Christmas Facts: Traditions
When thinking about Christmas facts one cannot overlook the number of traditions that surround the holiday. In fact, Christmas in itself, is a tradition. It is a tradition of celebrating the birth or incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Overtime, the way in which people have celebrated this day has evolved from culture to culture. However, the one thing each unique cultural celebration has in common is tradition. Everything from stocking stuffers to Christmas trees to family gatherings has been passed down from generation to generation.
There are two types of tradition that each culture carries when celebrating Christmas; religious and secular. The religious tradition is the core or the root of the holiday’s existence and carries much stronger history and stability than those of its counter part. Christians throughout modern time have worshiped the Lord for His coming to humanity in the form of a babe. Though the actual birth date of Jesus is not known (there are strong opinions, like early spring, but no true confirmation) tradition has led to late December or early January as a common and accepted time period for celebrating the most important moment in human history.
Regarding secular traditions one may remember the dilemma of Charlie Brown in the classic Christmas time cartoon by Charles M. Schultz – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). His dilemma, answered later by his close friend Linus (as he quoted scripture from Luke Chapter 2), was that the true meaning of Christmas was being diluted by all the commercialization he seemed to find everywhere he looked. What he saw in his world is what we can see in ours every year starting in mid-fall. Over time, Christmas celebrations have grown and become more commercialized and secular. Those in the world who do not connect with the life of Christianity have spurred this on as they continue to observe Christmas for all its joy, togetherness, and tradition; but they simply remove the Christian value and replace it with positive secular imagery and verbalization. They attach no religious value and thus it changes with the whims of every human desire.
Christmas’s purpose, despite its timelessness and generational traditions, can only be maintained in the heart of the everyday man or woman. Each tradition represents something revolving around the incarnation or kingship of Christ. However, if an individual does not choose to attach Christ to the celebration, the basic heart and idea behind the said traditions and celebrations change to something methodically capricious. Though much joy and heart-felt connection can still be had, the life blood behind the action is no longer flowing. Therefore, it is important to understand and remember that it is Jesus who brings life to traditions. These then are some of the facts of Christmas and the general meaning behind some of the most common or well known traditions of the holiday.
Christmas Facts: Each Tradition
It’s a birthday party: Luke chapter two describes the birth of Jesus and the start of His earthly life; a life that would lead to the salvation of all mankind. Today, believers recite this chapter and remember, through vivid celebration, the life that Christ has brought them. Christmas is the most important birthday party of all time. It is a celebration that brings, joy, gifts, and the singing of traditional worship songs while feasting with joyous connection to family and friends. It is purely about bringing Him honor and loving those who God has blessed us with.
The Christmas Tree: Originating in Germany, a Fir tree was decorated to represent the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. The great reformer Martin Luther is said to be the first to decorate the tree prior to the tradition moving to England by way of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It eventually crossed the Atlantic and became an American tradition; though it took some time as it was considered to be a pagan symbol in the earlier years. Today, according to www.christmastree.org, “There are approximately 30-35 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.”
Santa Claus: A legendary figure who represents the visual dimension of Christmas in our modern age. Santa Claus, in some ways, has over taken the image of Christ in many Christmas traditions and celebrations. His popularity started and grew as the stories of St. Nicholas grew in legend and could only be believed by the young at heart searching for a hero. Today the image of Santa Claus is found in shopping centers, movies, and Christmas time decorations. It is said that Santa Claus has special powers and can tell whether a child has been naughty or nice. Though he is a positive figure, it should be understood, in terms of Christian tradition, that Santa Claus in no way represents Jesus. He was created by man for man. The day still belongs to Christ.
Lights- The many bright lights found hanging on trees and homes around Christmas time means something different for each person who hangs them. For one individual they are simply colorful and joyful -- something to brighten up the norm of everyday life in a season of festivities and togetherness. To another, the lights carry spiritual meaning. One such spiritual meaning -- purity surrounds the many white lights found on most Christian homes and buildings. The white light stands for the purity of Christ and the heart that lives for Him.
Holly- An evergreen plant representing eternal life is used as a more appropriate Christian decoration in comparison to its counterpart; the Mistletoe. Christians decided to use the Holly plant due to its more positive meaning and a history not tainted by pagan beliefs.
Mistletoe- Used by Druids to celebrate winter and as a symbol of love. It was a pagan symbol because of the belief that it had special healing powers. Its primary purpose today revolves around secular tradition. It is said that if one stands under it they are to be kissed by someone standing close by.
Candles- Tradition says that candles were first used as a Christmas decoration when Martin Luther placed candles on a tree near his home to reproduce a gleaming of light he had seen through the branches of another such tree. Candles also represent the life and light of Christ that shines upon all men. Candles are lit to set the mood for a Christmas time celebration. In churches all over the nation candlelight services are held to sing to the King of Kings in celebration of the life He lived and the salvation He provided to all who believe in His name.
- Stockings - Originating in stories of St. Nicholas in which he threw items for young children down chimney’s as he passed by. Those items would fall into the stockings that were hung at the bottom of the chimney.
International Traditions: Much of Christmas time celebrations seen in America come from some sort of foreign tradition of old. Each Christian culture around the world provides its own twist on how to celebrate Christmas. The traditions range from the same categories (i.e. music, decorations, festivities and meals) but differ in custom and flavor. Due to the numerous cultures that celebrate the birth of Christ to best know and understand each cultures traditions, specific study should be done.
Carols: In just about every home around the world, Christmas carols and holiday songs, whether explicitly Christian or secular, are heard and sung with wide acceptance. Singing during Christmas is a company event that draws loved ones together. For the individual, carols fill the heart with praise to their Savior and provide feelings of the festive season that bring joy to the heart.
Advent: Though Advent is not a highly well known part of the Christmas season it is a basic and long lasting tradition of the season. The word, in Latin means “the coming.” It is a pre-Christmas preparation for the coming day of Christ’s birth. It is a time of prayer, worship, and fasting. During Advent, families count down the days before Christmas in excited anticipation. However, today’s secular society has used this time as a Christmas shopping period -- a massive rush beginning the day after Thanksgiving to buy all the Christmas gifts needed for all friends and family.
Christmas Facts: Traditions Too Numerous to Count
Christmas facts go on and on and the details behind these traditions are too numerous to count. In today’s culture it is best to break down Christmas facts and traditions to one theme – celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus. If the individual heart of man can stay focused on Christ then the worship and honor due His name can still be given in wonderful celebration and tradition each and every Christmas season.
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