|Christmas - The Spirit Of Commemoration? by: Natalie Difroso|
|Posted on Sun 23 Nov 2008 by admin (550 reads)|
All over the world, people celebrate Christmas. Although this holiday is obviously associated with the Christian faith, the date and customs are much older. In the very beginning of the Catholic Church, the heads of the church recognized it would be easier to "write over" existing celebrations instead of attempting to wipe them out. Most people would agree that of all the pagan holidays assumed by the Roman church in its earliest attempts to convert the world to Christianity, the changing of Christmas from the pagan renewal celebration to the birth of the Christian Messiah has been one of the most successful. This holiday is now recognized even in countries that are not predominantly Christian.
In spite of Christianity dating from the time of Christ the celebration of Christmas started only in the Middle Ages and remarkably at its inception, it had nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Originally, Jesus' birth was celebrated in summer, however, considering numerous pagan festivals and holy days were celebrated in December, this was moved to December also. Babylon, Egypt and Germany celebrated fertility rituals in the same month. Significantly the birth of the sun God Mithras, the largest enemy of Christianity, was December 25th. Hence the shift.
The Celts in the British Isles believed all green plants to be holy, above all, mistletoe and holly. Consequently these two became a part of the Christmas customs. Originating in the Scandinavian observance of yule festivities, decorating a tree and burning the yule log were also included. This was absorbed into Christian traditions in spite of it having nothing to do with the birth of Christ. A further change was to move Saint Nicholas' day, which had been observed on December 6, to December 25.
The tradition of Christmas trees varies in different parts of the world. In Germany, traditionally people visit the woods and decorate live trees with candles and ornaments, whereas in the United States living trees are cut and brought indoors. Considering live trees dry out and can be dangerous, they have been substituted in many homes by artificial trees. These are convenient to use, resemble live trees and can be pre-decorated with colored lights.
The origin of carols dates back to the Middle Ages. During this time gifts and feasting were strongly discouraged in favor of a peaceful celebration of the Nativity. This was in marked contrast to the Bacchanalian festivities associated with pagan observances, at which people over-indulged. One school of thought today is critical of the practice of giving presents which, it says, has too much significance and takes away from the spirit behind the celebration.
Regardless of the origin, in the western world Christmas is a widely celebrated event, as a spirit of generosity appeals to people of all faiths, reaching across the divide and bringing them together. The fun shared by young and old alike at this time is best enjoyed in giving rather than receiving, for in giving we honor God's Gift to the world, and grow more generous.
Article By: by: Natalie Difroso
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