Welcome to LOTS OF LITTLES ... a little blog about this and that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a little LONG thing :)

You probably don't want to hear much of this ... and you might like me less after reading this ... so I am kind-of reluctant to actually go ahead and write this ... but, I am compelled to nonetheless. I definitely don't want to offend one of my few dear readers ... and I certainly don't have all of the answers ... but I've been doing a little research about the history of Christmas. It's been eye-opening really ... and I want to share some of it with you. I don't wish to take the "fun" out of Christmas ... but sometimes it's helpful to consider why we do some of the things that we do. I don't want to put a damper on your Christmas spirit -- this year anyway :) -- so although I've been working on this post early in December ... I decided not to post it until after Christmas :) I meant to post this last month when Christmas was still fresh in our minds ... but January got away from me :/

Although Jeff and I both grew up "believing" in Santa, but we never considered telling our kids the tale of Santa. It might sound like we're totally un-fun ... and we can be totally un-fun ... but we wanted to make sure there was no confusion ... that our kids would know that Christmas was all about Jesus. I didn't want Santa to out-shine Jesus. How can you give your kids (in most cases) a pile of gifts at Christmas-time ... and then tell them the most important thing, however, is Jesus. Young children are not abstract thinkers ... and Jesus is not going to seem like the most important thing in the midst of all of these other tangibles. It's like that Happy Birthday, Jesus song ... "the presents are nice, but the real gift is YOU". Really??? What kid is actually going to agree with this in their heart???

Furthermore -- and this is something I just learned from an article Jeff shared with me by a Justin Peters -- Santa seems to share many of the attributes of God. Isn't that interesting??? Santa is eternal ... had no beginning ... and will never die. Santa is immutable ... he doesn't change ... he doesn't age. Santa is omniscient ... all-knowing ... he knows if you've been sleeping ... he knows when you're awake ... he knows if you've been bad or good. Finally, Santa is omnipresent to some degree -- he can travel around the globe in a single night.

God, however, says that He will not share His glory with another. Hmmm. Is Santa stealing some of God's glory??? Surprisingly, a friend of ours found a Russell Stover Christmas candy bar ... with a dollar-type decorative wrapper featuring a picture of Santa in the middle. The "In God We Trust" was replaced with "In Santa We Trust".

Nonetheless ... over the years ... while we're at the mall, my husband has occasionally asked the kids ... "Hey! Do any of you kids want to sit on that big old guy's lap for a picture??? See that stranger in red with the crazy beard??? Do you want to sit on his lap and get your picture taken???" Maybe he does it to make me chuckle ... but not one of our kids has ever volunteered :) We also might stop and observe a couple/few families get their photos done and undoubtedly there will be a crying toddler who doesn't want to sit on Santa's lap ... and the mother will insist her child cooperate. And sometimes the lines are amazingly L-O-N-G. People will stand in line for a good chunk of an hour to accomplish the traditional "picture with Santa". Oh, and most of the time they even hand over cash for this service ;) It's quite a phenomenon really ...

So ... we never did Santa and we tried to focus our Christmases on Jesus. Several years later, however, our understanding was capsized as we learned that Jesus was almost certainly born IN THE FALL!!! Most projections for his birth are late September ... maybe October. Definitely not December 25. Definitely not December -- and not even in the winter! This was a bit startling. Why, I wondered, are Christians trying to celebrate Jesus' birth on December 25 ... which is not even close to his "birthday"???

Then we learned how Christmas grew out of pagan winter solstice festivals -- Christ's Mass, Saturnalia, and the early Norse/Scandinavian Yule Holiday -- which were full of all kinds of debauchery. "The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling)." In the Saturnalia festival in Rome, "each community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival's conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman." {simpletoremember.com} Originally, the evergreen tree was a symbol of sex and fertility for pagans. They would bring the tree into their homes to worship it with the hope that it would be a source of blessing.

In 1900, only 1 in 5 homes in the U.S. had a Christmas tree! And today??? Nearly everyone has a Christmas tree -- Christian and pagan alike. Even our church displays a large Christmas tree in the front of the sanctuary. It's just a little bit interesting that we {Christians} celebrate Christmas nearly the same as our pagan neighbors ...

{There is TONS more you can read about all of this ... I also gleaned information from the movie The Unwrapping of Christmas.}

In essence, Christians tried to co-opt a secular holiday and claim it for their purposes -- possibly similar to what we've been trying to do with Halloween??? This happened, of course, before any of us were born and the Christmas customs have now been handed down for many generations ... and it seems like most Christians now believe that the December 25 celebration has always been the Christmas the Christians celebrate. But the Puritans didn't celebrate Christmas and regarded it as pagan -- "in fact, Congress was in session on the first Christmas under America’s new constitution on December 25, 1789. In 1828, New York city formed the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot! Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870." {thethirdlittlepig.com} You've heard "Put the Christ back in Christmas" and similar slogans. These jingles were, I'm certain, created with wonderful intentions ... but things like this just strike me as very strange now that I know that the December 25 celebrations didn't in fact originate around Christ and now that I know his date of birth was probably late September.

