The season to be jolly is nearly upon us again. With it will come parties, gifts, family get-togethers and family break-ups all with the stern reminder not to forget the “real meaning of Christmas.”
Admonitions to promote peace, love, joy, goodwill and hope stem from a sincere desire to circumvent the overwhelming commercialism of the season. But as usual, the admonitions will be almost totally ignored and understandably so. The “real meaning” of the holiday has always been annoyingly vague.
To confuse matters further, the alleged birthday of Christ has come to be inescapably associated with a jolly Nordic saint secretly bearing gifts in the night. With a Santa on every street corner, most children forget that Christmas somehow is supposed to be a billion-dollar birthday party for Christ.
A closer look at the history of Christmas should clear up the mystery. Ironically enough, it will show that today’s generally irreverent celebration of December 25th comes far closer to the “real meaning” of Christmas than most Christians dare to admit.
Commercial Christmas is only about 88 years old. James H. Barnett of the University of Connecticut explains the origin of “Green Christmas” in his book The American Christmas: A Study in National Culture.
“The studied exploitation of the festival did not develop fully until the third decade in the present century,” he writes. “At the close of the war in 1918, the American economy was geared to a high level of output and a host of new products were ready to be sold. However, consumer demands were shrinking, and there was serious danger of a stagnant market.”
Postwar retailers and manufacturers, it seems, were faced with a dilemma. The assembly lines were rolling, but consumer cash was not. The flash depression of 1920 struck, making businessmen even more desperate.
“In this dilemma,” continues Barnett, “business leaders sought some means of increasing normal, peacetime buying, and turned to promotion and high-pressure sales methods. Both merchants and advertising agencies recognized the commercial possibilities of folk festivals, and began to exploit these occasions shortly after 1920. This was immediately successful and has continued unabated to the present.”
Now we find Christmas business dominating the entire second half of the calendar year. The busiest month in railroad freight yards is August, primarily because manufactures are shipping goods to retail outlets in preparation for the Christmas gift traffic. Christmas sales begin around Labor Day (early September), rather than early December.
Retailers look at it this way: The more shopping days before Christmas, the more potential sales. The whole approach to selling is to get stuff out as early as possible.
Just about every imaginable kind of object has been a Christmas gift, and just about everyone has received his share of the bounty. But ironically, the churches actively expounding the Christmas spirit suffer monetary reverse at Christmas. In fact, seasonal Christmas spending consistently exceeds all religious contributions given to all churches for the entire year! And gifts to religions consistently decline during December.
Wouldn’t it be incongruous if you attended a birthday party where everyone exchanged gifts with the guests, while the host was ignored, honored with no gift at all? Figuratively speaking, that is what happens on Jesus Christ’s supposed “birthday.”
Yet this is only one of the Christmas “opposites” – those customs and practices which work in opposition to what a desperate humanity wishes Christmas would be. Compare a few of the other Christmas practices to the textbook that most Christians profess to read.
Isn’t it a little hypocritical to teach our children a fantastic web of falsehoods about Santa Claus, the reindeer, and even the time and circumstances of Christ’s birth, while we are supposedly honoring the one who said, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”?
There are more murders and accidental deaths at Christmas time than at any other time of the year; yet Jesus said, “Thou shalt do no murder”. And isn’t it a little contradictory that on the supposed birthday of the Prince of Peace, parents buy their children plastic guns and other toys of violence?
One fourth of all liquor sales come during the Christmas season, supposedly honoring the one who said “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34).
Christ also spoke against setting one’s heart of the “abundance of things.” Yet the purchase of many “things” is what Christmas is all about. He also stated, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). But no other day stresses getting, especially to children, as much as Christmas. The question most ask at this time of year is, “What did you get?” Not “What did you give?”
Finally, isn’t it somewhat strange that professing Christians would observe a day which neither Christ nor his disciples ever mentioned, much less commanded or kept?
If Jesus Christ of Nazareth were transported into a modern Christmas party, he might enjoy the companionship, but he certainly would not recognize it as his birthday, because he was born in early autumn, and he didn’t observe birthdays as anything special anyway. Instead, he would recognize December 25th as the Roman “Saturnalia” of his day or the Babylonian religious festival honoring the “birthday of the Sun.”
He might even advise those there who worry about “putting Christ back into Christmas” to stop worrying. It’s impossible. Christ never was in Christmas. And the public today truly is keeping the “real” or original meaning of Christmas – a commercialization of an utterly pagan, openly hedonistic celebration that has been given an aura of respectability via labels of peace, joy, love and goodwill to all. Most have supposed that the Christmas celebration is rooted in these good intentions, and, of course based on the birthday of Jesus. This idea is false.
There is no need in this article to prove the depths of Christmas’ pagan roots. That information is readily available in your local library. Discover it for yourself.
To summarize, “Christmas” began over 4,000 years ago in Babylon, then migrated to Egypt, Greece and Rome. In Rome, it combined with Nordic and Druidic customs and was finally “blessed” as a Christian holiday over 300 years after Jesus Christ died. In each of these pagan societies, December 25th was celebrated as the birthday of the sun, on the occasion of the sun’s “rebirth” at the winter solstice.
An hour or two of research would document these assertions. Look in the major encyclopedia under “Christmas,” “Saturnalia,” “Sun Worship,” “Yule” and related words. Or peruse some completer books about Christmas under the “394” Dewey Decimal heading in your local library.
You might even turn to a scripture in the Bible (Jeremiah 10:1-4) where God condemned the keeping of pagan practices centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. “Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.” (The heathen nations became frightened as the sun reached its winter solstice on or around December 21st, when the sun is farthest from our orbiting earth. They were afraid the sun, as the symbol of health and life, was dying. So they lit fires, sacrificed animals, shouted to their sun god, and were in general “dismayed at the heavens.”)
To continue, “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers that it move not.”
Even though Christmas is pagan in origin, some feel it is rather unfair to condemn the positive aspects of Christmas unless there was something far better to take its place.
About 3,500 years ago, God revealed to his people Israel a pattern of days set apart for a holy purpose and for festive family celebration. Concerning those days, God commanded, “Thou shalt rejoice” (Deut. 16:14; 14:26). These special days were kept “with joy” (Ezra 6:22). They were joyous feast days in which entire families could partake of fine food and drink, and enjoy real love, peace and goodwill. They were family festivals (Deut. 14:26) of tremendous meaning and purpose. These feast days are found in the 23rd book of Leviticus. The majority of mankind is oblivious to the fact that they really outline God’s Master Plan of Salvation to mankind. They reveal the Real Meaning for mankind being on this earth.
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