill what is good and righteous, and destroy any life (John 10:10). Who
would have ever thought the sweet bunnies we “ooh” and “awe” over at this time of the
year were actually honored and worshipped in certain cultures, or that we would ever
look at an egg or flower simply as symbols of reproduction?

It is for various reasons I do not refer to this celebration as “Easter;” rather, I call it
“Resurrection Sunday.” Clearly, pagan influence dominates two of the most important
celebrations for the Christian: Christmas and Easter. It is true we have inserted Christ’s
incarnation into the first one, but Easter is where the pagan practices have been
inserted into the celebration. The first one is Christ came into the world as man, but the
second one is He allowed Himself to become the Lamb of God who would take away
the sin of the world (John 1:29). Sadly, His resurrection is overshadowed by a bunny,
along with baskets and Easter Egg hunts, even when it comes to some churches.

Jesus not only paid the price of redemption but He rose from the grave. People
celebrated the hare because it represented “rebirth” through reproduction, but Jesus
rose from the grave to prove victorious over death that had claimed all of us. It is in His
death, burial, and resurrection that we can experience a new birth of Spirit and Water
(the Word), and live forever in a state of glorious bliss with Him (John 3:3, 5; John
11:25-26; Roman 3:23; 6:23).

I admit, in ignorance I went along with the flow pagan traditions, but as I grew in the
knowledge of the Lord, questions formed in my mind as to the meaning of these
different traditions. One of the reasons is because of the abuses, additions to, and the
condescending attitude of many towards Jesus Christ. I realize that it is up to me to
separate myself from these festivities or separate the real celebration from the
paganism that envelops it. It must cease to be a tradition and become a matter of heart
that is pure in acknowledging and worshipping the true Lord of heaven and earth.

As I considered what Jesus said about even the religious traditions of men in
Matthew 15:1-9, I realize that traditions can take preeminence over what is right and
true. The religious traditions of the Jews were recorded in the Talmud. They were
clearly an addition to the Law of Moses, and as Jesus clearly stated they put the Jews
in greater bondage and they also nullified the reason, spirit and intent of His true
commandments. The problem was their worship was nothing but lip service, while their
hearts were clearly not in it.

It is clear what man adds to God’s ways may become a nice little tradition that
seems harmless enough, but in the end, it proves to quench the Spirit and nullify the
authority of God’s Word. As we can see, the flesh and the world profane the things of
God; and, the things of God inserted into the world either nullifies them or makes a
mockery of them.

It will always be up to us as believers as to the religious traditions and practices we
adopt, but as believers we must make sure Christ is truly the reason and center of such
celebrations to ensure the purity of our heart attitude and worship.

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The Goal of Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples in compliance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

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