‘Tis the Season. It is Christmas time. But what is this time of year really about? Is it religious; is it about giving gifts or just spending time with family? I believe Christmas is more than religion, it is more than traditions. I believe Christmas is about humanity.
Christmas never started as religious. This holiday dates back as far as 4000 years when ancient tribes celebrated the winter solstice and the recognition of the return of the sun. The idea of the religious Christian Christmas started in ancient Rome in which the birth of Jesus was instituted to combat the many pagan holidays, one of which was the celebration of the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun on December 25th. Christmas in America has not been around for very long. The Puritans of the early 17th century actually outlawed Christmas because of its decadence. Christmas was not considered a holiday in America until December 25, 1789 and was considered only a family-centered day of peace.
I believe the legend of Santa Clause is the true meaning of Christmas. Santa Clause can be traced back to around 280 A.D. to a monk named St. Nicholas of Myra (now Turkey) or Sinter Klaas in Dutch. The date of his death, December 6th, was commemorated with an annual feast which eventually fused with other Christmas traditions when the Dutch immigrated to America. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. He was legendary for his kindness and generosity. One particular legend says that he anonymously gave three bags of gold to a family of three daughters who had fallen on hard times. The father was too poor to afford the necessary dowries for all sisters to marry and was considering selling one of his daughters to slavery to pay for the other two to marry. St. Nicholas’ kindhearted gift made it possible for all three daughters to marry.
Christmas is a celebration to remind us of our humanity. All year, most of us think of just ourselves. Even during the Christmas season, people can be rude and impolite, rushing around to find the “perfect” Christmas gift that will usually be unused or thrown out. Even just giving spare change into the Salvation Army buckets is too much for us. However, when Christmas comes we should be reminded that there are other people who need support, whether it is encouragement, care, or money. For just one day, we should think of St. Nicholas and provide at least someone with kindness and generosity.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.