By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator
Historically, the season called Xmas has been the recipient of a multiplicity of revisions, and I feel that the time has come for yet another modification. Do not get me wrong, but my main problem with Christmas does not lie in the celebration of itself, but instead, the folly and ignorance of those who celebrate this highly commercialized holiday.
Have you ever thought it curious that although two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, describe the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth (the other two don’t even cover the event), neither of them gives the date? Has it puzzled you that the Bible, never once, mentions “Christmas”? And that none of the biblical writers says anything about commemorating that birth? www.ucg.org/the-good-news/the-real-nativity-story.
Millions of December 25th celebrants feel compelled to participate in an expensive holiday, burdened by guilt and shame, if they are unable to crowd the base of the Xmas tree. As one can discern, the origins of Christmas are neither biblical nor North American.
Christmas in North America is a fusion of cultural folklore from Africa and Europe, brought to North America by Europeans, who, themselves, were divided on their view of the practice of Christmas, as pagan.
The roots of this holiday, full of gift-giving, and a plump senior citizen who can fit through thin chimneys and travel around countries in one night, certainly dos not emanate from Christianity or the Bible, although many Christians do not appear to realize this. The word Christmas entered the English language originally as Christes maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass” or “festival of Christ” in Old English.
A popular medieval feast was that of St. Nicholas of Myra, a saint said to visit children with gifts and admonitions just before Christmas. This story evolved into the modern practice of leaving gifts for children, said to be brought by “Santa Claus”, a derivative of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas – Sinterklaas. www.ucg.org/the-good-news/the-real-nativity-story-surprising-truths-you-may-not-know.
Despite the fact that most Christians celebrate December 25th. as the birthday of Jesus Christ, few in the first two Christian centuries claimed any knowledge of the exact day, or year, in which he was born. The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that tells of a Christ’s Nativity festival, led by the Church of Rome, in 336 A.D.
The precise reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains obscure, but most researchers believe that Christmas originated as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. www.history.com/this-day-in-history/christ-is-born.
The Christmas celebrated in North America is supposed to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose birth Christians believe took place on December 25. Jesus did exist, yet there is an absence of documentation that strengthens his birth occurring on December 25. Nowhere in the Bible is there reference to the date of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is not a celebration mentioned in scripture nor was it spoken of by the followers of Christ.
Discrepancies prevail when people celebrate the life of a man/deity, whose entire life rejected worldly possessions with unfettered consumption. There are those who will contend, saying that Christ furnished the gift of eternal life or we are imitating the actions of the three kings, so we celebrate by buying overpriced products, made in oppressive conditions in Third World countries, as a gesture of giving.
Yes, the culture of Christmas, celebrated in North America, did not develop from Christianity, Biblical text or ancient folklore, and it is true that Christmas is a fusion of celebrations from societies across the world, though it was Coca Cola that got North Americans, especially Americans, banded on the image and spirit of Christmas.
From as way back as 1930, Coca Cola has been advertising to children, with the goal of securing a lifelong customer. The artist responsible for creating the image of Santa we celebrate today, is a man named Haddon Sundblom of Swedish and Finnish descent. The image depicted an elderly, Caucasian, plump, jolly, gift-giver, who remained hydrated on Coca-Cola, while bringing joy to children. Haddon used his own image for the famous Santa.
Coca Cola’s strategy to compete with beer and liquor companies was groundbreaking, and resulted in America adopting the image of Santa, created by a soda company. Santa worked strenuous hours delivering gifts to well-behaved children across the world and it was Coca-Cola he used to fuel his grueling task. www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/haddon-sundblom.
With all that is now known, one should ask him/herself, Christian or not, “Should I still celebrate this holiday of mass consumption?” Corporations have wreaked havoc on the emotions of overworked parents, making them feel their parenting is inadequate if they do not purchase their children the latest electronic, play-thing, or clothing being sold.
Let this present generation be the one to make the modification, changing the focus from a celebration of consumption to one of reflection, and giving the gift of love, friendship and support. Christmas is more than just illuminating homes and engaging in conspicuous consumption. It is about lighting up lives, reflecting on the core teachings of Christ, which fundamentally is based on humility and love.
Companies depend on this time of year to solidify profits, from a seemingly ignorant, debt-enslaved population. Would it not be more Christ-like to donate excess to those in want of the necessities in life?
How can you say that you are honoring Christ’s birthday by buying another video game or toy for children, who already have plenty. How are you celebrating a man, who supposedly sacrificed his life, by purchasing items on credit, only to develop mounting anxiety about how you will pay off the credit card debt?
We can make modifications and create a holiday, during which boorish children no longer rush down the stairs, to see what lies under the tree for them, but instead contemplate on what they can give to those without. No longer would folks walk into workplaces and boast about what they received, but instead, be filled with gratitude for what they have, at least a job, and what they gave to the less lucky or fortunate.
Furthermore, why are parents lying to their children, and giving credit to a man, in a red suit, for the gifts that they have toiled hard to provide?
Even as we decide to celebrate the season, let us not, for the briefest of moments, lose sight of the fact that there are millions of men, women and children, scattered across the globe, who are the victims of poverty and want, as a result of an unjust and inhumane world order that places profits ahead of human dignity and survival.
Here’s wishing everyone strength and courage this holiday season to abandon mindless consumption and engage in much-needed giving. Let the year ahead be the beginning of your intentions to bring about effective modifications.
Aleuta—the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.