It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Family traditions bolster joyous feelings. They ground us as we remember Christmas’ past and the friends and relatives with which we share them. Has secularism stolen Christmas? Looking at where our favorite traditions have their roots, Christianity in Christmas is still very much alive and well, even if the world doesn’t acknowledge it. Several favorite traditions are steeped in Christian belief.
Gift-giving is most widely thought of as the number one tradition of Christmas. Ask any child and that will be their first answer. Children circle gift ideas in magazines, stroll websites for ideas, shop on Amazon with or without parental guidance, and drool over toy aisles in the stores.
Around 336 AD December 25 was established as the traditional day of Jesus’s birth. Gifts were tied into the day because of the Magi’s gifts presented to young Jesus. An additional story of a fourth-century Christian bishop gift-giver became part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom and other countries. His name was Saint Nicholas. Gifts were given early in Advent, on Saint Nicholas Day.[i] This legendary bishop was known to help the poor and needy, especially children and became regarded as a guardian of children. Now, known as Santa Claus.
Christians adopted the use of evergreen trees as a symbol of eternal life. The modern-day Christmas tree can be traced back to 15th century Germany.[ii] Americans will decorate 25-35 million live trees this year and millions more artificial trees will decorate many more homes.[iii]
Along with lighting Christmas trees, lighting homes inside and outside is a family favorite tradition. Light is a symbol of Christ, the light of the world, as Jesus said in John 8:12. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” A friend and partner of Thomas Edison brought us the first Christmas lights in 1882. By 1895 President Cleveland requested hundreds of multi-colored electric light bulbs for the White House family Christmas tree.[iv] Hundreds of millions of lights will light up the globe this year at Christmas. Christians are not hiding their light “under a bushel”.
As we embrace these traditions and others that we share, let us continue to find Christ in Christmas. When there is a temptation to withdraw and shun the gaudy attempts of the world to paganize this holiest season, let us share the love of Christ. Smile at every Christmas tree and know that the light is Jesus and the tree is His promise of eternity. As we shop for gifts and give them to loved ones, hold dear the gift of God’s Son, and remember the Magi who followed a great light to the King of Kings and Lord of Lord.
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[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_gift [ii] https://www.britannica.com/plant/Christmas-tree [iii] https://www.minted.com/lp/christmas-traditions [iv] https://www.thepositivemom.com/history-and-meaning-of-christmas-