Christmas is a hugely popular holiday celebrated by some 2 billion people worldwide. It has become such an ingrained part of modern culture that even people in nations with little or no Christian history or tradition are celebrating it in increasing numbers.
Christmas is so big that it plays a key role in the economies of many nations. In the US retail industry, the day after the thanksgiving holiday is commonly known as ‘Black Friday’ – not because its bad, but because this marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and stores that have been ‘in the red’ (operating at a loss all year) suddenly see sales shoot up so fast that they are now operating in the black (at a profit) for the rest of the year. ‘Black Friday’ is the biggest shopping day of the year due to its closeness to Christmas sales.
Christmas is big – very BIG. Schools and colleges commonly take 2 weeks or longer break at this time. Some business close down for the period covering Christmas Eve up to the day after New Years Day. Many families plan trips and get-togethers and bizarrely, some people even darken the door of a church for the first and only time of the year!
Without being a ‘humbug’ there are elements that I believe contribute to creating a ‘rip off Christmas’. Year by year it’s getting worse. For some people, this turns the whole festive season into one large nightmare. Much of it is centred on being bigger and better than the previous year.
Christmas lights appear in late November in town centres, and trees that adorn High Streets are ever higher with more lights and flashy things. Interestingly enough, the huge Christmas tree donated by the city of Oslo in Trafalgar Square had two homeless people sleeping at its base for 2 weeks last year. So much for a festive sharing time!
A national brand (global as well), are advertising on the local radio to get ‘one over’ your neighbours by buying bigger and better ‘things’. Unbelievable!
Here are some things you may know about Christmas, or not…
Christmas is mentioned nowhere in the Bible
This is rather obvious, but most people never give it a second thought. The books of the New Testament cover 30+ years of Christ’s life, then another 30+ years of the foundation of the early church following his death and resurrection. But nowhere do we find a hint of a Christmas celebration or anything remotely like it.
THE first Christmas celebrated in Britain is thought to have been in York in 521 AD.
Christmas is almost completely driven now by commercialism
I think that the holiday has become a road show of reindeer, winter scenes, elves and a God substitute – Santa Claus. All of this is a front for merchants seeking to play on the guilt of parents whose children ‘persuade’ them to buy presents that will probably fall apart or get discarded within days or worse hours.
According to a November poll conducted by Gallup, the average shopper intends to spend an average of £650 on gifts this year. Of all those surveyed, 30% however, plan on spending over £785.
Jesus wasn’t born on or near 25th December
As it turns out, the likelihood was that Jesus was actually born in the month of June or the autumn – the fact is no-one actually knows. All we can do is make educated guesses from the scriptures and from records that were kept in those days. These include the Roman Empire census and Greek philosophers writing about the time. All of them when researched would most definitely lead us to recognise that Jesus was not born during the winter.
Christmas is in fact a recycled Pagan festival
History shows that December 25 was popularized as the date for Christmas, not because Christ was born on that day, but because it was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun or the rebirth of light over dark. Every winter, Romans honored the pagan god Saturn, the god of agriculture, with a festival that began on December 17 and usually ended on or around December 25 with a winter-solstice celebration in honor of the beginning of the new solar cycle.
Whatever you are doing at Christmas this year, be sure to have a really good time. Be sure to deliver one random act of kindness and where there is someone in need, be of service to them. And as that fantastic comedian Dave Allen of yester year would say, “and may your God go with you”.