Don't misunderstand me. I like Christmas. I like wreaths, cookies, outdoor lights, and vintage glass ornaments. I like a lot of the Christmas carols. Who doesn't love Joy to the World or Oh Come Let Us Adore Him??? But now that I have more knowledge ... it seems odd for me to teach my kids that Christmas is really all about the birth of Christ.

What I think I want to say is that it was a pagan festival and Christians have tried {perhaps in vain} to claim it for Jesus ... and much confusion has been created in the process. A new, pretty Christmas song that I've just heard this year sings about His birth "two thousand Decembers ago". But it wasn't two thousand Decembers ago. I acknowledge that our Christmas is a FAR CRY from the debauchery of hundreds of years ago ... but still ... is it truly a celebration of Jesus' birth???

What does Christmas, in our day, mostly consist of??? Carols {many of them not about Christ}, shopping, cookies, stress, outdoor lights, stockings hung by the fire, Christmas trees, ornaments, parties, Frosty, giving gifts, wish lists, getting gifts, mistletoe, cards, eating, more shopping, Santa and Rudolph ... Most of it has little to do with Christ ... although we say it's really all about Christ. It seems like a celebration of materialism ... of stuff. Does anyone else feel the dissonance here?

I've heard that we receive gifts because Jesus did ... or perhaps we give gifts because the wise men did. I just don't see the connection. Should we start following stars??? Shall we put our babies in feeding troughs??? The wise men didn't give gifts to each other because it was Jesus' birthday ... only to Jesus. Can you imagine ... one wise man giving a gift to another wise man because it's Jesus Birthday Party??? And what about the gifts??? Was it just something they picked up because they HAD to give a gift??? No. They were meaningful gifts -- eternally meaningful. The mhyrr, for example, was a burial embalming spice -- indicative of his death. His death, after all, is really what he was born for. He wouldn't have come otherwise. "Christ Jesus came into the world TO SAVE SINNERS ..." {I Timothy 1:15} Maybe we should give each other urns or gift certificates to funeral homes??? Just kidding :) Just kidding!!!

I don't know what, if any, the solution is or could be. I don't have the answers ... I'm just asking the questions. Ideally -- although nothing is ever ideal -- we would celebrate Jesus' birth in the fall. It would hopefully be less like our Christmas with all of its commercialism and consumerism ... and perhaps more like our Thanksgiving??? But what would we do beyond share a meal and read the birth narrative??? Might that be plenty??? We probably wouldn't want to sing all of our carols that seamlessly blend truth and myth ... plus there wouldn't be snow ... or mistletoe ... or trees. What about our WHITE Christmas??? And oh dear ... where would we put our presents??? Or maybe there wouldn't be any ...

But ... perhaps we don't even need to annually recognize Jesus' birth in any significant celebratory manner anyway. After all ... the early church never did -- not for three whole centuries! It wasn't until the fourth century that they began to celebrate Christ's birth -- but it wasn't anything like we do it today. God could have told us the date of Jesus' birth and then we could celebrate it on the correct day ... but ... maybe He didn't tell us for a reason???


Nikki said...

Good Thoughts! (From one un-fun friend to the next;-)

gianna said...

I love this! Thanks!

LBB said...

Very interesting! I do agree it is good to think about WHY we do the things we do...especially something so all-consuming as the Christmas season...it has become more than just a day but a whole month or so of preparations and whatnot...which can be fun and there are good things about it but can be very distracting...and you're right, why should we say we're doing all of that to celebrate Jesus' birth when in reality many of the things we're doing really have nothing to do with that? It seems to take a large effort for many to often remember the whole point of Christmas being about Jesus as we all get caught up in the details and stress and shopping, etc...and if what you're saying is correct, then perhaps that is for a reason... Good things to think about and talk about. It is good and bold to think about important things like this and do the research you did rather than mindlessly going through life doing what we always do just because that's what we've always done. Okay, don't know if I'm making much sense any more...need more sleep! But good, interesting post. Thanks for sharing! :)

Bren said...

I believe that Christmas like 4th of July or Thanksgiving can be about Jesus if you make it about Jesus. I am so thankful to be able to love the Lord outloud and pray wherever I want and that is what the 4th of July is about at our house. I believe it is what you make it about at your house. I would never think that anything is solely Christian in the world we live with exception to the Bible.

Dana said...

Thanks for all of the feedback :)

Peabody said...

Great post Dana! We have also wondered, read about and researched some of those same things. I'm going to print your post and keep it in my files! :) Thanks!