Christmas remains strong as social, economic and spiritual event
Dayton, TN — Christmas remains king of the Holidays, even as American society changes, Christmas remains strong as social, economic and spiritual event. No other holiday comes close to Christmas as not just a day or a weekend but a season that runs from after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve. No other holiday runs as long and has the songs, the stories and decorations as Christmas. No other holiday involves the expenditure of money on decorations, and presents. No other holiday has quite the tremendous amount of Christmas concerts, pageants, parades, plays and the increasing appearance of Santa at businesses, festivals, and many non-profit events. No other holiday has the explosion of pictures of kids and grandchildren on social media.
But even with the differences in the way Christians interact with communities today(much more integrated and less evangelic as a whole), the Christian aspects of Christmas remain. Though the date of his birth is most likely not December 25th, the fact of his birth does not bring about a lot of controversy. Now do a lot of non religious accept the deity of Jesus. Probably not. Unlike Easter, Jesus gets a more of a pass from society as they enjoy the uniqueness of a young child born in a manger. So Christmas is still an opportunity for Christian to evangelize via the birth of Jesus, without all the opposition they find at other times of the year. Christmas is at its core a time of peace.
Christmas also bring about a time of tremendous charity as many businesses and people not only buy gifts for each other but donate to local charities so that those without the resources can receive gifts. There are also food give a ways and other acts of charity around the time of Christmas. People when they slow down from frantic shopping, take time to be more nice to each other and “Merry Christmas” is still heard throughout the season, despite efforts to tone down this message and go with more non-religious Happy Holidays or similar greeting.
Now we must not discount that Christmas can also be a time of loneliness, sadness for some and hopefully we do our best to reach out to those individuals at the time. Christmas does not solve all the world’s problems but it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and explore his impact on lives throughout the year.
Short History of Christmas in America
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. Today most would agree the birth of Jesus occurred in the Spring. Shepherd in the field in Winter would be very unusual. Over the next 300 years, Christmas had spread all over the world. Interestingly the Christmas holiday was not the one you see in America today. There was a lot of partying and it was raucous in nature, with lots of drinking, partying, and eating.
Because of it’s unchristian like nature, and the fact that many of the early American immigrants were very conservative Christians, Christmas was not widely celebrated in American until the 1800s.
In the early 1800s Americans began to reinvent the holiday. They started combining ancient Christmas traditions with modern American influences.
In 1819, the popular American writer Washington Irving wrote a series of five essays published in a book called “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.” These essays gave base to some of the traditions we associate with Christmas. By the mid century some of the more family oriented traditions found their way into American society with Christmas Trees, presents and sweets. Around this time, some of the traditional songs we hold fond memories of were written. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, The song “Jingle Bells” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” were written.
Over the next few years Christmas caught on with 15 State making it the State Holiday by 1860 and in 1870 President U.S. Grant made Christmas a National Holiday.
Later came Santa Claus, who is based on the story of Saint Nicholas, a Christian holy person believed to have lived in the third century. Saint Nicholas became known as a protector of children. In his role as a Christmas hero, different cultures have given him different names. These include Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle and Father Christmas. But for most Americans his most popular name would become Santa Claus.
So Christmas in America has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve, much like society does. Hopefully it will retain its more important aspects as we go forward. But until then, “Merry Christmas”.