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What Connection Does Yule Logs, Holly Wreaths, Costly Gifts Have With Christmas?

When I was a little girl I was taught to hang up my stockings on Christmas Eve. When I was awakened the next morning, I found my stockings filled with small toys and little boxes of candy and nuts. And besides that I would find a Christmas tree had suddenly appeared beside the mantle from which my stockings hung and on it I used to find presents hanging.

Other presents for we children were piled on the floor underneath. I was also told that Santa Claus had come down the chimney during the night and left all these things. This is all that I know about Christmas since childhood.

The Christmas story goes like this, when Jesus Christ, ?The Son of God? was sent as a Messiah to save the world that particular day is celebrated as Christmas all over the world. The Christmas story tells us of the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, where the angels announced the birth beforehand to the shepherds in the fields and the Magi visiting the stable and offering gifts to baby Jesus.

The word ?Christmas? means ?Mass of Christ? or it may be shortened as ?Christ-Mass." It is said to have come down to the non Christians and Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. The common question that comes up is where they got the term Christmas from. It is said that neither they got it from the New Testament nor from the Bible, not even from the original apostles who were personally instructed from Christ. This term is said to have gravitated in the fourth century into the Roman Church from paganism. Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. In fact the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. The Pagan customs which took place in the month of January further gravitated into Christmas. It is said that Christ was not born in winter because if he was born during this time of the year then the shepherds wouldn?t have been in the fields of Bethlehem in such cold weather.

The Protestants and the Roman Catholic churches hold Christmas Day services on 25th December. For many years 25th December, the birth day of Jesus has been celebrated with rituals, pomp and grandeur. But the Eastern Orthodox Church which is the Ethiopian Orthodox church, Russian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Church has celebrated Christmas for years on 6th or 7th January. It was confirmed by a Roman almanac that 25th of December was celebrated as Christmas in 336 A.D and nearly 600 years later the churches created a liturgy, which a was service for public worship for the occasion. This particular date is believed to have been influenced by the northern hemisphere winter solstice as well as the ancient pagan rituals that coincided with the rituals. Such rituals included the Halcyon Days in Greece, which was a period of calms and goodwill. It was believed that during this period the sea was calm for birds to lay their eggs. This period also included the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, which were a celebration of Saturn and involved wild parties and exchange of gifts and a temporary suspension of the divisions between master and the slaves.

People from the Orthodox clan believe that no Christian holiday is as misleading as Christmas, unless it is Easter. What do evergreen trees, Yule logs, toys, costly gifts and presents, Santa Claus, holly wreaths to do with our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? With so many deceptions about Christmas, we would perhaps be foolish to believe that God would approve of its celebration. The Eastern Orthodox Church also believes that the worst part is giving gifts on Christmas because this turns people?s hearts from God. By receiving presents and by drunkenness and gluttony, individuals inevitably commit crimes and sin.

By the early 1700s perhaps the German and the Dutch had brought the pagan customs of gift bringing, Santa Claus and the Christmas tree with them. Christmas was primarily celebrated in their settlements. It is said that German mercenaries, fighting on the British side in the War of Independence, raised Christmas trees in their camps.

In 1836, Christmas first became an American legal holiday in the state of Alabama. It is said that soon one state after another legalized this pagan festival of Christmas. Today not only America but perhaps the whole world celebrates the 4000-year-old festival as a national holiday with gift giving, drinking, partying and feasting in a manner similar to the ancient world.

The recent meaning of Christmas has change to a great extent. Around this time of the year we get to hear these greetings and well wishes of Merry Christmas in the normal flow of our lives. Christmas usually accompanied with a warm smile, although the salesgirl at the mall, her feet killing her from standing at the cash register for hours and her patience frazzled by the hundreds of customers she has assisted already that day says it perhaps with a forced grin. Christmas celebrations, organizing parties, distributing presents may cost a lot which ultimately creates a lot of financial headaches. We ultimately max out our credit cards during the Christmas shopping season and spend the rest of the year paying them off.