Christmas truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year. For many, there are warm parties, cozy homes, fond traditions to celebrate, and gifts to be shared. It’s a joyous time of celebration. However, sometimes we get lost in the season and forget the reason we celebrate it, to begin with. Among the hustle and bustle, our focus is lost, and priorities are misaligned.
With all that we have been through in 2020, Christmas and what it means to all of us could not come at a better time. We have seen some dark days this year. Christmas reminds us of all in different ways, as to what is important in our lives and it refocuses our perception of the world by providing us with familiar “landmarks” of family memories. These landmarks help us reflect on the past year and years, as we participate in our family traditions of baking family recipes and giving them to our neighbors and friends, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Chevy Chase or Home Alone, shopping for gifts and unwrapping presents virtually this year or with immediate family. It is these time-honored traditions that ground us. We keep passing them along to the children and give our own “special sauce” to the traditions in the belief that we are honoring our own history and hope of our savior’s birth to help guide us to “being good” and having a better life. Ahhhh-it is Christmas folks!
Here is some background on this most special Holiday-
Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement. Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
The celebration of Christmas started in Rome about 336 (but it did not become a major Christian festival until the 9th century). Many Christmas traditions, such as decorating trees, started in Germany and later spread to other parts of the world, notably England and the United States.
Santa Claus is a figure that today has become synonymous with Christmas, especially in American culture. However, this was not always the case. In the early 19th century, Christmas was celebrated in an entirely different manner. At the time in New York, Christmas was not a widely celebrated holiday, and was marked in a raucous manner by some, or not at all by others. So, it wasn’t until later on in the 19th century that the popularity of Santa Claus became so widespread.
In 1822, Clement Moore, penned the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which is better known by the name “The Night Before Christmas.” This is a poem which is widely recognized today in American culture. It starts of as follows; ” ‘Twas the night before Christmas…”
In this poem Moore described Santa Claus with a few alterations to the way he had been described in the past to make him a jolly, likeable character that would be loved by the American people.
Santa Claus was based not on a fictional character but a real Dutch saint, who was a bishop in the fourth century. This European version of Santa Claus gave out birch rods to naughty children and as such, didn’t endear himself to Americans. Thus, in the poem Moore wrote, he altered Santa Claus’ appearance from solemn and thin to fat and jolly and gave him eight reindeer. Finally, he scrapped the dark side of Sinterklaas.
This was all done in an attempt to endear Santa Claus to Americans, both rich and poor. Fortunately for them it worked. Santa Claus became part and parcel of American culture by the mid-19th century. Slowly, year after year, details would be added to the Santa Claus mythos. In 1863, artist Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus that we are familiar with today – a jolly old man with a beer belly and a red suit that we all recognize today.
And some perspective on where it all actually began:
True Meaning of Christmas: Celebrating the Savior
Jesus was born in order to pay the price for the things we have done wrong: sin. God sent his only son to be the atonement for all our sins so that we would not be separated from God. Without Jesus, we would all die for our sins. We inherited our sin nature from the first human beings God created Adam and Eve. While being fully God and yet fully man, Jesus came into the world as an infant to save us all.
Most Christmas traditions vary in significance and symbolic meaning. For example, we exchange gifts because God sent us the most precious gift: his only Son. Also, three wisemen visited Jesus and brought gifts as well. A poem titled A Visit from St. Nicholas penned in 1822 popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts too.
For Christians, the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that through belief in the Christ we are daughters and sons of God. Heaven will one day be our home.
Perhaps this will help you look at the Christmas season differently this year. A chance to truly take in the wonder and awe of the season.
Merry Christmas to All of You!
That’s all folks!