Putting the Controversial into Christmas
Ever wondered about the origins of Christmas or the myths told through the ages. There seem to be quite a few ranging from the jolly red gift bearing man we know as Santa Claus to Boxing Day and religious teachings. Let’s have a little peek into Christmas past for ourselves.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? We can ask the same question when it comes to the generous man in a red suit at Christmas time. There are four – St. Nicolaus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas and Santa Claus. The origins of this generous gifter reach way back to the fourth century. St. Nicholas being the first was a Turkish Bishop who practised giving money to the poor. His favourite method of doing so was to secretly leave money in people’s stockings overnight. After his death on December 6th, Nicholas was proclaimed a Saint. Various cultures continued his custom, on the date of his death, leaving stockings out and filling them, not with money, but with food like candy, fruit and nuts.
In the 15th century, writings mention for the first time a merrymaking party bloke. He was called Father Christmas. By the 16th century the story of St Nicholas had all but been forgotten, however, the gifting tradition hadn’t. The US assimilated St Nicholas as Kris Kringle however Father Christmas and Kris Kringle bought gifts at Christmas time, not on the 6th December.
Dutch settlers in the US told stories of St Nicholas but they called him Sinterklaas. It wasn’t long before Sinterklaas became known as Santa Claus. The white-bearded old guy with the round belly; the one we have grown so fond of.
Thankfully, some European countries still celebrate St Nicholas Day by leaving out shoes or stockings on the eve of the 6th December, confirming his status as the true gift bearer and a beloved hero to the poor.
The Bible doesn’t mention a date or a month so how have we come to the uniform conclusion that December 25th is Jesus birthday?
The Bible mentions that shepherds were in their fields when Jesus was born and that his parents were travelling to Bethlehem to take part in a census. Logically, in that part of the world, winter is a harsh place. Shepherds would not have their sheep out in the fields, nothing grows at this time of year for them to eat, and Joseph and Mary would find it hard travelling in the unforgiving winter season. So, if the Bible doesn’t stipulate a date or conform to our logic, why do we say it’s Jesus Birthday?
In the fourth century, the church proclaimed Jesus birthday as Christmas day – a celebration to take place (although his birthday had taken no precedence before this likely due to the above facts), in obstruction to the pagan’s celebration of the Winter Solstice. The pull of Christendom sucks in the world.
Growing up I had no idea what Boxing day meant and when I asked I was told, “It’s the day you clean up all the boxes and wrapping paper and put them in the rubbish bin.”
This celebration only takes place in a few countries and Australia is one of them. The custom began in the UK during the middle ages. It was the only day of the year that the churches opened their contribution boxes (collection boxes) and handed out money to the needy. Over time the custom changed as blue collared workers celebrated Christmas with their families on this day due to working for their employer on Christmas day. Leading up to WWII milkman, newspaper boys and butchers used this day to run their errands in the hope of getting substantial tips from their customers.
Today Boxing day is a commercialised capitalist affair that sees millions of people spend money at shopping centre sales. The other part of the population spends the day at sporting events or recovering with family and friends at home after a day to remember.
Whatever the meaning of Christmas and its customs are to you I hope you have a wonderful holiday – full of magic, laughter and love.