The Evolution of Christmas
In the fourth century, the Romans celebrated the birthday of their sun god, Mithras, during the last week of December. The Catholic Church felt this celebration by a rival pagan religion threatened the existence of Christianity so they decided to conduct a festival of their own which would honor the birth of Jesus Christ.
Even though the actual birth of Jesus Christ was thought to be in the spring, the Catholic Church chose Dec. 25 as the official birthday celebration and thereby began a tradition of holding Christ's Mass during a time frame where it would compete directly with the pagan celebrations. Over time, "Christ's Mass" eventually became "Christmas" and Dec. 25 became known thereafter as the day Jesus Christ was born.
Ironically, the celebration of Christmas was considered to be a pagan ritual by the early settlers in America. It was even banned by law in Massachusetts in colonial days. Even more ironically, Massachusetts is once again butting heads with Christmas as there is a legal battle presently taking place in Boston whether to refer to it as Christmas or give it a more generic name, such as Holiday Season, so as not to offend non-Christians.
Also in the fourth century, a man named Nicholas was born in Turkey. He was very pious from an early age, devoted his life to Christianity, and became widely known for his love of children and generosity to the poor. The Roman authorities found his actions to be contemptible so they imprisoned and tortured him.
When Constantine became emperor of Rome, he also became a Christian and freed Nicholas from prison. In A.D. 325 Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, which was a conference of scholars brought together to decide which books would be included (and excluded) in the Christian Holy Bible. Nicholas was among those appointed by Constantine to participate in this historic meeting.
Nicholas later became St. Nicholas: the patron saint of sailors, the patron saint of Sicily, the patron saint of Greece, the patron saint of Russia and the patron saint of children.
In the 1500s, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes they would be filled with treats. In Holland, St. Nicholas was spelled "Sint Nikolaas." Over the years, this spelling became corrupted into "Sinterklaas." When this term was adopted by those who spoke the Anglican language, it became "Santa Claus."
When Clement C. Moore wrote his famous poem titled "The Night Before Christmas" in 1822, the modern image of Santa Claus, a jolly fat man in a red suit, came into being and is still with us today.
Christmas is an evolving work in progress. These days, many retailers have replaced "Christmas" with "Holiday Season" in their advertising. The controversy over public religious references will continue as long as there are people who resent a religion being forced upon them. To some, it's a holy day; to others, it's a holiday.
As for me, I just go with the flow. You can call it whatever you want as long as I get a couple of days off.
Regardless of what it's called, Christmas is a time to rest and reflect. And if there's one thing this planet needs is more free time to rest and reflect. But don't get too relaxed -- reality starts all over again in January.
"Merry Christmas" to Christians and traditionalists.
"Happy Holidays" to those of non-Christian faiths and political correctness enforcers.
"Have a Nice Day" to atheists, sun worshippers and secular non-practitioners.
"May The Force Be With You" to New Agers, Trekkies and schizophrenics.
"Better Luck Next Time" to Hindus, Buddhists and other reincarnationists.
"Break a Leg" to everyone in show business and those who wish this holiday would go away.
"Bah Humbug" to agnostics and others who exist in a state of confusion.
And to all a good night.
I thought life would become simpler as I got older but I was wrong.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.