Description of Christmas.

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Description of Christmas.Christmas is a time or period of great celebration and pomp, a time when most Christians shelf their denominational differences and come together to celebrate the greatest feast in the Christian calendar. This is done on December 25th, a day during which working cease, in a similar fashion to other Christian feasts such as Easter and Christians go into a festive mood to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Many celebrations, especially those in the more traditional set up, involve the consumption of copious quantities of food and drink. Many slaughter animals and invite both friends and family in jubilation. Metropolitan families and city dwellers travel into the country side to meet and join their extended families and celebrate together. This is the African way of doing it, whereby there is a belief that Christmas celebrations should have the whole family, if possible. African Christmas feasts reflect that firm belief in the importance of a family unit and its unity both during good times and bad. Some Western societies are more reserved in the role of family in celebrating Christmas, preferring to keep family gathering optional.

Christmas being a Christian festival is never complete without a church gathering or mass conducted by a priest or religious leader. This has been the tradition for centuries, whereby come December 25th, all else is shelved and people gather in church for sermons and mass before going about their celebratory activities. But contention lies in the true meaning of Christmas and its declaration as Christ’s birthday. Some scholars’ belief its roots lie in pagan myth and idolatry. Steiner explored this extensively in his research into the roots of Christmas (1

Definition of Christmas.

Christmas can be extensively defined based on two perspectives that have been thoroughly researched and written about. These two fronts from which to look at this festival’s true meaning both contradict and fight each other but still remain relevant based on the amount of evidence they present.

From a Christian point of view, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, also known as the messiah or savior of man. Ancient text foretold of the coming of a savior who would deliver man from sin. The Bible itself, the basis of all these facts points to prophets like John the Baptist telling followers of this. His predecessors, all the way to the early days of God’s creation all revolve around the coming of Emmanuel, or ‘the chosen one’. This clearly points to that day, December 25th according to current practice, when Mary ‘the virgin’ gave birth to Jesus under very humble circumstances. This is the basis of Christians all around the world celebrating this birth, as Jesus Christ’s birthday.

The second perspective from which to look at Christmas is the more controversial of the two. It is rooted in ancient pagan rituals practiced in Egypt, parts of Asia and northern Europe where gods of the sun and other idols were celebrated during days set like Christmas. A lot of religious lobbying has gone into the hiding and exclusion of such facts from normal foundation learning in religion, especially in British-based curriculums and American systems, but it is common knowledge that Dec 25th is indeed a celebration of ‘saturnalia’, a Roman festival of idolatry and lawlessness occurring between Dec 17th and 25th. The British are exceptionally proud of Christmas, something which tends to raise a lot of eyebrows especially in light of the fact that Romans celebrated ‘saturnalia’. This is exemplified by the numerous literature praising the ‘Englishness of Christmas’, where the meaning of order itself was married in definition to Christmas since “by 1931 the fact that Christmas was recognized as a key part of an Englishman’s concept of the natural order of things was of supreme importance in understanding that order” (Connelly 10). Certain Christmas customs support the pagan perspective in understanding the meaning or definition of Christmas. These include; mistletoe, originating from Norse mythology recounting the death of god Balder, the Christmas tree, originating from Asheira cultic practices and Christmas presents: a tradition of Roman festivals of ‘saturnalia’ (December) and ‘kalends’ (January).

The history of Christmas.

It is now obvious that Christmas day was indeed a day of celebration for the Romans, during which ‘saturnalia’ – the festival of lawlessness and unaccountability would be celebrated. Courts would be closed and no one would be held accountable for damage to property or life. Widespread nudity, intoxication and sexual irresponsibility were marked characteristics of this ritualistic celebration, as observed in Greek poetry by the historian Lucian. These pagan rituals moved from these heathens into Christian culture after many of them were promised they would continue practicing their rituals as long as they converted to Christianity. The fact that ‘saturnalia’ had no connection or relationship whatsoever with Christianity was remedied by its naming Christmas day by church leaders. This however presented a problem when Christmas day, as ‘saturnalia’ came to be known as, continued to be celebrated in the traditional way. Drinking, nudity and sex in publicity were still observed.

The most interesting facts about this changes and assimilation of pagan rites into Christian culture were the development of carols and presents, especially those famous German and English cookies. In ancient Rome, the masses would be seen eating human-shaped biscuits while singing naked in the streets. These are considered by many scholars to be the precursors of modern day cookies and carols. Slowly but surely, ‘saturnalia’ rites were included and fused with Christian ones, partly by religious leaders and partly by worshipers themselves. A good example of the former was demonstrated in 1466, when for the amusement purposes, Pope Paul the second forced naked Jews to run in the street, much to the delight of Romans. These development has continued, mixed with innocence and ignorance into what most people look forward to; Christmas day on December 25th.

Conclusion.

If opinions were to be freely formed about Christmas, its relevance and importance, many would do so in a hugely biased manner. Commercial, religious as well as social interests would be at the forefront of these processes. Colonial rule and global supremacy have influenced Christianity a lot. They introduced ignorance and the watered down truths with which the now independent former colonies operate. As earlier pointed out, British and American-based curriculum often chooses to exclude the real truths while teaching religious studies.

Current political situation will also influence opinion making concerning Christianity. The existence of peace and tranquility is of prime importance especially during these tense times, and the propagation of pagan rites in Christian festival is slightly less prioritized in favor of peaceful Christmas celebrations. All in all, it is obvious the festive is of prime importance, regardless of the origins or customs.

Works cited.

Connelly, Mark. Chistmas: A History. I.B. Turis, 2012. Print.

Steiner, Rudolf. The festivals and their meaning: Christmas, Easter Ascension and Pentecost. New York City: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008. Print.

Ratsch, Christian. Muller-Ebeling, Claudia. Pagan Christmas: The plants, Spirits and Rituals at the origins of Yuletide. Hamburg: Inner Traditions/ Bear, 2006. Print.

Kelly, Joseph. The Origins of Christmas. Ohio: Liturgical Press, 2004. Print.