Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Christmas Customs and Traditions

The Christmas holiday abounds in interesting customs and traditions. Some of these Christmas customs and traditions are wholeheartedly religious, while others are secular and relaxed. Some countries also have a national flavor in their customs of Christmas. So evidently, the customs and traditions of Christmas are neither singular nor homogenous all over the world. These keep varying from region to region, and from country to country. Popular Christmas traditions such as the exchanging of gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, the Yule log, the holly bough, the kissing under mistletoe etc are more or less common to all places.
In Christian countries, Christmas has become the most significant holiday of the year, economically speaking. Christmas is celebrated for a span of twelve days following December 25 in the United Kingdom. This twelve-day Christmas tradition is marked by huge celebration and feasting and ends on the Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Epiphany. This custom of elongating the Christmas celebrations is gaining popularity by the year. Christmas celebrations begin weeks before the actual day in the United States and the United Kingdom to lengthen the shopping season of Christmas and also to allow more time for meetings and greetings.
The countries celebrating Christmas on December 25, call the day before 'Christmas eve' and the day after by varying names. Some like Germany, Poland call it the Second Christmas Day, some Commonwealth countries call the day after Christmas 'Boxing Day' while the Irish and Romanians call it St. Stephen's Day. Some pagan Christmas customs and traditions have been incorporated by some Chrirtian missionaries into their celebration of Christmas, but the conservative Christians refrain from any such celebration of Christmas. Christmas celebrations were banned in the Soviet Union for 75 years after the Russian revolution and the extremist Christian fundamentalists still consider Christmas a pagan holiday, unsanctioned by the Bible and hence strictly keep off from celebrating it.
But apart from these religious and serious overtones in the Christmas customs and traditions, there are also secular and more relaxed observances of the Christmas holiday. For instance, the tradition of giving Christmas gifts is one of the commonest traditions of the holiday irrespective of region or country. Friends and families exchange gifts and greetings, children hang stockings in the United States or keep empty toy-boxes for Santa Claus to fill it up with toys, candies or other gifts. In some places, it's a custom and tradition for children to put up shoes on window sills on the Christmas night.
One of the very popular and inseparable customs and traditions of Christmas is the Christmas card. Be it your closest pal, or a distant relative, your teacher or your colleagues, your family or your neighbor, each one gets a card on Christmas. Even when people are separated by miles, a 'Miss You' Christmas card is sure to reach more often than not.
Decorating homes and the Christmas tree are again well-known Christmas customs and traditions. It's great joy getting the whole family together decking up the halls and doorways with streamers, candles, stars or holly boughs or being with the entire bunch of friends as you decorate the Christmas evergreen. Candy canes are a very favorite Christmas candy, which are also used as decorations. Traditionally people also decorate the outside of the house as much as the insides. Sometimes Christmas decorations are sponsored by the municipalities.
Christmas parties form the fun part of the holiday and are more a celebration than a custom and tradition of Christmas. Special Christmas meals having a special Christmas menu are customarily served in many countries. While in other places, especially in Eastern Europe, families fast for a few days before the Christmas feast.
In many countries, Christmas dances and Christmas pageants (retelling of the story of Christ) are traditionally held every year. Going caroling in groups is yet another very popular custom and tradition of Christmas. In this, people go singing carols from door to door just to keep the spirit of the holidays alive and fresh. Sometimes people visit the neighborhood houses for a good cause too, like for raising donations and funds for the downtrodden and destitute.
With all the boisterous celebration of Christmas staying fine, Christmas is still observed as a chiefly religious holiday for many people across the globe. It is the time for soul-searching, spiritual renewal, silent prayers, reading out quotes from the Bible, seeking religious blessings and wishing joys and good tidings to everyone for the days to come. The ceremonies are much toned down in a religious celebration of Christmas. Carols and hymns are sung in the churches and in homes, funds are raised for a good cause, volunteer works are conducted and people visit friends, neighbors and dear ones' places for get-togethers and traditional Christmas meals. The air's filled with a sweet peacefulness and warmth. A sense of joy and well-being reverberates all around. People wish each other peace, prosperity, happiness and a very 'Merry Christmas'.
The religious customs and traditions of Christmas begin with Advent (the day when Jesus Christ's birth was anticipated). This is around early December. Customs and traditions of this religious celebration include Advent carols and calendars, sometimes also candies and other goodies for the children. Midnight mass or a Mass of the Nativity, featuring Christmas carols, prayers and hymns, are usually held on the Christmas Eve and on the Christmas Day.
Other religious faiths like Islam or Judaism are also giving way to some secular traditions of the Christmas holiday into their own winter celebrations. Islamic countries refer to Jesus as a prophet and the Judaists celebrate their winter festival and an equivalent of Christmas, Hanukkah in December. Thus, Christmas customs and traditions are many, and are modified or incorporated differently by different cultures and ethnicities across the globe.
Sean Carter writes on holidays, Christmas Day and world events. He also writes on family, relationships, Christmas, religion, love and friendship. He is a writer with special interest in ecard industry and writes for 123greetings.com. He is an active blogger at Christmas Blog

