Several times over the last few weeks (in reality, the last several years) it has come to my attention that the holidays are not truly celebrated the way they were meant to be … Unfortunately, people get depressed and suicidal during the holiday seasons … People get violent and sale-crazy trying to shop for things they don't need, can't afford, or shop for the thrill of it …
I wanted to give something a little bit more meaningful to the holidays for this post. I wanted to give a little bit of background on some of the holidays this season and instead of getting lost in the hype of shopping, I hope I might rekindle the spirit of the seasons. Open up the minds and hearts a little bit …
The first lesson I'd like to share is: Christmas. In recent times, it's the “celebration of BABY JESUS!” A celebration of the spirit of giving. More aptly put, it's a shopper's nightmare and a business's payday.
Don't get me wrong, it's nice to get gifts. But I think gifts should be given because the giver wants to … Not because “everyone else is doing it” or “that's just what you do at Christmas” or even simply because it's “that time of year”. I just feel like the “spirit of giving” should not be held to once a year.
Certain elements of Christmas even have origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity. Many modern Christmas customs have been directly influenced by such festivals, including gift-giving and merrymaking from the Roman Saturnalia, greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year, and Yule logs and various foods from Germanic feasts.
As to Christ's birthday … this is a fallacy that keeps getting propagated by people who spout off opinions as facts without doing their research. I've always been told that Christ was born in the spring … not the winter. And if you're a Christian (or just someone who has read the New Testament) you would be more inclined to agree with this theory than what most “Christians” claim come this time of year.
This site pretty much explains it. The Bible states that Christ was born when the shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks (which they wouldn't do in December) and His parents had gone to Bethlehem in order to register for a Roman census (which were not taken in winter). This same site stated, among several others I found (and through word of mouth I have also been told), that Christ was more likely to have been born late March. So this whole, “celebrate the birth of Christ” bit? Yeah – you're probably a few months too early friends. 🙂
According to Wikipedia, the celebration of the birth of Jesus was celebrated in connection with Epiphany on January 6, and the December 25th celebration was adopted in the East in the 4th century in Antioch, then in Alexandria in the next century. Not only that, but many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Christ's birth.
The 3rd lesson I'd like to share is Yule. Also know as Yuletide (“Yule time”), it is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. It was an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples and Christmas was absorbed into the 12 day Yule celebrations in 336 AD when Pope Julius I declared the birth of Jesus to have been on December 25. (Sound familiar?)
Some celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources.
We all have the right to worship in our own ways, and just like any other holiday or religious ritual, just because one person celebrates or worships differently than another doesn't make them wrong.
The fourth lesson I'd like to share is on caroling. Let's be honest — who doesn't like to be serenaded by beautiful voices?
Did you know that the earliest “Christmas hymns” appeared in 4th century Rome (about the time that Christmas began to be celebrated around December 25th) and that a Perisian monk in the 12 century began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to traditional caroling?
Me neither. But that began to be a strong tradition by the 13th century thanks to Francis of Assisi (who you should totally look up — he's pretty interesting) and Christmas carols in English first began appearing in 1426.
Singing of carols initially suffered a decline in popularity after the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe, and largely survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in popular songs in the 19th century (1800s).
I personally love to go caroling! Being able to meld with the beautiful voices around me, seeing the pure pleasure on someone's face when we go from house to house (or shop to shop) … I just love it!
The 5th lesson I'd like to share is about decorations! A lot of the decorations used during Christmas actually come from “pagan” rituals … For example …
The Christmas tree is considered by some as a Christianized version of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century, though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. By the 1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree.
In some homes you may see displays of “Christmas villages”, holly (which at some point in history was believed to keep you safe from pagans), mistletoe (which is a parasitic plant people have used to steal kisses from people in “spirit of the season” … sounds about right for a parasite huh?), as well as an array of different plants traditionally used during the season.
You may even see bright lights or rolls of beautifully colored paper … All to bring about that magical feeling of Christmas.
Don't get me wrong … I know a lot of what I have said may come off as cynical, negative, and the like. But I truly LOVE Christmastime. I love the occasional snow where children might have the chance to take a day off from school and build snowmen or make snow angels. I love that (for the most part) people are in a more giving and thankful mood.
I love the closeness and warm feelies you get with the season … the love that can be felt … I just don't agree with the consumerism of the holidays, nor do I like that once the holidays are over, for the most part it seems people just go on with their lives … Like the rest of the year people don't still need help outside of the “giving season”.
So my call to action to you today is EVEN AFTER the holiday season … Find some way to continue to give throughout the year. Even if it's not a monetary donation, donate your time to a soup kitchen. Call up old friends you haven't spoken to in years. Be part of Big Brother Big Sister (because Lord knows our future is in the hands of the young who need guidance)… Do something to keep the spirit of the season strong all year long!