Before you celebrate Christmas this holiday season, here are some things that may affect the way you observe this special time of year.

Did you know that the birth of Jesus was not celebrated until 336 AD? The disciples and early church Christians did not consider celebrating birthdays because it was a pagan ritual. Not all Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th. The Russian and Greek Orthodox churches celebrate it on January 6 and 7.

The word “Christmas” in the English language was first used in 1038 AD and was pronounced as “Cristesmæsse.” One hundred years later it was changed to “Cristes-messe.” it was the English way of referring to Christ’s Mass that was performed in the Catholic Church which involves His death, not His birth. There is no exact record as to when it began to be pronounced in the shorter phrase “Christmas.” And the greeting “Merry Christmas,” was first used in print in 1565 by the Hereford Municipal Manuscript.

After the pilgrims arrived America, they outlawed any celebration of Christmas. They knew the date, December 25th was based on a Roman pagan holiday and refused to accept it as the real date of Jesus birth. It wasn’t until June 26, 1870, that it was first declared a federal holiday.

The first nativity scene was not displayed until 1263 AD, as an invention of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy using one live ox and a sheep in the village of Grecio Italy. There were no shepherds or wise men with their camels and gifts. Besides, according to Luke, they did not arrive until two years later, long after Jesus was out of the manger. Also, the tradition of a decorated Christmas tree may have never taken root in the USA if it hadn’t been for European immigrants who brought it over in the late 1700s.

If you happen to like kissing under the mistletoe, you might be interested in knowing that the word literally means “dung twig” because it is fertilized from tree limbs by bird dropping the seeds after they have passed through their digestive system. So the next time you stand under the mistletoe, look up, some droppings may be on their way.

Santa Claus, as we know him today, was not invented until 1881 when Thomas Nast drew a cartoon for Harper’s Weekly depicting Santa as a fat, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack full of toys for lucky children. Also, Santa Claus’ red suit was first displayed in a 1930’s Coca-Cola advertisement poster.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer was invented in a 1939 ad for Montgomery Ward. The writer considered naming him Reginald or Rollo at first. The Christmas song, “Jingle Bells” was originally written in 1857 for a Thanksgiving Day concert. It had nothing to do with Christmas. And the idea of Santa riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer was the idea of Washington Irving who sketched it out for a book of short stories in 1819.

The real story behind this celebration occurred over 2000 years ago in a village outside Jerusalem called Bethlehem. The first carol was sung by angels and it was titled, “Glory to God in the Highest.” After the carol, the first sermon was sung to a group of shepherds. The title was, “Do Not Be Afraid.” The message it brought was simple, “A Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” They were so excited they went to see the child, and after visiting with Mary and Joseph they went around town telling everyone about this child they had just seen. Then they returned to their work, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.

So that’s what we celebrate this time of year. And may it do what the angels said it would do, bring peace to everyone of good will. So let’s celebrate this day for the real reason. The Son of God came from heaven to be born a human being so that we human beings might be born again and go to heaven as sons and daughters of God. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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