The reason for the Christmas season
By Navindra Fernando
Christmas (the mass of Christ) is celebrated on 25 December. For Christians, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised Son of God. His birth, life, and death was prophesied in great detail thousands of years before he was actually born, but no one has been successful in tracing the exact day He was born. 25 December was actually the day of the “sun god”, a pagan celebration of the ancient Roman empire, which was adopted by the church in Rome to celebrate the birthday of the Son of God in an attempt to help make the religious practice more culturally sensitive. This tradition, however, has been passed down for generations and is celebrated by Christians all over the world to commemorate the birth of their Saviour – Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”.
Then who is Santa? Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch word for Saint Nicholas – Sinterklaas) often takes the spotlight during Christmas time. He was a real person, a Fourth-Century Bishop of Myra and a saint (the feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated on 5 or 6 December in the western world and on 19 December in the eastern world). He was known to come on horseback to reward sweets and presents to good children and lumps of coal for the bad in his bishop’s mitre and a bishop’s red robe. His legend was taken to America and Europe and was adopted as “Santa Claus”, and esteemed in the season of gift giving, or Christmas, the season where God “gave” His Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for all the world.
Why the Christmas tree? Although Jesus was born in the East, the evergreen trees that are decorated remind Christians of the everlasting love of God who sent His one and only Son for the salvation of the world. It is also a reminder of the everlasting life that is available to all those who believe. The triangular shape also depicts the Holy Trinity or the Triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Christmas tree tradition also starts from the Roman empire which decorated fir trees with lights for their festivals, but the popularity of the Christmas tree tradition is credited to the Germans.
A star or an angel is usually placed atop the tree, the star depicting the star over Bethlehem that led the Magi (the wise men) who discovered, by their astrological knowledge, that a king was born and led them to visit baby Jesus with gifts. The angel symbolises those who first appeared to tell the shepherds in the fields that the promised Messiah (the anointed one/the Christ/the promised Saviour) has been born that night, who they rushed to see in the manger.
The humble birth of Jesus, or Christmas, is the reason for the season. It is truly a magical time as people all over the world unite to celebrate together and give to one another and share love, hope, joy, and peace – a time for reflecting the year gone by and a time of preparation for the one to come.
May you all enjoy the magic of Christmas this season!