Christmas is my favorite holiday — in fact, the holiday season is my favorite time of the year.I have always loved Christmas, and fondly recall our family traditions at this time of year. Even when my father was stationed in India and we lived there for three years during my childhood, family photos show my brother and me sitting amidst our presents under the Christmas tree which was some kind of Indian evergreen and looking much like any other Christmas tree but decorated with traditional Indian garlands of metallic cords and sequins as well as the decorations my mother brought with us. Marigold garlands were piled on our gifts and tables. Some of those metallic Indian garlands became part of our annual Christmas tree decorations.
My father was next stationed in Fort Dix, New Jersey. There my brother and I went out with our father for the first time to cut a Christmas tree in the woods. I learned this was one of his fond Christmas traditions, growing up on a farm in Tennessee, going out with an axe to cut down a tree. The next five years found us with artificial trees as we lived in Washington, DC, and although there was a woods behind our house, there were no evergreens to chop down, se we went with plastic. But when we moved back to the farm in Tennessee, going out with Dad and his axe to find the perfect tree – tall enough, but not too tall, full and with a prominent, sturdy crown to put the star on — that became an annual tradition until i was in high school.
From what I remember of my grandmother, I may have gotten my overblown love of the festivities from her. She had the knick-knacks, the candles, the bells and chimes, the sparkling Christmas balls in glass bowels, trays of candies, bows and ribbons everywhere. My mother had a few favorite displays she put up every year, skating gnomes, little villages, and angle hair for snow. Her displays were more sedate; my grandmother’s more eclectic and bright. But always the focal point of my grandmother’s home and my mother’s home during Christmas was the Christmas tree.
There is some dispute among Christians as to how appropriate it is to put up a tree and celebrate a holiday which has its share of pagan roots. At my private school in 7th grade, I learned that there is little evidence Christ was born on December 25, or even in December. As I studied Christmas through the years — and I have studied the myths and facts behind Christmas for 20 years — I found tie-ins to the winter solstice, to the Roman feast of Saturnalie, to the pagan custome of bringing in greenery. in Great Britain, the Druids priests used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits. http://www.christmas-tree.com/where.html
I also learned that over a thousand years, a Monk named Boniface used a small evergreen tree to teach people about God, although there are many variations to this legend. http://www.christmasarchives.com/trees.html During the middle ages, the church celebrated “Adam and Eve” day on December 24th, decorating evergreen trees with apples and/or communion wafers to teach children about the trees in the Garden of Eden.
Legend has it that Martin Luther is supposed to have seen icicles hanging off an evergreen tree reflecting the light, which reminded him that Jesus was the light of the world. This lovely scene inspired Luther to put up a tree in his home at Christmas time and to put candles on it to represent the light of Jesus.
A few have compared Santa Claus to Moloch also known as Baal, mentioed in the Old Testament and who in mideval times was supposed to steal children, especially in December when his powers were supposed to be strongest. Of course, the many supporters of Santa Claus point to Saint Nicholas, who was probably the bishop of Myra (near modern Finike, Turkey) sometime in the 300s and who is supposed to have performed charitable deeds.
There are countless articles that point to the pros and cons of all the traditions we associate with Christmas. I have only scratched the surface wit this article. The bottom line to all my research conducted over the past 20 years is this: all the legends, whether pro-Christmas tree or anti-Christmas tree contradict each other, You can read five different articles on Boniface, Moloch, Adam and Eve Day, and Saint Nicholas and they will rarely have the same facts or dates. So where does that leave me with my Christmas memories and favorite traditions? I might start by pointing out that while I am typing this, I am listening to Christmas music on my radio while the colorful lights glow on my tree.
To me, Christmas is a time to celebrate family. It is a time to contemplate, faith, hope, love, and peace to men of goodwill. It is a time for giving and generosity, a season of joy and celebration. And one thing I have learned through the years is regardless of when Jesus was born, he is still the reason for the season. You cannot separate Christmas from Christ. No one else throughout history has inspired such compassion, generosity, hope, and joy. So while I enjoy the trappings, the ribbons, bows and bright Christmas balls of my grandmother, the quaint village scenes of my mother, and the annual chopping down of the Christmas tree with my father, Christmas is much more to me. It is the annual reminder to a world badly in need of a miracle, desperately in need of hope, that once a Babe was born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin and born of God, to bring us hope and unaccountable joy, to reconcile us with the Divine. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!