We are quickly approaching Christmas and I am interested in discussing several things about this season. Today I am not going to address the birth of Jesus as is usually portrayed. I want to talk about the season of Christmas, a bit of its history and its commercialization.
There are pounds of newspaper ads printed to get your attention and money. There are photos of every new item on the market. People are bombarded from every side to spend money for this thing and that thing, new, old, nostalgic, needed, not needed; attempts to create needs for more things we didn’t need yesterday and probably do not need today. First off, I would ask you to remember that every ad that is printed and every word in every ad is written and paid for by someone who works very diligently to sell that item to you. Do not believe everything they say since they are writing the ads and paying their money for the advertising. Ads are written to make money for them – not to do favors for you.
Secondly, it is interesting to me that many, indeed most, of the large conglomerates and federations who own the retail stores and businesses are usually owned and operated by folks whose religion does not embrace Christmas nor do they accept Jesus as their savior much less as their Master Teacher. Many actually do not even recognize Him at all. They are still awaiting their new Abraham or reincarnation of that type of father figure to set things right for them.
There is nothing to indicate that it was the dead of winter when Jesus was born. I have read and heard that Jesus was born in the only inanimate month of the year. Only one month is inanimate – that is, not represented by something living. January, Capricorn, is the goat; February, Aquarius is the water bearer; March, Pisces is the fishes; April or Aries is the ram; May, Taurus is the bull; June, Gemini are the twins; July, Cancer, is the crab; August, Leo, is the lion; Virgo for September is the virgin; November, Scorpio is the scorpion; and Sagittarius for December is represented by an archer. Only October or Libra is represented by anything inanimate - the scale. A symbol of balance and the only inanimate sign in the year.
If we think about December, the coldest darkest part of the year in the northern hemisphere, we realize that farmers aren’t tending their fields, most folks in those days of limited transportation would normally button in by a fireplace for warmth and the comfort of their home and hearth. They would stockpile supplies, preserve foods by drying or salting meat down and with no snowplows, automobiles or salted roads they would stay home maybe venturing to church on Sunday if weather permitted. The first Christmas I could research and find seems to have coincided with the Winter Solstice because that date had long been celebrated in the pagan religions as the end of winter. When Christians began to celebrate Jesus’ birth the priests chose that time frame so as to not unsettle those who had long been celebrating the event. The Roman Empire from pre – Christian times brought branches from evergreen plants indoors in winter. Decorating with greenery was also part of Jewish tradition; Leviticus 23:40 reads “Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willow of the brook and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” Leviticus is definitely Old Testament – written long before Jesus’ birth.
Nativity Scenes are known from 10th century Rome as popularized by Saint Francis of Assisi from 1223. The first commercially produced decorations appeared in Germany in the 1860’s and were inspired by paper chains made by children. The heart shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed.
The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and the ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice. English usage of the term is first recorded in 1835 and the tree is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century though there is argument that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century and it spread to England via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
The first commercial Christmas card was produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843 and there are innumerable variations of this formula used by a wide cross section of people including non-Christians in Western society and Asia.
Because of the Jewish High Holidays many cards have long stated “Happy Holidays” rather than the traditional “Merry Christmas” although now because of the American Civil Liberties Union and other current events many of Christian persuasion are again emphasizing “Merry Christmas” as their greeting.
Gift exchanging is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the season the most profitable time of the year for retailers and businesses throughout the Western world. Income for retailers and other merchants would be at very low ebb without the Christmas season sales in December.
Gift giving was common in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, an ancient festival which took place on December 25th and may have influenced Christmas customs.
The name Santa Claus is a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey during the 4th century. He was noted for the care of children, generosity and the giving of gifts. His feast on December 6th came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts which was corrupted in English to Kris Kringle and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6th to Christmas Eve.
The celebration of Christmas has evolved throughout the centuries to what it is today. It had humble Pagan beginnings based on the solstice because this was on the day the sun reversed its southward retreat and proved itself to be unconquered. Early Christian writers connected the rebirth of the sun to the birth of Jesus “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that sun was born… Christ should be born” was written by Cyprian. John Crysostom commented on the connection: ‘They call it the “Birthday of the Unconquered”. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord…?
Whatever your beliefs, Christmas comes every year. I hope you celebrate it with much love and joy in your heart and no overload on your credit cards! Spiritualists see it as the Birth of the Master Teacher who came to show us the Way to Live, the way to strive to become. May Infinite Intelligence bless and keep you always safe and loving, not only at this time of the year but throughout every day as we grow our souls back to the God Force.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. May Spirit touch closely in your lives on this special day.