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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Taking Christ out of Christmas?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

For many years, I have heard people complain about the contemporary drive to take Christ out of Christmas.

Many fear that the spiritual aspect of the holidays loses significance as time flies. Is it true that we have lost what makes Christmas truly great/ Has the holiday diminished in value? Is the spirit of giving wasting away as the world thirsts for more material and vanity?

My next few columns will discuss the many legends, folklore and superstitions of Christmas. Here are a few facts about the coming holiday.

It helps to look at the roots of our Christmas tradition. The birth of Jesus was not celebrated, officially, until the fourth century. However, why is it celebrated in December?

It is common knowledge that Jesus was not burn during the winter. After all, what would the shepherd herd in the winter? According to history.com, the Christian church adopted the tradition of the Pagan winter celebrations and insisted on the Pagans accepting the additional celebration of the birth of Christ along with their observed celebration of the winter solstice.

Pretty much since time began, many cultures have celebrated the winter solstice. Traditionally, the worst of winter was over and the days gradually lengthened. Most of the cattle were slaughtered (no feeding in the winter), there was plenty of meat to eat, and the wine and mead reached fermentation.

The combination of the old Pagan celebration and the new celebration of Jesus' birth, under Pope Julius I, made for a Mass service that then turned into a raucous celebration of eating and drinking ... a lot of eating and drinking.

Actually, the Yule log of today is the remnant of a Nordic celebration, which had constant feasting while a huge log burned. It would sometimes take several days for the log to burn. In turn, this meant several days of feasting.

During a celebration much like today's Mardi Gras, the people would party well into the night. Additionally, the poor would knock on the doors of the rich demanding the best food and drink. If they were ill received, mischief was sure to ensue.

Every year, there is a new batch of malicious rumors meant to highlight all the powerful people who want to detach the holiday from its religious base. Just so you know, I am only pointing out the following facts because someone has made the mistake of telling me about the terrible evils that exist only to destroy the "true meaning of Christmas."

One such fable is that the White House insists that the Christmas trees are Holiday trees. I see how this would upset anyone who knows how meaningful a fir tree is to Christianity. I mean, it was decreed that we should decorate our homes with the evergreenic symbol of endurance and renewed life in the New Testament, right?

Oh, sorry, this too is another combination of Pagan and Christian beliefs.

The greenery of the tree, the holly, and mistletoe, is a statement of the belief that vegetation will again grow at winter's end. Maybe we should call it the makes my house look pretty tree or possibly the look at how much more money I have than you tree?

Don't get me wrong, my wife and I love everything about this holiday. We have two big trees and a few small trees in our house. My wife spends countless hours preparing, planning and decorating our home for the upcoming holiday, and our family tries to schedule time for watching "The Christmas Story," "Charlie Brown's Christmas," and "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" movies.

I am now (and always will be) the first one to wake up on Christmas morning. Just the thought of watching all the kids open their presents gives me goose bumps -- I love it. All of it.

Anyhow, the White House did not decree that Christmas trees would be renamed holiday trees (Snopes.com). Could you imagine?

At a time when our country could hardly become more polarized than it already is, any deviation from the traditional for a person of power would mean doom and no chance of re-election.

Sometimes, the absurdity alone of these rumors is amusing.

Here is another one: "I hate it when they say or write X-mas."

This is a complaint I have heard since I was a kid. This legend is easy to debunk and makes perfect sense the more you think about it.

Years ago, literacy was not common. If someone could not write their name, they often made the sign of the cross on important documents. The sign, or a person's mark, was a proper and binding signature recognized by institutions. As time went on, the cross turned a little and it resembled an X. So, X-mass is actually T-mass or (cross)mass. Using a cross in place of the word Christ is a far cry from sacrilegious.

As a matter of fact, do you remember children crossing their fingers behind their backs while they lied? The inverted cross temporarily excused them from the rules of Christianity. For a brief moment, they were not Christians and therefore, could tell a lie.

So, by comparison, the spiritual significance of our Christmas celebration today, is 10-fold more than it was in the past.

Every year, the holiday, the giving, the buying and the folklorish untruths increase. Where it was once a single Mass or church service, it is now a multi-day celebration of services, passion plays and songs.

Advertisement is a good reflection of pop-culture practice, showing that our Christmas holiday begins before Thanksgiving.

I hope you have found some of this interesting or at least amusing. Watch for upcoming columns regarding some of the more endearing and sentimental aspects of this wonderful holiday.