Christmas —A Time of Joy and Reflection!

Journal/Website: 
Macon Telegraph
Article Type: 
Commentary
Published Date: 
Sunday, December 29, 2002

Like the months of the year and the days of the week, whose names come down to us from ancient and antediluvian times, many of the symbols of Christmas pre-date Christian times.

Christmas, "Christ's Mass," in our calendar represents the feast of the nativity of Jesus Christ, which according to Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 215) took place on either December 25 or January 6. That is why in some countries, like Spain and in Latin America, gift-giving takes place at Epiphany (January 6) rather than on Christmas Day, as in most English-speaking countries. And yet, in ancient Rome, pagan priests celebrated the Saturnalia, dedicated to the god Saturn, from December 17 to 23, while December 25 was extolled as the renewal of Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun"). The northern tribes across the Danube celebrated the winter solstice (Dec. 21) as the Festive of Yule.

St. Gregory the Great (Pope, A.D. 590-604) encouraged Christian priests to adopt and reinterpret local customs while Christianizing people in foreign lands.

For ancient Germans, holly, pine branches, and other evergreens possessed magical power for their ability to remain green through the inclement winters of the northern regions, becoming symbols of eternal life. The Christmas tree, "Christ-tree," originated in Germany, as "paradise trees," decorated pine branches, and were carried in processions announcing miracle plays based on the lives of holy saints.

It was not until the nineteenth century, after Queen Victoria (and her family) appeared in a picture in The Illustrated London News around a large Christmas tree with many little candles and brilliant decorations, that Christmas celebration achieved overwhelming popularity.

Carols and noel came down to us from the Latin natalis, "the birthday," thence the Spanish Navidad, the French Noël, the English Noel and "Christmas carol." These songs of joy originated in France - perhaps sung by the romantic, knight-errant troubadours. The nativity scene, the crèche, originated around 1200 in Alpine Italy from where it spread to Germany and the U.S.

The gift-giving tradition originated in pagan Rome where citizens exchanged presents in the New Year. Centuries later in Spanish-speaking countries, including Cuba before the Revolution, the children went to bed the night before anticipating the many gifts they would receive on the morning of January 6 from the Magi - Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, the "Three Wise Men of the East" — reflecting the tradition of bringing to the Baby Jesus the precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Merry ChristmasIn Greece, St. Nicholas (of Myra) dropped gifts down chimneys on December 6. St. Nicholas became our jolly Santa Claus (Claus being the diminutive form of the German Nikolaus), first popularized in New York City in 1809 by the writer Washington Irving. Gift-giving, though, only became commonplace on Christmas Day in the U.S. late in the nineteenth century.

Sadly, Christmas has been criticized as a time of excessive merry-making; for excessive commercialization and "profit-making"; and when its symbols are displaced in public places, inveighed still by others for breaching the alleged "wall of separation of church and state," a clause that does not appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or any of our founding documents.

If the tough Romans of pagan times banned wars during the Saturnalia, can we at the very least, reach out to each other in friendship and beneficence during the holidays?

Religious or not, we all have reasons to be grateful and to celebrate this Christmas, a transcendental time of reflection that warms the heart and uplifts the soul, a time of joy and forgiveness, a time for family and friends.

For further reading, I recommend "Christmas Light vs. the Darkness" by Dr. David C. Stolinsky, Dec 28, 2015.  www.stolinsky.com

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. of Macon is author of Cuba in Revolution---Escape From a Lost Paradise.

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Comments on this post

To Rip Van Winkle, Merry Christmas!

Last-minute Glad Tidings from “VIP van Wrinkle in the Static Lane”:

Joyeux Noél, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale,
Frōhliche Weinachten...and...L’Chaim!

A MERRY CHRISTMAS and
a HAPPY HANUKKAH to all.

I just awoke from what must have been a deep REM nap... and nothing seemed to have changed except the date: it wasn’t September 24th any more— It was DECEMBER 24th!

My last recollection was a dull debate on Fox News. Our little Italian Greyhound—one of our therapy pups (we don’t need coloring books; my paintings take care of that)—Bianca la Bella Bambina, when she is not eating or pooping, was cuddled asleep in her customary place in my lap under her security blanket; all part of her daily 23-hour-nap routine. The other, our adorable but otherwise lazy Sheltie, Laddyboy Our Utter Joy, was sprawled contentedly dozing at my feet with one eye open—ever vigilant for the slightest sound that would trigger his dash to the gate separating our family room from the rest of the house to bark loudly as if to thwart any intruder—which, of course, would rudely stir me to a dim awareness, a bit of cussing, and falling back into my formerly vacuous sublimity. (I wouldn’t admit we spoil him, but he has the choice of his waterbed [doesn’t every dog have one?] or any nook or cranny of the room—except the furniture and our laps, which he is too corpulent to climb up on anyway).

