As the United States observes the twilight of each year, the arrival of Christmas and its traditions stand to unite those who celebrate it under the umbrella of peace and family. Usually encompassing the entire month of December, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian holiday in its infancy to a diverse gathering of the nation’s populace regardless of religion and ethnicity. Truly, Christmas has evolved to be celebrated by those who may not identify with the Christian ideals but rather with the credence that bringing joy to those around you is the essence of the holiday’s spirit. From exchanging presents to singing Christmas carols, observers of Christmas bathe in its familiar festivities while also adding their own twist.
Origins of Christmas
With traditions beginning December 1st and earlier, Christmas has historically been observed on December 25th. In its beginnings and still prevalent today among religious groups, Christmas is a sacred religious holiday celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God in the Christian faith. Progressing to the present day, some Christians retain traditions that highlight the religious connections. For some, the Christmas tree represents the holy trinity while others place a Nativity decoration, commemorating Christ’s birth. Several other traditions include exchanging gifts, belief in Santa Claus, Christmas trees and lights, kissing under the mistletoe etc. Some or all of these traditions have strong ties to faith.
Christmas for Non-Christians
Though rooted in Christianity, the holiday has since grown to be celebrated by those who practice different religions and customs. While still retaining its history, Christmas, for some, has become a secular family holiday devoid of any Christian ties. The Christmas tree, for example, may have religious connotations but for many who observe the holiday, it solely represents the centerpiece of their decorations and the location of the presents. Likewise, Silent Night, a song that discusses the birth of Christ, is a popular Christmas song that may be enjoyed for its holiday cheer rather than its Catholic origin. Overall, individuals from all walks of life have incorporated Christmas into their lives and molded to retain some traditions while eliminating others for the sake of their own joy.
What Christmas means to me - Hope Through Christmas Cheer
For myself, Christmas represents the moral peak of humanity. It is the time to reflect on the greatness of my fellow men and women and appreciate the company of family and friends. It is also the time to treasure loved ones who are no longer with us and seek their guidance and love. Throughout my childhood, my mother insisted on writing letters to Santa and placing them in the tree, with this custom still being observed in the present day. The time for opening presents for and from my immediate family would be opened several days before Christmas Day. With the arrival of Christmas Eve, our entire family would gather under one roof to celebrate and eat delicious food. 1-2 hours prior to midnight, we would all gather around the Christmas tree and open presents. At midnight, (Christmas Day), all of us would stop and hug each other, taking time to express our gratitude for one another and to thank our God for the strength and grace instilled in our family. Christmas Day usually consisted of wearing pajamas all day and watching Christmas movies with hot chocolate.
As is with most people in the United States, however, my traditions have evolved. With my wife and her family bringing their customs, a hybrid tradition was born. Now, half of the Christmas presents are opened on Christmas Eve while the other half are opened on Christmas Day. December 25th now consists of visiting both families, going for wintry walks and wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. Another tradition is the consumption of countless Christmas cookies. What remains constant, however, is the belief in the goodness of people. Christmas is when I remind myself to truly cherish what I have and retain the faith that we, as a species, are virtuous and desire peace on Earth.