Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Traditions

In this season of Christmas I have been reflecting on customs and traditions.  Many of them are a mystery in origin to me. Some are mentioned in carols or come from long-forgotten sources, but I am still bound to them. The Christmas Tree is the first and most obvious one to explain or investigate.

 Evergreen branches were used by ancient cultures as a symbol of the return of Spring, and as a tribute to the pagan gods those cultures worshiped long before the Christian community began commemorating Christmas. 

The actual date and even the month are lost in time, but most scholars believe it to have been in the spring or early summer when the weather had warmed enough for men and animals not be at risk in the open fields..

December 25 was first suggested as early as 273 as the date of Jesus' birth. The date was accepted in 336  in the West after Constantine proclaimed his kingdom to be Christian. In the East, January 6 was observed for many years, but it was eventually accepted as the date of Epiphany, the time of the visitation of the Wise Men. 

After the date of December 25 became universally accepted, it was still a long time before the Christmas tree became a standard in homes and city squares and businesses. The Christmas Tree decorated with lights and ornaments came to the United States from Germany about 1840 with German immigrants. 

I am amazed at the multitude of myths, traditions, and customs that have arisen around Christmas. Some carry a spiritual message and some are just fun and foolishness, but the message is one of hope and affirmation. Make your traditions meaningful and share them with your loved ones--make joyous memories.

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