Lise, as is her wont, was glued to her iPad, sipping occasionally from her glass of Chardonnay; my half-empty Merlot customarily at my side as I lay leaned back in my stuffed leather recliner, oblivious of that minuscule part of the retirement world that we claim as ours. Like every evening.

When I just woke up just now—upon seeing on the TV screen a Christmas tree with twinkling lights— and a tiny one blinking its lights set atop the kitchen counter—it slowly dawned on me that something was amiss—this was no longer September!

Where had the time gone? Could I have slept through those months?... perchance to dream?... for it’s a long, long time from now back to September. Were those all wild dreams I had about some kind of crazy election? And a bunch of other nonsense? Lise just looked over at me and said, lovingly: “Well! It’s about time you woke up!— tomorrow isn’t just another day, Mr. Wrinkles— no longer aka Kris Kringle—it’s Christmas!”

It struck me! I had sworn to send out Xmas cards this year—for sure! Well, folks, here I am, now fully awake— but at a loss as to how to impart my tardy seasons’ greetings except in this mind-numbing marvel of the digital age: the instant, ubiquitous, message through the ether onto the Internet. I am confident you younger folks under 70 will find it on your iPhones and iPads as you sit in the company of others during your gatherings, rudely thumbing through your devices in your laps to the utter annoyance of everybody—mute testimony that our civilization has come a long way.

So, please, Dear Family and Friends, consider this clumsy missive genuine, heartfelt, and apologetically in lieu of a beautiful, traditional, commercial card. And, with it go our blessings and best wishes that the newly-found hope and encouragement that America will soon be on its way to greatness again will engender the welcoming of a prosperous 2017—at least it gives cause for me to live 11 more years and reach 100!

Lise raises her Chardonnay and I, my Merlot, to you all!

Avery
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Collective reply: Merry Christmas, Don Horacio (aka. Rip Van Winkle) & Doña Lise from Dr. Miguel and Helen Faria and the Haciendapub crowd!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all. You are indeed right about how time soars!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes. I agree. A time for family, for giving, for helping strangers and those in need, for goodwill to others, and especially for Christians a time for recognizing the birth of Christ. The things we value, the Left hates— family, religion, private charity to others. These are, after all, impediments to an all-powerful state, which is arguably why Obama and his radical leftists attacked the family unit and religion so deeply with state sanctioned homosexual marriage and the men dressed as women in the women’s restroom (visa versa)and in the military via the pentagon.

In the spirit of the season I shall refrain from disparaging the suffering and angry left. My father went to emergency room on December 23, but he was released to go home. I met my nephew’s wife for the first time. They met and married in West Point, and he is going to Ranger School very soon. She comes from the lefter coast of Virginia, but political arguments were ignored, although I did remind them not to destroy any of the numerous Trump/Pence signs on their way back to North Carolina. Even my children ignored my occasional political diatribes. One son is off to Chicago from college, and one daughter is off to a place that got 25 feet of snow last year, despite my objections to both. Alas, I become more irrelevant each day. Ha. But it was a good Christmas, and I was with the ones I love most to enjoy it.

I don't think we ever capture the magic of Christmas as it was when we were young. Still, it is a rewarding journey that brings peace to ourselves and others. So Merry Christmas to all of you there.
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Dear Koba, Merry Christmas indeed! I know what you mean about some family members, who do not follow wise advice against their own good! But We too had a good Christmas and I had an extraordinary experience: I had received an indirect call from a long lost but inseparable cousin of my Cuban childhood some months back and promised I would call him when we visit my mother in Miami as we always do for Christmas. But his temporary phone was no longer in service as he was in the midst of moving his family from Spain, where he had been exiled, to Miami. To make the story short with a bit of detective work, I went to look for him (the whole burgeoning city of Miami, where I grew up (ages 13-15) has been deeply impressed in my mind; I found him and we were reunited after 50 years!--- MAF



Diary of Dreams performs at the 2016 M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim, Germany. M’era Luna, “one of the biggest dark music events in Germany,” is held each year on the second weekend in August. Close to 25,000 people attend the festival annually to hear gothic, metal and industrial music performed on two large festival-style stages.