About this time every year someone comes up to me and starts talking about the pagan traditions of Christmas. The tradition of a Christmas tree, for instance, is said to have originated with the pagan practice of bringing evergreen boughs, or a “Yule Tree” into the home as a symbol of the new life that would come after the winter.
People also complain that the 25th of December has nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus. Historians believe He was likely born in the springtime. Some scholars maintain that December 25th was only adopted in the 4th Century as a Christian holiday by the Roman Emperor Constantine, to encourage a common religious festival for both Christians and pagans. Historical documents do not seem to bear this out, however. There is no actual evidence, beyond assumptions, that the holiday was actually instituted by the Emperor. In fact most evidence indicates that it was adopted decades after his death in most parts of the Empire.
Another thing that usually crops up at Christmas is the use of Xmas. Many Christians take offense to this, feeling it somehow denigrates the name of Christ. The word Christmas is a contraction of Christ's Mass, derived from the Old English Cristes mæsse and referring to the religious ceremony of the Catholic mass. The abbreviation Xmas probably came about because the English letter X resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi), the first letter of Christ in Greek (Χριστός transliterated as [Christos]). Xmas is pronounced the same as Christmas, but most people just say X-Mas.
Whether or not you know and believe this information, the celebration of Christmas is now, and forevermore will be a Christian event. These days there is a movement afoot to get rid of the traditional holiday names and greetings all together. “Merry Christmas” has been amended to “Happy Holidays,” nativity scenes are banned from many public places and more and more secular music is taking the place of the long-sung carols.
But none of this can change the fact that Christ is at the core of Christmas.
It was the Christ child who was born to save the world, the Christ man who lived among us and taught us about His Father, the Christ God who died on that cross over two thousand years ago, to accomplish His Father’s will. No speculations about origins, no attempt to secularize the traditions will change that reality.
Whether or not you know and believe in the Christ, He was born in a stable in Palestine, He did walk the earth performing miracle after miracle, He was tried by Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
Whether or not you believe he was God, He was raised from the dead by his Father after three days and because of Him all of us have access to God and the hope of eternal life.
That’s the story of Christmas. That’s reason to celebrate, no matter what.
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