Merry Christmas Everyone!
Why do people really care about Christmas? I have asked myself this question many times.
But for some 2 billion believers it was the day their Lord and personal saviour was born. Although this might be the reason why majority of believers do celebrate Christmas, I find this reason somehow untenable.
So here is my Christmas story:
As a kid, Christmas was a time to look forward, above all things it was a time of no school -this alone made it beautiful for me. I live in Lagos, and at that time it was very common for Lagos to be empty during Christmas because most families would head to the village to spend the season with loved ones. The standard population of Lagos then, was 15 million during Christmas this number dwindles to 5 million. But my family was never really the village going type. My grandparents lived in other Nigerian cities, and any time my parents went to see them they never really took me. So my holidays would be spent in Lagos. But I was never allowed to do the ‘cool’ things other children did, like to throwing ‘banger’ and going to Mr Biggs. I would be made to stay indoors most of the time. In retrospect it was never really a nice time.
In my teenage years, my Christmas season took a dark turn. I was in boarding school waiting to vacate for the term, when I got news that my members of my immediate family where in the hospital; this trend in some diabolically calculated way would continue for the next couple of ‘Christmases’, so we would spend Christmas hoping that we never lost a member of our family. As God would have it we never did.
Then towards the end of my teenage years – at this time I was now in college – a drastic change in fortune happened. As my devout mama was wont to say: the jinx was broken.But this did not really change Christmas really for me for the better; I spent most of 25th Decembers indoors, mostly reading. And I felt I was having fun. Although my family was now well and celebrating Christmas as God intended them to I had become a sceptical recluse who could not care less which day Yesu was born. I had become very critical about the minutest things, reading meanings into everything, driving myself into isolation and developing a worldview that bordered on unbelieve. Especially with the vice and debauchery inherent in the celebration of the birth of an austere, ascetic, modest preacher I would ask myself: why do people celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December? Was he truly born on the 25th of Decembers?
Apparently many scholars disagree with this. But one thing I know is that when a revolution is happening, some things from the past stay the same way. Way long before Christ the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, thre God of the harvest at the turn of the year between December 17 and 23. The Jews also celebrated Hanukah also known as the Festival of Lights, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
It is said that the Roman Emperor Aurelian in the 3nd century established an official cult of the Sun God Mithras and declared his birthday to be the 25th of December, so after Constantine in the 4th century legalized Christianity and made it the official religion of the empire, Pope Liberius adopted and celebrated the birth of Christ at on the 25th. In tandem, on Dec. 25, 379, St. Gregory Nazianzus preached a Christmas sermon in Constantinople. In the Cathedral of Milan, St. Ambrose (d. 397) celebrated Christmas. Therefore, by; the year 400, generally, the birth of Christ was set on Dec. 25 with the exception of Palestine, where it was celebrated on Jan. 6 until the mid-600s, when it was then transferred to Dec. 25.
As you can see revolutions never happen completely; vestiges of the past must remain. This is why Christianity has a dangerous look alike in Mithraism and the rituals of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches look very much like the rituals of paganism, e.g. the near-godlike reverence of saints and the Virgin Mary.
Christmas has become a culture of vice and virtue, although one is constantly reminded – albeit inaccurately by pious men – that the reason for the season is Jesus. It is a season of letting off steam, and in the light of the get-out-of-depression free card it offers I believe it should be celebrated by all. History is important, but we study history to be aware of the mistakes of our forebears, and make our path towards our future.