Every week you’ll find different types of posts here on the ABS blog. Today’s post is for individuals, to encourage personal reflection and Bible study.
Lights. Carols. Eggnog. And lest we forget—the mistletoe, gingerbread houses, figgy pudding, and little drummer boy. ‘Tis the season, indeed, as holiday traditions return and once again make their presence felt throughout America.
Yet, the traditions of Christmas many consider timeless have actually been practiced for only two hundred years. Also, the celebration of Christmas hasn’t always been centered on the birth of Jesus! Early in the first millennium, Germans celebrated at this time of year to honor the solstice and the impending arrival of warmer weather. In Rome, the god of agriculture known as Saturnalia was celebrated by turning the social customs of the city upside down. Slaves were given power over their masters, peasants governed the city, and businesses and schools were closed to enjoy the fun.
Hundreds of years later, the English celebrated the Christmas season by choosing a “lord of misrule.” Typically a beggar or peasant, the person was awarded power over the community Christmas festivities. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that authors Washington Irving and Charles Dickens helped reinvent and popularize the holiday traditions that we still practice today, such as family togetherness, gift exchanges, and goodwill toward others.
Are They Worth It?
Beyond the holiday season, tradition remains a vital part of life and can be a great gift when practiced properly. God instructed the Israelites to remember and celebrate various holy days through specific customs and rituals. Jesus called on his disciples to practice the tradition of breaking bread as a way to remember his love and promise. And the apostle Paul frequently called on Christians to live out the traditions of a Christian life. The potential problem with tradition surfaces when we begin blending the truth of God with human philosophies. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul calls on all Christians to root everything they do in Christ. It’s important that, in the practice of all traditions, the love of Jesus is being reflected for others to see and experience.
There is no greater call for celebration than the birth of Jesus. As we move through the holiday season, think about why you celebrate Christmas the way you do.