Christmas for me was always the best time of the year: the long holiday, people carefree and chatty, new Christmas clothes and singing carols with my family around the stone fireplace. Also, this was the only time my mother baked cakes and cooked home-made French fries, with home-made tomato sauce!!! It was epic.
On Christmas Day, we would dutifully wear our new (by “new” I mean not the usual hand-me-downs) Christmas clothes and go to church for the Christmas service, where the pastor would talk about the birth of Jesus Christ and the three wise men and the brightest star that led them to his manger.
As I got older, Christmas changed and became something about Christmas trees and gifts under the tree. There was also a certain fat gentleman dressed in red and white who would slide down the chimney with presents for good little girls and boys. Also, he rode around in the sky on a sleigh with reindeer. Huh? Whatever happened to baby Jesus in the manger? Or were these two conflicting events that happened on the same day historically?
My grand illusions about Christmas being the best time of year were being dashed before my very eyes! Did I want Santa Claus to come into my house through the chimney? No!! That’s seriously creepy! I wanted to hold onto my beliefs that it was Jesus’ birthday. Again, I started hearing murmurs of Christmas not really being Jesus’ birthday. How now? How could I have been lied to my whole life? Why, then, were we celebrating his birthday on a day that had no relevance to Him?
I decided to demystify Christmas, at risk of dashing my childhood hopes. This is what I found:
Apparently, Jesus could not have been born in Judea in December, seeing as it is winter then and very cold and rainy. The shepherds couldn’t have been watching their flocks at night in such weather. They would watch them in the summer or fall season, when night weather conditions permitted. Another thing, John the Baptist was born in March or thereabouts, based on the time of Zechariah’s temple service, which should have been in the month of June. This is when he got the prophesy about John being born. Nine months later would have been in March, and six months later, Jesus was born, making his birthday some time in September. Weird isn’t it? It is said that December 25th was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun, so it was made into Christmas. Strange.
This one was interesting. People begun to put evergreen trees in their homes to celebrate the winter solstice. The winter solstice is a day in the year when daytime lasts for the shortest period, usually December 21 or 22, in the North Pole. People would put the evergreen trees in their houses to commemorate the fact that the sun god was weak, hence the winter solstice, and to remember when he would arise again and make the trees as green as the evergreen trees in their houses. Somehow it was adopted into the Christmas custom and is now a staple symbol of this day.
Santa Claus/Father Christmas
What is interesting is that Father Christmas is Santa Claus who is also known as Saint Nicholas. The origin is quite vague, since the figure Santa Claus was derived from different myths which were merged together when Europe was Christianized during the period of the Middle Ages. So, there was a Germanic god known as Odin, who would lead a wild hunt across the sky with ghostly huntsmen with hounds and horses during midwinter. That myth was merged with the story of Saint Nicholas, a historical bishop and giver of gifts, who had a habit of giving secret gifts (perhaps where the term “Secret Santa” comes from?). Additionally, there was Sinterklaas, a traditional winter holiday figure celebrated in Europe on the 6th of December. His origins are derived from the god Odin.
Basically, the reindeer flying across the sky and the laughing chubby gentleman and the secret gifts all make sense now.
Now, through all this analysis, I wonder, how is Jesus Christ in a manger related? There is too much confusion in this holiday. I would get mad that people were not celebrating Jesus’ birthday, and instead were more interested in getting Christmas trees and putting gifts under the tree. Don’t even get me started on the crazy Christmas shopping I would see in movies, with people panicking that they haven’t done their “Christmas shopping”, a culture that is now being adopted here.
Forgive me if I don’t get excited about Christmas. It’s just any other holiday with strange connotations that have nothing to do with my beliefs, leave alone any ounce of African culture.
Which brings me to the topic of this post. I’d get incensed when I would see people cross out “Christ” in the word Christmas, and put an “X” instead. What was up with that, I’d wonder? Why were we crossing out Christ’s name on His birthday? Now it finally makes sense! Christmas actually has little to do with Christ.
Let’s save the analysis of Easter with its Easter eggs and bunnies for another day; there have been enough bubbles burst today – including my own.
Either way, whatever you believe, whether you care or not, I’ll wish you a Merry X-Mas or Christmas, whichever is appropriate, and a Happy New Year 2014!