As we stand in the 21st century and look at our calendar of holidays and celebrations, it can be hard to understand why we celebrate so many of the events. Our culture has ripped the meaning from so many of the holidays that our ancestors held so dear. Some of us take steps to prevent this from happening, but more and more frequently we see our culture forgetting what the holidays were and are all about.
The major holidays in our calendar are Christmas and Easter. Our culture has robbed these days of their real meaning and significance. It is worth taking a moment to remember what these holidays are all about.
Even the term 'holiday' has lost its meaning. It does not take a linguist to notice that the word has its origins from the term holy day. But so many of what we class as holidays is anything but holy.
I heard a teenager recently genuinely express his belief that Christmas was a celebration of the birth of Santa. This is the extent that culture has forgotten its roots. What should be one of the highlights of the Christian calendar has been devalued by myths and fairy tales about over weight men in red suits breaking and entering into peoples houses as they sleep.
This devaluation of Christmas is robbing people of the joy of what Christmas is all about â€“ the birth of God in human form. This is one of the central points of the Christian faith and it has been all but swallowed up by our consumerist culture.
Historically, Christians have not always celebrated Christmas in December. This came about as a result of Emperor Constantine passing a ruling. There is much debate as to when Christ was born, with academics and scholars claiming virtually every season as a potential birth time for Christ. Much of the evidence points to the spring of the year, rather than the heart of winter. The most commonly given reason for thinking this was that it was in the spring when shepherds would stay in the fields over night with their flock, and it was in the fields at night that the shepherds were found by the angels.
The specific date has been lost to history, but what has not been lost is the fact that in the 300s the date changed to the 25th of December. The reason for this change is, once again, up for debate by scholars. What is known is that the 25th of December was the date of a pagan festival, and it is very likely that the birth of Christ was placed in the centre of this pagan celebration in an attempt to weaken its influence over the people of the 'Christian' empire.
The giving of gifts during Christmas has been linked back to the nativity story and the wise men giving gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. This is a lovely thought but the practice of giving gifts at Christmas is really a very modern one. There is very little evidence of a sustained practice of gift giving as a cultural trend anywhere on the planet during Christmas any further back than 150 years.
The phenomenon of the Christmas tree is a distinctly pagan throw back, since the evergreen tree was traditionally decorated as part of the winter solstice. This was a symbol of worship for the pagans during winter since it was just about the only thing that didn't seem to die in the cold.
Attempts have been made by well meaning Christians to link the Christmas tree back to a verse in Genesis about Abram planting a tree. This is tenuous and this link has no historical worth at all.
Indeed Christmas has only been 'celebrated' in our modern era. Christmas was a holy day (not celebrated but observed) for most of the 2000 years since Jesus walked the earth. Our modern concept of celebration and having parties etc has no historical weight to it at all.
When we think of the symbols that have come to represent Easter, we see a similar trend that of Christmas. The most striking aspect of Easter, however, is that it moves around the calendar each year. This is particularly odd because Easter itself should be particularly traceable; it happened in the days following the Passover celebration. It should, therefore be remarkably easy to pin point on a calendar the exact date of Easter, and it should be on the same day every year.
But Easter moves every year, because it (like Christmas) has been laid on top of a pagan holiday in an attempt to smother its meaning.
The symbolism of Easter has really helped drown out the meaning of the holiday. What comes to mind when we think of Easter â€“ eggs and the Easter bunny. These have nothing to do at all with the Easter story, and everything to do with the pagan festival that Easter was intended to destroy.
The Easter story is the account of Jesus and his conquering of the grave, of his resurrection. The symbolism linked to Easter by our culture are very much pagan in their origins and meanings. The egg and the bunny are both clearly symbols of fertility, which was of particular significance to your average pagan around spring time â€“ the time of birth and fertilisation both of crop and livestock. These symbols have become intertwined with our story of Jesus.
Unsurprisingly, chocolate eggs have not always been given as a way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ. This is a modern cultural twist. Once again we see well meaning Christians trying to explain that the Easter egg is meant to symbolise the stone that was in front of the grave of Jesus, and thus was born the tradition or rolling your egg before you eat it. But this has no historical weight to it at all. There are also claims and stories of how the Apostles used an egg to symbolise the embryonic state of the church to a King or ruler, but again this link is tenuous at best.
Like Christmas, it is a relatively new concept to celebrate Easter. Easter has traditionally been one of the most holy and revered holy days in the Christian calendar.
There is more than a slap of irony to see that Christian events that were twisted and contorted to try and eradicate paganism have since been all but over taken by the pagan symbolism and the modern consumerist mindset and lifestyle. These once holy days would not be recognized by any of our ancestors. It is a sad fact that we are on the brink of losing our way entirely regarding these wonderful holy days, we all need to reinforce the meaning and significance of these days for the generations that follow.
You might want to read another of my articles, about some Scandinavian traditions of Christmas and Easter, but I warn you that you will not find much Christianity in the article Christmas Easter and Halloween - A Happy Merry Go Round, instead it is a total mixup of pagan and Christian traditions.