I have always been a fan of Christmas. All of it. The decorations, the spirit of giving, the excitment of receiving, yes, even the commercialism. It seems like Jesus actually takes a backseat during the holiday and it is difficult to see any correlation between the festivities and the man to whom the holiday is attributed.
But when you look at the history of Christmas things begin to make sense. Basically, that this wintertime celebration of the sun making a comeback was around for hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus and, when Rome made their official switch to Christianity, they just slapped a Jesus sticker on the holiday and called it their own. It wasn't even an arbitrary choice in selecting a birthday for JC, they intentionally went around at the solstice parties and said, "This good time is brought to you by the Son of God."
I was reading sites about Yule and Saturnalia and people gave suggestions about how to make the holiday more as it used to be. Wild ideas like:
Decorate with evergreens, pinecones and mistletoe. Decorate a tree with an emphasis on stars and suns. Decorate with reds, greens and whites. Give presents, preferably candles and dolls (figurines).
Sounds a little out there to me. They actually didn't seem to like killing the trees and bringing them indoors. They liked decorating live trees. That was the symbolism behind the evergreen, I guess: that it was impervious to winter; life, strength, vitality.
It seems like everyone can use a boost at this time of year. I wholly support the idea of celebrating the end of the darkest days of the year and the beginnning the light ones. And why can they still emphasize yule logs and mistletoe but totally play down the holiday tradition of getting it on, joining in with the earth as life is brought to the world again?
So much Christian doom and gloom about how man is so horrible that every time God looks at us he wants to strike us all down and someone like Jesus has to calm him down, "Now now, don't get nuts and kill them. If you must, just kill me, your son." And God says, "Well, just as long as there's some killing going on, I guess most of them can live to see another day."
Side note: I receive emails from Christians talking about how miraculous the survival stories of 9/11 are. A guy lived because it was his day to buy donuts for the office. A guy had to drop his son off at school. Stuff like that and then claiming that it was all part of God's master plan that those people were spared.
I find that very rude and disrespectful to suggest that on 9/11 God saved the people he liked and let the rest burn. Alluding that the people who died deserved it. Don't send me those emails anymore.
Given the history of Christmas, I find it ironic that we grow up hearing the phrase, "Let's all remember the true meaning of Christmas." Apparently, co-opted religious propoganda? From what I have read, it sounds as though celebrating birthdays was highly discouraged by the Christian church in the early days.
It was the end of the harvest. The work was done. It was cold but the solstice gave promise that the sun was coming back. Why not hang the decorations, eat and enjoy the company of your fellow man until then? I think Jesus would want us to have moments like that.