Christmas Story

Which Christmas Do You Celebrate?

In speaking with several children regarding this special day, there were some who were aware of the Christmas story. However, there were others who knew very little about what Christmas represents and only saw this holiday as a means of getting whatever they wished for from Santa. As someone who celebrates the Christmas season and being mindful of its true meaning, I felt compelled to address the topic of what Christmas really means.

As I observe the extravagant preparations made for this purpose, I realized that modern society has created two types of Christmas. There is the Christmas where Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus and the commercial Christmas represented by Santa Claus. So which one do you celebrate?

Funny how throughout the year, prayer to God is forbidden in schools. As a society today we are expected to be politically correct when referring to God. Some never even think about Jesus or offer a prayer of thankfulness throughout the year. But as Christmas approaches it appears as if everyone is up and ready for celebrating Christmas.

Look inside your heart and examine your convictions. What do you believe? What do you practice throughout the year? And most importantly, what do you pass on to your children?

History of December 25th

Many centuries before the birth of Jesus, European celebrations were commonplace to mark the end of the fierce winters and the anticipation of the long days of sunshine. The week from December 17-25 was a Roman pagan celebration called Saturnalia. This was a week of self-indulgence and disorder. In attempts to change this unruly practice, Christian leaders chose December 25th to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

At one point during the 17th century, Christmas was canceled by Oliver Cromwell and the puritans but was restored by Charles II when he restored the throne. However, even when the pilgrims came to America, they continued in the tradition of the puritans although Christmas was not practiced in early America.

The American Revolution discarded many of the English traditions and Christmas was declared a federal holiday in June 26, 1870. With the dawn of the 19th century many Americans began to accept the Christmas story. Americans created many changes in the way Christmas was celebrated and created a more family-centered holiday with peace loving traditions.

Around this time English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The message it conveyed showed the significance of charity and good will towards our fellowman. The concept of giving was well received by many and was adopted into the Christmas traditions by Americans and Europeans alike. The Christmas story and the Christmas spirit continued to evolve.

History of Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas was a bishop in Turkey in the 4th century who was known for secretly giving gifts especially to the poor. This concept was translated into other countries throughout Europe, each adding their own twist to the legendary figure of Saint Nicholas.

For example, in Holland, Saint Nicholas is referred to as Sinter Klaas. He is depicted wearing a bishop's robe that arrives by ferry in mid November then rides off on his white horse to prepare for the big day observed on December 6. His helpers are the absent-minded Zwarte Pete (Black Pete) who does the dirty work of crawling through the chimneys to deliver presents in wooden shoes.

At the end of the 18th century, this Dutch legend of Sinter Klaus was brought to America where it was adopted and combined with British character of Father Christmas to be called Santa Claus. In the early 19th century, American author Washington Irving introduced a new version of the old St. Nick as riding over the treetops in a horse drawn wagon dropping gifts down the chimneys of the people he favored. With various input from illustrators and marketing companies, Santa Claus has evolved to what we now know as the jolly old fellow with a red suit, white cuffs, the white beard and fat belly.

Santa Claus is a combination of beliefs and practices from around the world. His depiction of kindness and goodness is one that reinforces the spirit of giving we see throughout the Christmas holidays. It adds more meaning to the Christmas story. And most importantly remember that Santa Claus is a symbol of kindness that accompanies the the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

The Birth of Jesus

Over 2000 years ago in the town of Nazareth lived a young lady named Mary who was engaged to be married to a young carpenter named Joseph. One day an angel appeared to Mary and explained to her that she had been chosen to have a special baby. The baby would be God's son and she must call him Jesus. Mary and Joseph became concerned, wondering what the villagers might think of Mary being pregnant out of wedlock and quickly decided to get married.

Later that year, the King Augustus Caesar required that all the people move back to the city of their birth for a census count and to pay taxes on the things they owned. Joseph was from Bethlehem, therefore he and Mary began the long journey by donkey to Bethlehem to pay taxes.

As the arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph's concern for his very pregnant wife grew. Mary had grown tired from the journey and needed a place to rest. They also need a place to spend the night. Because the town was filled with taxpayers that day, all the hotels were booked. There were no rooms available for Mary to rest for the night.

Joseph went from hotel to hotel. He was getting frustrated because Mary was showing signs of giving birth and they still had no place to stay. Joseph begged and finally the manager at one hotel told him the only thing available was a stable in the back where he kept his animals. Joseph desperately accepted. He apologized to Mary about the conditions in which they had to spend the night and promised they would find better lodging the following day.

That night, in a lowly stable, Mary gave birth to her son, the son of God and they called Him Jesus. There was no baby bed for Him for him to lie in. There was no soft blanket to wrap Him in. There were no doctors to deliver Him. Mary wrapped Jesus in strips of cloth and laid Him in a feeding fox for the animals packed with hay. It was the humblest of births.

Jesus entered this world in a humble, simple style. There were no baby showers or lavish gifts. Here began His humble beginnings, an exemplary life for all the world to follow. The Christmas story means humility. That night that Jesus was born, not far away in the mountains of Bethlehem, there were shepherds watching over their flock of sheep. Suddenly a bright light appeared in the sky, which got their attention. There standing before the shepherds was an angel delivering the good news that a Savior, the Messiah, had been born.

