Here’s an interesting twist on the Christmas debates we’ve been having recently: a self-proclaimed “skeptic” celebrates the mixed sacred and secular nature of the holiday, comparing it to Lewis’s Narnia. Laura Miller writes in the New York Times:
“That I’m not a Christian doesn’t much hinder my enjoyment of either the holiday or the book, but the presence of Father Christmas bothered many of Lewis’s friends, including J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, whose Middle-earth was free of the legends and religions of our world, objected to Narnia’s hodgepodge of motifs: the fauns and dryads lifted from classic mythology, the Germanic dwarfs and contemporary schoolboy slang lumped in with the obvious Christian symbolism.
But Lewis embraced the Middle Ages’ indiscriminate mixing of stories and motifs from seemingly incompatible sources. The medievals, he once wrote, enthusiastically adopted a habit from late antiquity of “gathering together and harmonizing views of very different origin: building a syncretistic model not only out of Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoical, but out of pagan and Christian elements.”
Christmas as we now know it is much the same sort of conglomeration, and when people call for a return to its pure, authentic roots, they’re missing an essential quality of the holiday. Narnia is a mongrel thing, and so is Christmas. As is often the case, this mongrelizing is the source of its strength.”
I don’t agree with everything in the piece (For example, “The unifying principle of Narnia, unlike the vast complex of invented history behind Middle-earth, isn’t an illusion of authenticity or purity. Rather, what binds all the elements of Lewis’s fantasy together is something more like love.” Gag.) But it’s interesting.