Christmas Traditions – Gift Giving
Gift giving is probably the most well known of all Christmas traditions in both Eastern and Western cultures. Moms and Dads have the opportunity to share with their children important truths about giving during their family’s Christmas celebration. While a good deal of focus will be placed upon purchasing safe, fun, and educational children’s toys, parents may also take this time to let children experience the joy of giving to others.
Several months after Jesus Christ was born, wise men came and presented gifts to Him. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh" (Matthew 2:1-2, 11).
Just as the wise men gave costly gifts to the Holy Child without hope of anything in return, parents can lead sons and daughters to purchase gifts for elderly loved-ones and neighbors who may be less fortunate. These gifts need not be costly, but they should be given with thought, care, and love.
- Children who receive a lot of gifts might be encouraged to give a few of them to children in homeless shelters or children’s hospitals. This is the true spirit of Christmas gift giving.
The giving of gifts is a wonderful expression of the love and good will that surrounds the Christmas season. Ultimately, gift giving at Christmas should be done in remembrance of the greatest gift of all -- Jesus Christ the Son, the gift of the Father. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Christmas Traditions – Santa Claus
Santa Claus, that jolly, rotund bringer of presents, is a controversial Christmas tradition for mothers and fathers. Though he is clearly a character from folklore, many parents go through great lengths to keep alive their child’s belief in Santa Claus. Instead of taking credit for the expense and effort of producing gifts for their children, parents lead children to believe that their toys are a result of a Christmas Eve visit from Santa. The character of Santa Claus, as he is depicted today, is derived from two very old legends: Saint Nicholas, a bishop who gave generous gifts to the poor and was considered to be the patron saint of sailors and children and Father Christmas, who was considered to be the spirit of good cheer.
The original bishop’s garb worn by Saint Nicholas was replaced, after many evolutions, by a bright red costume fitting snugly across an ample midsection. (Both Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas were described as plump.) The horse used for getting to and fro was replaced by reindeer; the servants, by elves. These elves assisted Santa Claus in his duties which were to provide toys for children; all were to be hand-made. To receive gifts, children had to behave well all year long.
- Share the stories of Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas with your children.
Christmas Traditions – Celebrating Jesus’ birth
Parents can redirect the festivities of the Christmas holidays to reflect the true meaning of the day – Jesus birth in Bethlehem.
Families can attend worship services, singing Christmas songs and listening to the recitation of the Christmas story.
- Read the Christmas story together as a family. The story can be found in Luke 2:1-18.
Christmas Traditions – Christmas Day
Christmas Day is traditionally celebrated on December 25 in most of the Western world. Theologians have not agreed on the actual date of Jesus’ birth; calculations based alternately on the reign of Herod and the time of the census as recorded in the New Testament book of Luke have created discrepancies. The ancient celebrations of the day have their origins in neo-paganism. Despite its godless origins, parents are encouraged to celebrate the greatest gift of all -- Jesus Christ.
The earliest Christmas traditions coincide with the observance of Yule, the birth of the new sun god. It was believed that Holly King died at Yule; Holly King was the old year and shortened sun. Oak King was born at Yule; he was the new year and growing sun. The celebration of Christmas on December 25th also corresponded to the Winter solstice. Solstice means “the sun stands still.” The Winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. This meant that the height of the sun at noon appeared to be static from day to day. Both Yule and the Winter solstice were marked by celebrations. Inasmuch as a new year was beginning, revelers feasted and wished for good luck in the days to come.
The Christian designation of Christmas as a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is more recent than the celebrations of Yule and the Winter Solstice. The Christian ceremony coincided with the Feast of Epiphany which proclaimed the shining forth of God in human form. This was believed to be a fulfillment of the Jewish Festival of Lights which the Jews celebrate as Hanukkah.
There is no commandment in the New Testament to celebrate Christ’s birth. Moms and Dads have the privilege and responsibility to teach their children about Jesus’ miraculous birth and advent into the world. We as Christians believe and know that God came to earth in human form and did, indeed, show forth the glory of the Father: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
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