Editor's Pick

Christmas: Essence, history, and decaying


 

 

 

 

 

 

By Chris Emmanuel D'Souza


Dec 25: We often read on social media circles, the place and the manner in which people seek to celebrate Christmas. Some go on tours, others on cruises. Nevertheless, wherever you live, the best way to celebrate Christmas is at home with your family and near and dear ones. Christmas has been easily corrupted by the materialistic world for some decades now and has modified the meaning and the essence of a great cultural feast.

In Western societies, Christmas Eve becomes the only occasion to visit one’s church with families and sit and listen to the sermon, the hymns and the service with patience. For most people it’s the time to party and merry. In Eastern societies like India, people actively involve in mass, decorating their homes, it’s the time for a spiritual awakening and endearment with loved ones.

In its purest form, Christmas remains an observance. An observance that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, embraces his message of love, peace, humility, forgiveness and sharing. But then, celebration brings energy and enthusiasm, thus music, dance, wine, food and gifts make this season the most wonderful time of the year.



Traditional glitter of Christmas season in New York


Christmas in Moscow


Christmas celebrations in Missouri, USA


Milagres Church in Mangaluru glows on Christmas Eve


Gregorian and Julian Calendars

There was no written record of Jesus Christ’s day of birth. Tons of stories circulated among the Romans as to the exact time of Christ’s birth. By the early-to-mid fourth century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25. Today, most Christians (Catholics, Anglicans and the Protestant Reformed churches) celebrate on December 25, adhering to the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. However, the Eastern European Churches like Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek and Serbian Orthodox, the Armenian Church and the Egyptian Coptic churches observe Christmas on January 7, in accordance with the Julian Calendar.

The feast of Christmas was carried forward by the Holy Roman Empire from a Pre-Christian pagan winter festival of ‘yule’ celebrated by Anglo-Saxons and the Germanic people. The yule feast is still celebrated in Germany during Christmas time. The first recorded Christmas was celebrated in Rome in 336AD, and its significance further elevated with the crowning of emperor of Rome - Charlemagne in 800AD.

In the medieval period, the feast of Christmas became symbolic with traditional pagan practices of Europe. Like the decoration of Christmas tree is attributed to the worship of tree god by the pagan’s in the pre-Christian period. During these times, churches of europe developed differences over doctrine and practice. Eastern Europe was under the Russian Orthodox Church, the western and southern Europe was divided on ideological lines - Catholics, Protestants, Methodists, Anglicans etc. The Puritans of the Christian faith distanced themselves from 'wild outwardly' celebrations and condemned the Catholic church of promoting such practices in a way to reach new converts.

In England, the Puritan rulers were successful in banning Christmas in 1647. They argued Christmas traditions like dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dancing, drinking, carol singing and merry making as sinful, superstitious and unChristian. Riots broke all over England following the ban in the next few years. After the restoration of king charles11 in 1660, Christmas celebration was once again revoked, despite opposition from Calvinists and other purists. In France following the French revolution in 1789, Christmas was abolished and in the United States following the hard-fought revolution in 1776 from Great Britain - Christmas was considered largely an English custom and therefore was unfavoured from public life.

The modern Christmas celebration and culture was reinvented by acclaimed English writer Charles Dickens through his popular novel ‘Christmas Carol’ published in 1843. The novel portrayed Christmas as a special time of the year emphasising on family, goodwill and compassion. Thus, Dickens's novel essentially shaped the modern Christmas culture in the west.


The Dinner Table


German Christmas Meal


Canadian Christmas Meal


Traditional Kuswar in Mangaluru

As for the Cuisines, In India, pork is served as the main dish for Christmas dinner. In North America, UK and Australia - Roast potatoes, oven- Turkey, roasted beef, ham, cabbage rolls and sausages make chief Christmas meal. In Germany and other western European countries Christmas dinner is usually served with Goose or duck, and Carp fish both roasted in addition to beef and ham. In Easter Europe and Russia principal dishes on the Christmas table include variety of pork (roasted pig), stuffed pig's head, roasted meat chunks. In Latin America along with Turkey, pork and Fish cuisines, a traditional dish called 'Tamale' made of corn dough steamed in with banana leaves and stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables, fruits stands out as a prime Christmas meal.


Persecution

Perhaps the worst period for Christians and Christmas as a feast arrived under the Nazi (National Socialist) Germany in 1933. As Nazis under Adolf Hitler were bent on to destroy Christian symbols and eradicate Christianity from the land; in a mission to replace Hitler himself as a ‘God’ figure and Nazism as a State doctrine. Nazi ideologists claimed that the Christian elements of the holiday had been ripped from ancient Germanic traditions. They argued that Christmas Eve originally had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, but instead celebrated the winter solstice. The Nazi propaganda machine dished out conspiracies such as that the swastika was an ancient symbol of the sun, and that Santa Claus was a Christian reinvention of the Germanic god Odin. Communist governments in Europe and rest of the world also subjugated Christian faith and celebration of Christmas on similar lines.

