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Summary: A look at some of the traditions of Christmas and why we celebrate it.

CHRISTMAS, AIN'T IT GREAT? ALL THE TRADITION AND HYPE, ALL OF THE SACRED AND SECULAR, ALL OF THE GIVING AND ALL OF THE GETTING. BUT HAVE YOU EVER STOPPED TO ASK YOUR SELF "WHY CHRISTMAS?" WHY DOES THE ENTIRE WORLD SEEM TO QUEUE UP TO AT LEAST ACKNOWLEDGE THE 25TH OF DECEMBER. WHERE DID CHRISTMAS COME FROM? FOR JUST A MOMENT LET'S IGNORE THE OBVIOUS THAT IT IS THE CELEBRATION OF CHRIST'S BIRTH BECAUSE IF WE WERE TOTALLY HONEST TODAY THAT ISN'T WHAT IT MEANS TO THE VAST MAJORITY OF FOLKS WHO CELEBRATE IT. WHERE DID IT COME FROM AND WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE TRADITIONS THAT SURROUND IT.

AS MANY PEOPLE REALISE THE DATE OF CHRISTMAS WAS ORIGINALLY USED IN PAGAN CELEBRATIONS IN ROME TO CELEBRATE THE PASSING OF THE WINTER SOLACE. THE ANCIENTS KNEW THAT BY THIS TIME IN DECEMBER THAT THE SHORTEST DAY AND LONGEST NIGHT HAD PASSED, AND WITH THAT CAME THE PROMISE OF LONGER DAYS, SHORTER NIGHTS AND EVENTUALLY SPRING. AROUND 270 A.D. EMPEROR AURELIAN CAPITALISED UPON THE HEATHEN WORSHIP OF THE SUN AND DECLARED DECEMBER 25TH AS THE BIRTHDAY OF THE UNCONQUERED SUN.

THE DATE OF DECEMBER 25TH AS THE CELEBRATION OF CHRIST BIRTH WAS FIRST SEEN IN A ROMAN CALENDAR DATING FROM APPROXIMATELY 336 A.D. IN A.D. 354 AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF LIBERIUS AS THE BISHOP OF ROME THE 25TH OF DECEMBER HAD BECOME THE OFFICIAL DATE FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH.

BUT REALLY. YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT IT IS VERY UNLIKELY THAT CHRIST WAS BORN DURING THE WINTER MONTHS OF ISRAEL. THOSE COLD AND WET WINTER'S NIGHTS. WHY NOT? GOOD QUESTION IN Luke 2:8 (quickview)  (NIV) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. THE USUALLY TIME FOR THE SHEEP TO BE KEEP IN THE FIELDS SURROUNDING BETHLEHEM IS AFTER THE LAST OF THE WINTER RAINS IN APRIL AND BEFORE THEY START UP AGAIN IN NOVEMBER.

BUT DECEMBER WASN'T ALWAYS THE CHOICE FOR CELEBRATING CHRIST'S BIRTHDAY, IN THE TWO HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF CHRIST CHRISTIANS CELEBRATED HIS BIRTH ON JANUARY 6, APRIL 19, MAY 20 AND SEVERAL OTHER DATES. A FEW YEARS AGO A BRITISH PHYSICIST AND ASTRONOMER, DAVID HUGHES, CALCULATED THAT THE DATE OF CHRIST'S BIRTH WAS SEPTEMBER 17TH 7 B.C. HE BASED THIS ON VARIOUS SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, INCLUDING THAT OF A CONJUNCTION OF TWO PLANETS, JUPITER AND SATURN, IN THE CONSTELLATION OF PISCES ON THAT DATE. HE CONCLUDES THAT THIS EXTRAORDINARY CELESTIAL DISPLAY WAS THE "STAR" SEEN BY THE DISTANT WISE MEN. BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT WE REALLY DON'T KNOW WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN. HISTORICALLY IT WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN BEFORE 4 B.C. WHICH WAS THE DEATH OF HEROD THE GREAT, AND BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER PATTERNS IT IS DOUBTFUL IF IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED OUTSIDE OF THAT SEVEN MONTH SPREAD BETWEEN APRIL AND NOVEMBER. BUT IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER DOES IT?

OTHER CHRISTMAS TRADITION COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. WELL THE EARLY PAGAN CULTURES FROM THE ROMANS TO THE EGYPTIANS TO THE CELTS USED EVERGREENS IN THEIR CELEBRATIONS TO SIGNIFY ETERNAL LIFE. THE CHRISTMAS TREE DIDN'T ACTUALLY COME INTO USAGE UNTIL APPROXIMATELY THE 16TH CENTURY, AND THE HOME OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE IS GERMANY. WHY WAS IT USED? HISTORY TELLS US THAT IT BECAME POPULAR BECAUSE OF A MIDEVIL PLAY ABOUT ADAM AND EVE THAT WAS PUT ON EACH YEAR IN DECEMBER. PART OF THE PRODUCTION WAS THE PARADISE TREE, A FIR TREE HUNG WITH APPLES SIGNIFYING THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT IN THE GARDEN. SO HAVING A "PARADISE TREE" IN YOUR HOUSE WAS IN THE BEGINNING A FAD. AT THE SAME TIME THOUGH WAS ANOTHER TRADITION IN GERMANY WAS THE CHRISTMAS PYRAMID, WHICH WAS A TRIANGULAR SHELVING UNIT THAT CHRISTMAS FIGURINES, AND FRUIT AND GIFTS WERE PUT ON. THE PYRAMID WAS DECORATED WITH A STAR, SIGNIFYING THE STAR OF THE EAST. EVENTUALLY THE PARADISE TREE AND CHRISTMAS PYRAMID MERGED AND WE HAVE THE CHRISTMAS TREE.


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