25 December – Christmas Day.
Is there a deeper meaning to Christmas? How much do you know about the history of Christmas?
Is Christmas more than Christmas Trees, Santa Claus, Shopping and the Exchange of Gifts?
Is Christmas a time to remember Jesus Christ? Who is Jesus Christ?
|Now, do not be shocked with what we are going to share with you. The Christmas today in all its commercial glory has some roots in paganism. Read on.|
Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God, and He has come to save the world. According to Jesus, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV). Those who believe in Jesus will have abundant and eternal life.
Jesus was born to die, and to be resurrected. He took the place of sinners by his death on the cross, so that through this, sinners may live. He is the Love and Grace of God. By the Grace of God, it means unmerited favour for sinners – it’s not about what sinners have done, but about what Jesus has done on the cross through his sacrifice. By believing and accepting Jesus as your personal saviour, your sins will be forgiven and you will have abundant life. This is the reason why Jesus Christ was such a central figure in Christianity. Much has been spoken about his glorious death, but less on his birth.
The precise date of Jesus’ birth is unknown as the bible does not specially mention it. Many historians place the birth of Christ to be between 7 and 2 BC. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had designated December 25 to be Christmas day, a date later adopted in the East.
The answer is no. The birth of Jesus is almost synonymous with Christmas as we know today. BUT – Jesus Christ as not born on 25 Dec, contrary to many misconceptions about the origins and history of Christmas. Several popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth but we can infer from the earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE, that the earliest Christians might lack interest in or the knowledge of the birthdate of Jesus Christ. The earliest biblical records begin with the baptism of an adult Jesus.
Certain studies have suggested Jesus was born in April, whilst others put his birthdate to around September.
Version 1 : The Date of December 25th and the name Christmas only came into existence in 325 AD. It was Constantine the Great who declared December 25 as the official birth date of Jesus Christ and proclaimed the observance of what he termed Christmas day not to be changed yearly. One of the reasons why Constantine the Great did that was because he wanted to replace and sweep away the last vestiges of the pagan holidays that had traditionally celebrated during the winter solstice.
Version 2 : This version of the history of Christmas suggests that the earlier churches imported Saturnalia festival, in the hope of converting the pagan masses to celebrate Saturnalia as Christmas.
Saturnalia was first introduced as a holiday by Roman pagans, and it was a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this week, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be brought to court for damaging property or injuring people during the celebrations.
However, there was a problem : there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To rectify this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday. Christians had little success, however, moderating or changing the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, a history professor at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, reports, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.”
The English language phrase “Christmas tree” is first written in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century, and again its history and origins are highly debateable. Many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century.
Would you believe the the history of the Christmas tree was considered by some as Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice?
According to 18th century biographer Æddi Stephanus, Saint Boniface (634–709), who was a missionary in Germany, had carried an axe to an oak tree dedicated to Thor and pointed out a fir tree, which he stated was a more fitting object of reverence because it pointed to heaven and it had a triangular shape, which he said was symbolic of the Trinity of God (The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit).
From Germany, the pagan custom was introduced to Britain, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria. By 1841 the Christmas tree as a decoration during Christmas, had become even more widespread throughout Britain. By the 1870s, people in the United States had adopted the custom of putting up a Christmas tree. Christmas trees are usually decorated with lights and ornaments.
Since the 19th century, many plants became associated with Christmas : from the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, to other popular holiday plants like the holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus.
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In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors made it mandatory for their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this offering ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas
So one may ask – is it ok to celebrate Christmas with gifts exchange as we do today? Well, if one were to look further back into the history of Christmas, there were wise men who offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. If you remember to honour Jesus in all that you do, then perhaps gift exchange as a means to share and spread the love of God isn’t such a bad thing.
Today, gifts giving and exchange during Christmas has become one of the most associated aspects of Christmas. Businesses, shopping malls and retailers can almost always expect to experience a boom in their businesses during the festive season in December. Perhaps for some, it’s also a time to reflect, and a time to find the deeper meaning into the history of Christmas.
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As for our modern celebrations, they are joyful, festive, family centered and the source of childhood memories and magic that last a lifetime. The history of Christmas is also great reminder of those that have come before us. In The Living Guru’s opinion, despite links to paganism, it’s alright to celebrate Christmas and it’s alright to share gifts as long as whatever you do, you continue to honour God if you are Christian, and no issue if you are not.
May you find the true and deeper meaning of Christmas this year. So what does Christmas mean to you? Share your thoughts with us by writing your comments below 🙂