Charles Dickens, the author famous for writing A Christmas Carol, once wrote:
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Almost all religions have some sort of holiday that captures this spirit; for countries with a Christian tradition, Christmas is indeed that holiday. However, in countries like the United States, Christmas has become much more than a Christian religious celebration. It is celebrated as a holiday season by both believers and non-believers. It’s the culmination of the holiday shopping season. Manufacturers and retailers depend on good holiday sales to help them make it through the year. The Christmas season, like no other time of the year, tests supply chains and logistics systems that have to move all of the Christmas goodies around the world and into homes.
As noted above, the holiday season that we now experience has evolved over the years from a solemn religious service to a secular celebration. Christians, of course, still embrace the birth of their Messiah as the reason for the season; but, even most of them get caught up in the lights, presents, and wonder of today’s holiday celebrations.
The Christmas celebration is an eclectic conglomeration of many traditions. No one knows the exact day on which Jesus of Nazareth was born; so early Christians decided to adapt pagan winter solstice celebrations, which marked the end of shortening days, as the time they would celebrate the birth of a child they considered to be the light of the world. The History Channel notes, “The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world.” [“Christmas“] The article goes to provide some examples of such celebrations that have contributed to today’s Christmas traditions. For example, the Norse contributed the Yule Log. The Germans contributed the idea of a god (Oden) who would fly through the skies at night blessing the good and punishing the bad. Christians replaced Oden with the kindly St. Nicholas, who, over the years, evolved into Santa Claus, a magical individual who once again took to the skies and who knew who had been naughty and who had been nice. The Romans contributed the feasts and celebrations.
According to a website called Merry-Christmas.com, the tradition of putting up Christmas trees began in Latvia in the sixteenth century. The site also adds the following facts: the commercial sale of Christmas trees in the U.S. was started by Mark Carr in 1851. The first President to decorate a tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce. The first President to light a national Christmas tree was Calvin Coolidge. Among the traditions most associated with the holiday, however, one stands out: gift giving. That tradition can be traced back to the biblical account of the three magi who searched for the newly born King of Israel so that they could present him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Although some people believe that gift giving has buried the true meaning of Christmas underneath mountains of festive wrappings and colorful ribbons, I believe that such giving helps keep alive a spirit of generosity that accompanies this time of year. It is my hope that you catch this spirit of generosity and look around to see how you might help someone in need this holiday season. That will help you capture the true meaning of Christmas regardless of your religious leanings. I agree with Roy L. Smith, who once said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
From all of us at Enterra Solutions®, have a very merry Christmas.