The signs of Christmashave been all around us now for some time. Many stores started before Halloween (yes, Halloween) with the decorations and the music. This explains why I don’t like to set foot in the Mall or Wal-Mart or Target until after New Year Day. (Actually, I don’t like to enter Wal-Mart anytime. I’m not against their size or their business practices, I just don’t like the store - the layout, the hugeness of the space or the stuff.)
So, first comes the music and the lights. Then comes the shopping and the gifts. And finally, the Ol’ Gent shows up, we eat till we drop and it’s all over till next year. And all along, food keeps showing up and by the time the season ends, we have gained 20 pounds! No wonder we all join Weight Watchers come first of the new year.
Contrary to some beliefs, Christmas was not celebrated until the 4th century A.D. Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, is literally the Mass of Christ, which in Old English is "Cristes maesse". But long before this date was declared as the official day of Christmas by Congress in 1870, this season of the year was celebrated as the Winter Solstice. Before the advent of Christianity, this time was commonly observed by ancient people as the shortest day of the year when the world began to change from extended darkness back to light. In Scandinavia, this included the burning of a giant Yule Log to turn back the darkness. (Today the Yule log is reincarnated by the French in the Bûche de Noël - a decadent chocolate confection studded with meringue mushrooms. Again, the food!)
The Romans celebrated the festival of Saturnalia which extended from December 17 through the 24th. This included general carousing and the giving of gifts. They also observed two other festivals, Juvenalia and Mithras, around this time of the year.
When the Church finally decided to observe the birth of Jesus in the 4th century, they chose the date of December 25th. This date was selected either to offer a rival for the pagan festivals of the day or to “hide” theChristian celebration amongst the other festivals. As a result, many of the traditions of the pagan festivals found their way into the Christian celebration - the Yule Log, the exchanging of gifts and the excessive celebration and eating. So I guess the heathens are responsible for the joy and frivolity of the season. Oh yeah, the Christmas tree was unknown until 1846 when Prince Albertintroduced it to Windsor Castle.
And so I say, bring on Christmas with its parties and its revelry, its gifting and its eating, its over indulgences and its shopping...well, Internet shopping. And Merry Christmas to you all!
The Real Meaning of Xmas
I know many people that are offended when they see Christmas written as Xmas. “This”, they say, “takes Christ out of Christmas!” But should they really take offense at this? Does it really take Christ out of Christmas? Hmmm…
The use of Xmas far precedes any modern attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. It dates back to the 16th century, perhaps even to the 14th century. Before the invention of the printing press, the use of abbreviations was very common when a book or manuscript had to be copied by hand, perhaps hundreds of times. The letter X, which comes from the Greek letter “Chi”, is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which translates in English to…Christ! Monks often used the “Chi” to represent Christ. The “Chi-Rho” is one of the earliest Christograms, taken from the first two letters of Χριστός.
So the next time you pass someone on the street this season, you might just greet them with “Merry Xmas”!