Christmas is regarded as a special time of
year characterized by joy and happiness by billions of people
around the world. In the United States and many other countries,
Christmas is a formal holiday. But not everybody looks forward to
celebrating this special day. There are several countries where
Christmas is not observed, including many in the Middle East, North
Africa, and Asia.
As I thought about Christmas this past week,
and the meaning of Christmas, I realized that it needs to be
considered in three different contexts: religious, secular, and
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a
Jewish boy who was thought to be the anointed one. It happened in a
small, walled outpost of a town in an area that is now known as the
West Bank. Ironically, this is a piece of real estate where humans
have been invading, conquering, persecuting, and killing each other
from the beginning of time. Does this seem a bit cynical?
Probably not the way a good Christian would describe this seminal
In the Christian faith, Christmas
is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, a time of hope
and joy in the belief that God came into the world in the form of a
man to atone for the sins of humanity. The jingle bells and
stocking hung in a row came much later.
I think just about everyone knows that
Christmas is, at its roots, a religious festival. It wasn’t until
the fourth century that “the church” chose the date for Christmas
to be December 25, which also happens to be exactly nine months
after the Mary was told by the archangel Gabriel, according to the
Gospel of Luke, that she was going to have a baby who would be the
Son of God.
Predictably, significant disagreements
eventually occurred over these ecclesiastical proclamations.
Obviously, many of the Jews remained unconvinced that Jesus was the
Son of God. Even some of the Christians didn't agree on the
details. The Eastern Christian Churches decided to celebrate
Christmas on December according to their older Julian calendar
rather than the Gregorian calendar. According to the Julian
calendar this date corresponds to January 7. Several centuries
later, the Muslims, while they do believe in Jesus, didn’t think
December was the correct date of his birth either. They decided it
was more likely sometime in the Fall, but they don’t celebrate the
birthdays of religious figures. So, no Christmas in Islam.
The tradition of giving
gifts at Christmas time began with our pagan rituals. Those crazy
pagans really knew how to have a good time, and the guys in charge
of Christianity in those days knew it would be useful to fold some
of those pagan rituals into Christmas. They could say, for example,
that the tradition of bearing gifts began with the Magi – you know,
the Three Wise Men. They came bearing gold, frankincense, and
myrrh. You’ve got to admit that gold is a pretty nice gift, but the
frankincense (which is incense) and the myrrh (an embalming oil)
are kind of weird. But in those days, I guess they were cool
You may have heard the term “wassailing”.
Wassail is spiced wine or ale. That’s what people did in the old
days. They went wassailing on Christmas Eve and on the Twelfth
Night – they were partying, trying to get the rich people to give
the poor people some brewski. By the 1800s, gift giving focused
more on children to be given by various versions of Santa Claus.
There was Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Babbo Natale,
Papa Noel, and Sinterklaas, to name a few. A poem by Clement Clarke
Moore came out in 1820, which eventually became known as “ ‘Twas
the Night before Christmas”. Thus, the secular version of Christmas
began to evolve.
A lot of people, including me, thought that
the use of “Xmas” was a deliberate attempt to take the Christ out
of Christmas as a way to de-emphasize the religious aspect of the
holiday. (Damn heathens!) In fact, Xmas has been a common
abbreviation for Christmas as far back as the twelfth century. You
see, the ‘X’ comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first
letter of the Greek word Christos, which means “anointed”. Get
Nevertheless, it’s true that many people today
don’t pay much attention to the religious connection to Christmas.
For many millions, Christmas is a time for joy and merriment, a
good reason to indulge in general-purpose pagan hedonism. Families
gather together, conifer trees are decorated, lights are affixed to
the outside of houses, parties and feasts are planned, and the
mind-boggling buying frenzy commences.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of modern-day
Christmas is the amount of money that is spent each year - $886.7
billion in 2021, just in the US. The average American spends around
$800 on gifts, food, and decorations. Businesses begin priming the
spending orgy as early as October. In the United States,
Thanksgiving is considered the official kickoff for revving up the
holiday spirit. There are nearly 10,000 Christmas songs worldwide,
more Christmas movies than anyone could watch in a lifetime (by
October, Paula is chomping at the bit to begin watching them), and
approximately 2 billion Christmas cards are sent every year in the
Even the stock market benefits from Christmas.
It’s called the Santa Claus effect and can often result in a one to
two percent increase in market performance in the last five trading
days of the outgoing year and the first two trading days of the
incoming one. Ah, capitalism!
Unfortunately, Christmas is not a joyous time
for everyone. There are many people who are down and out and can’t
afford to participate in the holiday merriment. There are people
who have lost their job, who were recently divorced, are mourning
the loss of a loved one, or suffer from a plethora of mental and
physical health issues. They may be sitting out Christmas on the
sideline. There are also Grinches, but it’s hard to feel bad for
Christmas also brings out the goodness and
generosity in many people. Fortunately, there are several
organizations in nearly every community who invest a lot of energy
trying to help those who need a hand. It’s uplifting to help
others, but it is also difficult to discover just how many people
are in trouble. If there is a single point of unity in the
Christmas spirit, whether religious, secular, or commercial, I hope
it’s the inclination to be generous in one’s attitude toward others
and to invest a little time to spread Christmas joy where it’s most
Those are my thoughts about the holiday
season. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a
Happy Holiday, whatever it is that you celebrate. Be good to each
Perhaps some of you are still trying to decide what to give
someone for Christmas. Well, a book makes a mighty fine gift They
are small, relatively inexpensive (mine are all priced under $20),
and they're easy to wrap. What else can you give to someone under
$20 that provides them with the means to take a trip without
leaving their chair?
The ebook versions of many any of my novels are now on sale at
50% off at Smashwords.com/shelves/promos. They are the largest
distributor of ebooks for self-published authors in the world. This
sale began on December 15, 2023, and ends on January 1, 2024.
So, as they say on TV, act now! If you read books on Kindle,
Barnes & Noble's Nook Book, IPad or IPod, or many other platforms,
then this is the ideal time to cash in on the sale. Just $3.99 for
any of my books.
Also, I just checked on Amazon, and my romance, ghost story,
murder mystery, Billy Bean's Ghost, is on sale right now. The
paperback version is only $8.50 - half off! You can also order the
audio book version for $17.46.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
The picture at the top of this blog is part of our holiday
decorations for the front of our house.