Christmas or Xmas: Which do you observe?

Written by BG Howard

December 27, 2023

Okay, I guess the topic of Christmas has been avoided as long as it can conceivably be put off. Granted; this is the time of year to which many eagerly look forward (especially retailers) and children everywhere find justification for being exceptionally good given the promise of numerous gifts to be discovered beneath the Christmas tree on the 25th.

As with any topic of discussion, I like to have a nominal degree of knowledge concerning the subject matter so as to appear somewhat intelligent. To many, this post may paint a very undesirable picture of me but it’s difficult to intentionally disregard the truth.

As previously stated, I’m not a “religious” person but do subscribe to the conviction of living a distinctly spiritual lifestyle. In the quest to understand what compels known atheists and other non-believers “to go all out” during a time that is billed as a religious holiday, I was driven to research the popular occasion beyond what’s commonly accepted.

The simple phrase “true meaning of Christmas” I found, has a long history in this country’s pop culture which originated sometime around the mid-19th century. Having been assigned overtones characteristically undisguised that suggest a religious theme built upon the foundation of the historical account of Jesus’ birth, the holiday’s meaning has come, for most, to be interpreted as representation of our Savior’s birthday.

Wikipedia explains that in pop culture usage, overt religious references are mostly avoided, and the “true meaning” is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas which has been lamented since at least the 1850s. The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1822) helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. Harriet Beecher Stowe criticizes the commercialization of Christmas in her story “Christmas; or, the Good Fairy”. An early expression of this sentiment using the phrase of “the true meaning” is found in The American magazine, vol. 28 (1889): “to give up one’s very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas”

Pop culture’s idea of what is thought to be Christmas’ true meaning has been popularized in every known medium from music to literary publications, radio and television since the 1850’s. The concept was taken to heart by many as the result of A Christmas Carol published by Charles Dickens in 1843; the story of a miserly character who is shown the true meaning of Christmas by three ghosts detailing his past and disclosing a dismal future barring his change of heart.

To point out a few little known facts but not intent on dispelling the joy of the holiday season: The wise men didn’t find Jesus in a manger wearing swaddling clothes. In fact, by the time the sojourners did locate the Son of God, He is believed to have been somewhere between the ages of five and seven years old. Most scholars are uncertain as to when Jesus was actually born. It was during the rule of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine, in 336 A.D. that the first date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was recorded. Years later, Pope Julius I declared that day as the official date for celebration of Jesus’ birth.

The decision to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on the assigned date was an attempt by the Roman church to “Christianize” prominent pagan celebrations. The church’s efforts to make the citizens conform failed and the idolatrous behaviors persisted so we’ve ended up with an unlikely and peculiar union of Christian and infidel factors comprising what’s known as today’s Christmas celebration.

A popular, and somewhat offensive, greeting or salutation during this season has become the utterance of “Happy Holidays” and signs that read “Merry X-mas.” Retailers, in the interest of pacifying non-believers for the sake of their bottom line, virtually dismiss the country’s first amendment altogether. Observing Christmas without “Christ” would be like celebrating Independence Day with the United States still under English rule.

There certainly is more to celebrating Christmas than the idea of exchanging gifts in December with people you avoid the other eleven months and who, in most cases, purchase things you don’t want or can’t use. Besides, on what other occasion does one expect gifts on someone else’s birthday anyway? The best gift to present is the willingness to truly embrace a lifestyle that incites others to “wear” that Christmas spirit daily. More than ever, during this age of senseless violence, those who believe upon the Light of the World need to example a life truly reflective of that Light. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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