Post 1930s as Hollywood became a global entertainment force - American culture began to be exported to rest of the world. Streets jam-packed with lights, music, turkey dinner, wine, family and fun. And offcourse, through music of Christmas with the likes of Jim Reeves, Frank Sinatra, Bing Cosby, Dean Martin etc helped to convey a stronger message and feel of the season.


The Fast-Changing World

Today, everything has changed in the west. The streets of Newyork, LA, San Francisco, London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto etc do not glitter and glimmer as much as they used to two or three decades ago. Newly Manufactured Market feasts like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken over. Multi-culturalism, cultural diversity, Mass immigration, globalism, consumerism, corporatisation of society has promoted increased secularisation of Christmas feast. For some reason, the essence of the great feast is declining with each passing year and seems like it will soon fade away in western societies.



A loud Happy Holidays message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - But no mention of 'Christmas'!

Governments and corporate world have already axed the term 'Christmas' in their advertisements and messages. The much loved by women - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to utter the word 'Christmas' in his Christmas message. Hollywood has ceased to connect Christmas to Christianity and eliminates or censors all references to birth of Christ in movies with Christmas theme.

In the last twenty years or so-since the advent of Globalism and worldwide Liberalism; the month of December is forcibly forged as ‘Holiday Season'. The political leaders and other celebrities and retail companies wish and tweet using bogus slogans like ‘Happy Holidays' or simply ‘Seasons greetings'. And this has become normal.

This trend of secularisation of Christmas festival began in the nineties - when several corporate funded civil rights groups and Atheist activists in the US and Europe began protesting the overtly visible symbols of Christianity in streets and public spots. They launched several pleas and campaigns against these symbols and open displays of greeting signs of a Christian feast - objecting it as a violation of an important constitutional law of separation of church and state. Thus, began the systematic melting down of the festival in all spheres. A powerful attempt was made by the globalists to make Christmas a purely business season. Few historians and journalists predict things going worse, as this kind of cultural erosion would drag western societies back to the Nazi or Communist period.


A Christmas message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted last year


A common greeting in Western countries these days!


A Christmas Peace Train arranged in Pakistan

 


Some conservatives in United States and Europe label this new phenomenon as a ‘War on Christmas'. They view it as an attack on their traditions, their age-old customs and their values. But then, there are other Christian theologians - who seek the disconnection of Christmas and merry making, and desire for a Christmas purely attributed to Christ, prayer and bonding.

In india, Prime Minister Narendra Modi often viewed as a Nationalist hardliner, on many occasions has wished Christians on Christmas day using the term Merry Christmas. Ministers and political leaders in Pakistan often wish their tiny 2 percent Christian population with loads of greetings, despite second class status and massive persecution of Christians. Just last year Nawaz Sheriff had arranged a decorative Christmas train from Islamabad to Karachi sending the message of peace throughout Pakistan. Dictators and leaders in the Arab world, with predominately Islamic population heartily wish and celebrate Christmas week with their minority Christian population. In countries like Lebanon which has a 30 percent Christian populace recognizes December 25th and January 7th as official Christmas day holidays. So is the case with Egypt which has about 12 percent Christians mostly Coptic Christians - wherein January 7th is an official public holiday. When the Arab world and india can share and celebrate Christmas with joy and love without having anything to prove, why is the Western world hesitating to even use the word 'Merry Christmas' during Christmas season loud and clear?

 


Comment on this article

  • Wilson DSouza, Moodbidri

    Thu, Dec 28 2017

    The division is very simple. For Theists, Christmas is celebration of Christ's birth but for Atheists, it's just celebrating holidays. This was there in the past, is there in the present and will be there in the future also ...

    DisAgree Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shweta Prasanna, Mumbai

    Tue, Dec 26 2017

    Well researched and thought provoking. There are too many misconceptions even amongst Indians when it comes to Christmas. When our neighbors from another faith accompanied us for christmas eve mass, they were hoping to see Santa Claus make a grand entrance! However they were mesmerized by the christmas service and homily and I hope a good deal of their misunderstanding was cleared.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Raj, Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 25 2017

    Chris, what is your point ?. You sounded more like a christian evangelist complaining during a time when families have to be merry and happy with each other. You are worried for the decline of festivities surrounding Christmas and sprinkled persecution in between.
    I think you need to cheer up and spend time with your family. It is not about what or how the others are celebrating or responding to Christmas. It should be about you and your near and dear ones. Trying to dictate how a nation reacts or how markets should not observe black Fridays, thanksgiving is a mute point and it should not deter any christian from celebrating the joyous occasion with their families.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Santosh, Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 25 2017

    Somewhere between Christmas trees and Santa Clauses, Jesus is being lost.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

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