TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY

Christmas TreeHo! Ho! Ho! as the fat man would say. Our family formally launched the celebration of the holiday season. To accomplish this task we staged a small gathering to decorate the Christmas tree. I assumed the most difficult task in the group. From the comfort of a plush sofa I supervised the whole project. My efforts included sipping fine champagne and munching on excellent hors d’oeuvres while my minions decorated the boughs. Of course, under my superior tutelage the tree turned out beautifully!

Of all of the holidays of the year the yuletide season is the most celebrated of all. It is “The Wonderful Time of the Year” (hear the tune) where families get together to sing and decorate and enjoy special culinary treats. Especially tis year the season has been prolonged, extending from beforeThanksgiving through the New Year. It has embraced a broad mixture of Christian symbols and manifestations from other religions and cultural sources. At present, the mode of celebration tends to be much more dominated by secular practices than by Christian imagery.

Every year a well-watched television station laments an alleged War on Christmas. It is insisted upon that we put Christ back into Christmas because Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, making it very Christian! Of course, a war is not a new phenomenon. The Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas and made it illegal in Massachusets because it had pagan origins. (The superficial reason for the banning was to avoid intoxication and debauchery.)

Getting back to our Christmas tree. I am certain that children participated in the decoration of this nordic pagan symbol throughout history. How could this harmless practice be regarded as evil? Yet, the book of Jeremiah specifically cautions Gods people “to avoid the way of the heathen whose customs are vain.” This caveat specifically refers to cutting a tree out of the forest and decorating it with silver and gold. Perhaps we should we ask forgiveness for a very pleasant evening.

In further examining the details of the yule season we might look at the date which Christmas is celebrated. We do not know the exact date of Christ’s birth. There seems to be general agreement that it probably was not in December. It was not the custom for shepherds to tend their flocks in the field during cold winter nights during the rainy season. The majority of scholars agree that the celebration of the supposed birthday of Christ corresponded with the pagan Roman holiday of Saturnalia. December 25 was also the birth of the Persian god Mithra. These were Important festivities with revelry and debauchery. Much to the disappointment of the church fathers, the pagan world was unwilling to forego them. The genius of the early church was to allow the celebration of pagan holidays by changing them into Christian holy days and renaming them with Christian names. Thus, Saturnalia metamorphosed into the birth of the Christ child. It is probably difficult for traditional Christians to accept the idea that Christmas is deeply rooted in pagan customs and religions. Perhaps acknowledging this idea might be regarded as a war against Christmas. If so, let it be. Meanwhile enjoy the happiness of the season. Eat, drink and be merry. Or as the good book states, “Eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart for God now accepts thy works.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOUR KIN.

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