CHRISTMAS is undeniably the most popular of all holidays. While it centers around December 25, the practice today is that it has become a blanket for a whole season.
Because of the many traditions injected into the season embraced by both Christians and non-Christians, along with its commercialization and all the merry-making that goes with it, a grain of debate is always stirred on the significance of the holiday.
Most would say it was originally about the birth of Jesus Christ, whether they are really celebrating the birth of the Saviour or not. With the exact date of Jesus’ birth unknown, Christmas was initially assigned to January 6 but was changed to December 25 under the influence of the winter solstice. Also, some authorities claim that the choice of December 25 was made because it coincided with Chanukah, Mithraic’s feast of the sun god.
Thus, the Bishop of Rome set December 25 as Christ’s birth date during the fourth century.
If I may add to this, perhaps when Roman Emperor Constantine was said to have been Christianized, he saw this as a political opportunity to consolidate his rule by merging all three religions in Rome along with their concepts: Mithraism (the worship of the sun god), the worship of Isis (believed to have been the mother of God), and Christianity. This is the most logical and practical cause I could think of.
According to the Encarta Encyclopedia, slaves were given freedom, gifts were exchanged, and banquets and happiness prevailed during this time.
It also records that evergreens, the symbol of eternal life, have long been used for Christmas time decorations. The Christmas wreath represents everlasting life and God’s endless love for us. Kissing under a mistletoe supposedly started out when early Roman enemies stopped fighting when they met under a mistletoe. Holly is the most known Christmas greenery, and there are several legends about it; one is that Jesus’ crown was made of holly, and the holly berries represented his blood.
The use of the Christmas tree began early in the 17th century, in Strasbourg, France, spreading from there throughout Germany and then into northern Europe. In 1841 Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Great Britain, where from there immigrants brought it to the United States.
The beginning of gift-giving during Christmas started from the three wise men, with their three gifts for the Christ child. Since then people have made up different things to tell their children where their Christmas presents came from. The historical Saint Nicholas was known in early Christian legends for saving storm-tossed sailors, standing up for children, and giving gifts to the poor. This was then the basis for the creation of Santa Claus.
Although many of the stories about Saint Nicholas can’t be proven true, his legend spread throughout Europe, and he was soon known for his extreme generosity and gift giving. Many stories include him riding through the sky on a horse and wearing his red bishop’s cloak, sometimes accompanied by Black Peter, an elf whose job was to whip the bad children.
We observe that all throughout the history of Christmas, it was mostly about merrymaking. Then in the 19th century, with the growth of the middle classes, it transformed to a different kind of consumption and commercialization.
I believe that for many people, it has come to be a respite or escape from the harsh, depressing, and even boring times of the year.
They bought into the idea that celebrating Christmas in such a way will somehow magically turn the next year into something better.
For many Christians however, they strongly believe that all these symbols, especially Santa Claus and the commercialization and exploitation of Christmas, has diminished the importance of one of Christianity’s most significant holidays. Especially since even “non-believers” have embraced the holiday as an excuse for a lot of partying.
Gift-giving nowadays has also become some sort of an “extortion” since many have placed themselves on the receivership despite the proverb, “it is better to give than to receive,” and taking advantage of the Christian notions of generosity, kindness, and goodwill. It has become a political measure, taken to ensure one’s status with one’s acquaintances.
To a point, Christmas has become just as stressful as ordinary days, only in a different way.
In any case, I believe what is more important is how to put back Christ in the Christian rather than putting back Christ in Christmas or taking out Christ from Christmas.
To Christians, I fervently hope that despite the hustle and bustle during the season, you keep the values instilled by Christ, not only during the Christmas season but every day. Remember that Christmas is a State of Mind, Heart, and Spirit. All your preferences, choices, and whatever you tolerate reflect back on you. The way you fight injustice and their perpetrators shows much more of what you’re made of rather than the gifts you can give or the new things you can buy, or the lavish party you do to celebrate.
There’s no point anyway in trying to keep up with the traditions of a holiday that leaves you bankrupt or lacking in the year to come.
To non-believers, I hope you find a deeper, more meaningful and relevant Christmas experience and view.
However it may be, I wish everyone to receive the wonderful blessings that Christ has brought into this world and Happy Holidays!