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

My family always has a Christmas tree every year because it was the popular thing to do. We have ornaments, holly wreaths, presents and everything else that goes along with the Christmas celebration. I know it was borderline but in that everyone liked it so much and it's supposed to be in honor of our Lord's birthday I went along with it all these years. This year I have looked at the weight of Scriptural evidence that has caused me to reconsider how harmless and good this holiday is. Just where in The Bible does it tell us not to celebrate Christmas?
Christmas Not a Bible Doctrine
In the first place, Christmas is not a Bible Doctrine. If our blessed Lord had wanted us to celebrate His birthday, He would have told us when to celebrate it and how to celebrate it. But Christ never told anyone to celebrate His birthday. Furthermore, we know from the Bible and from church history that the apostles and the early church never celebrated Christ's birthday.
The Bible is God's complete and final revelation to man, and it tells us everything we need to know for our spiritual lives (II Timothy 3:16). We don't have to go outside the Bible for anything. God's Word tells us how we're to worship, how we're to give money for the support of the Lord's work, how to evangelize the lost, how to observe the Lord's Supper and everything else pertaining to the Christian life. But not once in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate Christmas! We're told to remember the Lord's death, but nowhere are we told to celebrate His birth.
God's people are supposed to be Bible people. We are supposed to live by the teaching of the God's Holy Word. So the very fact that Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible is sufficient reason for us not to have anything to do with it. But that's not all.
Christ Not born on December 25
The second reason I not to celebrate Christmas is that Christ was not born on December 25th. Notice:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
Don't miss the point: the shepherds WERE IN THE FIELDS taking care of their flocks on the night Jesus Christ was born. As the shepherds were watching their sheep, the message came to them of the birth of Jesus Christ.
It's a well known fact that December falls in the middle of the rainy season in Palestine, and the sheep were kept in the fold at that time of the year. The shepherds always corralled their flocks from October to April. They brought their sheep from the mountainsides and the fields no later than October 15th to protect them from the cold, rainy seasons that followed that date. So the birth of Christ could not have taken place at the end of December.
Secondly, Luke 2:1,3 tells us that at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ it was decreed that, "all the world would be taxed...And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city." This couldn't have taken place in the winter. Caesar Augustus, the ruler of Rome, would certainly not call for such a taxing in the depth of winter. Travel at this time of the year is extremely difficult; hence, it would be virtually impossible for everyone to comply with the decree if it had been given then. The Lord Himself testified to the rigors of traveling in winter, for He told the people to pray that their flight at the end of this age would not be in winter (Matthew 24:20).
No one knows the exact day when Jesus Christ was born, but in all the probability He was born sometime during September. We can be reasonably sure of this because His earthly ministry lasted approximately 3 1/2 years, and He was crucified on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, which corresponds to our April (John 19:31, Leviticus 23:5). If we go back about 3 1/2 years to the time when Jesus Christ was 30 years old - when He began His public ministry - we come to the month of September. This was probably the month when our Lord was born into the world.
Origin of Christmas
Thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born, heathens in every country observed December 25th as the birthday of a god who was called the sun-god. Semiramis, the widow of Nimrod, was his mother. She claimed to be the queen of heaven. And she had a son who was supposed to have been born on December 25th; his name was Tammuz.
According to all the heathen religions of that time, Tammuz had a miraculous birth; and for centuries his birthday was celebrated with feasts, revelry and drunken orgies. The heathen celebrated Tammuz birthday according to the very example he set for them. He was the world's greatest lover of women, strong drink, dirty jokes and other sensual fun. It is said that he loved everybody and that everybody loved him. And it was on December 25th that all the pagan religions celebrated the birthday of Tammuz, the son-god.
This is all clearly brought out in Alexander Hislop's great book, "The Two Babylon's". Any reputable encyclopedia will also verify these facts.
It's plain to see, isn't it, that Christmas is a pagan holiday that came out of old pagan Babylon.