Christmas has many traditions, but the walk to the 2016 version has taken many a strange path over the history of the holiday.
Christmas is under attack. Those politically-correct ragamuffins are coming for our traditional, religious, not commercial in the slightest, holiday. However, the beast known as Christmas already has many arrows in its back—some ancient, some new—the latest being the demand that we wish our colleagues a “Happy Holidays.”
Those linguistic vandals are also attacking the word “Christmas” itself. “Xmas,” they say with their heretic mouths, or written in equally heretic words, as if to take the Christ out of Christmas. Except the X is just as festive as its lengthy sibling, and just as traditional. Like Xtina is to Christina, Xmas is to Christmas. “X” is, after all, an abbreviation for Christ in Greek. He’s still there, just in a slimmer, more ink-conserving form.
“They’re trying to take away our Christmas carols!” we cry, fearing something so intrinsically linked to the religious roots of our gift-giving holiday at threat. This too came in a software update to the celebration, being introduced by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. (Carols originally were a way of toasting a neighbor’s life, called “wassailing.”)
In fact, a great deal of the Christmas custom came at a later date and often with no scriptural basis. Those three wise men that brought baby Jesus his flashy gifts? There’s no number of men noted in the bible. For all we know there could be a whole team of gift-giving old men.
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Jesus himself probably wasn’t born in a stable, either. Instead, he more likely would have been born in a cave. And if there were any angels present, they probably didn’t sing. Nothing about the angels having Bethlehem Idol potential is found in the bible.
We may well be celebrating his birthday on the wrong day altogether, which no doubt hurts his feelings more than a little bit. Many theologians estimate that, rather than being born on December 25th, Jesus was probably born sometime in September, between 6BC and 30AD.
Adding further to the celebratory confusion, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th in Greece, in accordance with the old Julian calendar, with Christmas presents being opened on New Year’s Day.
Christmas as a celebration may not even have existed since the beginning of Christianity itself, instead more likely being first celebrated in York in 521AD. Just how the (admittedly-a-bit-strange) custom caught on remains a mystery.
The idea of Christmas being “banned” is far from a new idea either. After the English Civil War, in 1647, Oliver Cromwell banned all Christmas festivities. The UK continued to be Christmas-free until 1660.
When the holiday did finally return, turkey was not on the menu. Instead, originally a traditional and very appealing meal of pig’s head and mustard was eaten on Christmas Day.
No Christmas songs nor cards, either. Both “Jingle Bells” and the concept of trading commercially-manufactured greeting cards only came about in the 1800s.
Jesus himself probably wasn’t born in a stable, either. He more likely would have been born in a cave. And if there were any angels present, they probably didn’t sing. Nothing about the angels having Bethlehem Idol potential is found in the bible.
A custom changing over time and adapting to new cultures … what a concept. One wonders if the first Christmas turkey was met with the same cries of a holiday under siege.
At any rate, regardless of your religious or irreligious leanings, the holiday season is something of constant change. A new intervention this year could become a family, or even cultural, trend for generations to come.
With that in mind, many parts of your average (organic, non Kmart-sourced plastic variety) Christmas tree can actually be eaten, and the needles are a good source of Vitamin C. We talk a lot about the need to cut back on waste to protect the environment, what better way to do that than with a tasty new after-Christmas dinner tradition?