The angel revealed to the shepherds where they could find the baby Jesus lying in a manger. Overwhelmed with joy to see Jesus lying, they knelt down before Him and worshiped Him. They later left and began to spread the Christmas story - the news of the birth of the Messiah.

One day, there appeared in the sky a bright star visible in the eastern countries. It was a star signaling the residence of the Messiah. Wise men, curious to know the Messiah, set out to find Him. They assumed the child would be in a palace and went to Jerusalem to see the king, King Herod. When they arrived they asked to see the child that would be King of the Jews. The king was upset, feeling threatened that this new king may take away his throne. He told the Wise men to inform him when they had found the child so that he could pay his respects in person.

Guided by the bright star, the Wise Men set off to find the baby. When they found Him, they knelt before Him and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. That night after visiting Jesus, the men had a dream that warned them that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus and not to return to his palace. Instead they took a different route home.

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because King Herod had put out an order for Jesus to be killed. They immediately left Bethlehem and moved to Egypt where they would be safe from the King's threat. Joseph's dream had come to pass when King Herod ordered that all baby boys under two years of age in Bethlehem be killed. They remained in Egypt until King Herod died then returned to Nazareth. The Christmas story reveals adversity. Christmas Accessories - The Christmas Tree

Because of its ability to stay green all year long, the evergreen tree was a symbol of life and immortality and had a special meaning to people during the winter months. It represented a sign that sunshine and spring would soon return after the cold winter and in many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Legend has it that the tree moved inside when a monk named Martin Luther of Germany who lived from 1483 to 1546, observed the stars twinkling in the sky through the tree branches one cold wintry night. Luther was amazed by the vision that in order to explain to his family what he saw, he cut down a small fir tree brought it inside and decorated it with candles, which represented the stars he had seen.

It didn't take long for this custom spread throughout Germany and continued from there to England and other parts of the world. The tree was incorporated into the Christmas festivities and has evolved to what we now know it to be.

The Christmas Stocking

There are many theories of the origins of the Christmas stocking. Some say it was introduced by illustrator Thomas Nast through his pictures. Others say, the writer George Webster mentioned it in a story about a visit from Santa Claus. There are claims that the Dutch introduced the Christmas stocking to America.

No matter the origin of this custom, families all over the world over continue to incorporate this tradition of the Christmas stocking into their Christmas decorations. Some use it as a container of small gifts for children and loved ones.

The Christmas stocking has evolved over the years and are sold everywhere in a variety of colors, styles, shapes and sizes to suit every home and culture.

When we celebrate the birth of Jesus with friends and family, let us not forget the reason for the season. As we feast and enjoy the festivities be mindful of those less fortunate and reach out to them. Use this time, as the year comes to an end, to mend broken relationships. Make time to look inside and reflect on the person you are and the person you strive to become. Give yourself credit for the positive changes you have made thus far and get ready to implement the necessary changes within you to achieve the character you strive for. Cherish the special feeling this day brings and carry it in your heart into the New Year.

The Feeling

Christmas is about love. Sharing the love you feel inside to those around you, to the people in your life. Many of you extend that love beyond just family and friends and reach out to others in need.

The spirit of Christmas is beautiful because it comes at a pivotal time of year. It comes at the end of the year which gives us an opportunity to enter into a New Year carrying with us that same spirit with us.

Make it a point each year to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in your hearts and in that of your family's hearts. Allow this love you feel to rekindle broken relationships between family and friends. Pass it along to your neighbor or coworker, the homeless or the sick.

Love begins in our hearts and minds. It is a special gift from God. Cherish the love you feel and continue to disperse it throughout your world. If we all do our part to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts throughout the year, we would have a more peaceful world to live in.

The Example to Follow

Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. We all agree it is His birthday that we celebrate. However, the life that Jesus lived was one that we should all take as an example to follow throughout our lives. This is the real Christmas story that we must cherish throughout our lives.

Jesus was a great example of someone who went through enormous hardships and came out on top. His life of resiliency should teach us that no matter what we feel or what we are burdened with, we can triumph over them. The Christmas story should teach us of victory.

Jesus was a great example of kindness. He helped the sick and the handicapped. He never judged, but offered comfort to those in need By following this example, we too can show this level of kindness to the people in our communities. The Christmas story should teach us of compassion.

Jesus was slow to anger. He did not get angry at the ones who offended him and even forgave those who were cruel to Him. This is an excellent example for us to follow in our relationships. When dealing with family, friends, or business relationships, we can achieve more success if we are slow to anger and be more patient. Even when someone tries to offend you, take the high road and walk away. The Christmas story should teach us of patience.

Jesus was honest in his dealings. Honesty in our social and business dealings can enable our progress much faster in life than dishonest practices. The Christmas story should teach us of honor and integrity.

Make it a point to take the Christmas story and Jesus' life as an example by which to live, not only in the month of December but all year long.

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