Of all the celebrations Christmas seems to be the one built on the most tradition. From first glance it also seems to be the one holiday that has many conflicting traditions, meaning that the religious context, for which it was established, often gets lost. But in the last hundred years or more, our country in particular, has commercialized the holiday to such an extent that the birth of the Christ Child is the farther thing from most people's minds.
During this busy season, and as hard as it sometimes is, I still try to bring back my thoughts to the real meaning of Christmas as often as I can. I don't get involved in a lot of the traditions that seem to take the wonderful holiday to extremes and drive people crazy as they try to frantically prepare for the festivities.
Saturday morning, I was involved in the purchase and wrapping of gifts for 16 children in our county that would not have a Christmas had it not been for the generosity of the community. It was heartwarming and wonderful to be around people who gave up a lot of precious time in this season to help others.
While we were wrapping presents I told a couple of people the story of my Christmases growing up on the prairies of Saskatchewan and sadness surrounding those years. It wasn't just that we were poor, because many families out there on those windy plains struggled to make ends meet. My father had left us and for several years it was just mother and me. This was before the days of television and I really had no idea what I was missing.
Because of the lack of tradition or the lack of Christmas around my house as a child it is very important for me to celebrate the holiday and incorporate the traditions into my celebration today. These traditions include having a tree, wrapping presents for my children, reaching out and helping other people less fortunate than me, playing Christmas music and stopping to enjoy the happiness and joy around me.
Watching the children's faces light up Saturday night at the Helper Light Parade was so wonderful. The children singing Christmas corals, the twinkling lights from the floats, children wrapped up in blankets, all made the annual celebration another reason to enjoy the season.
The traditions of Christmas have been gathered from dozens of cultures and accumulated over the centuries. In modern times, people practice the customs of Christmas often without knowing the mean ing or origin of those customs.
In some quiet time Sunday I picked up a magazine that talked about the first Christmas tree appearing in Germany in 1611. Martin Luther, the German monk and church reformer started the modern concept of indoor tree decorations.
The custom of Santa Claus coming along with a sack of gifts is related with the life of Saint Nicholas. He was a generous saint who lived in a town called Parata in what is now Turkey. He was fond of children and kind to the poor and the downtrodden.
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas dates back to the birth of Christ. We all know the story of the magi from the East coming with gifts to bless the newborn king.
The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. On their way to church one Christmas eve Maria gathered a handful of plants and placed them around the manger. Apparently what turned out to be a few plants were really beautiful star-like red flowers and the colors brightened their manger scene.
The star symbolizes the star said to have appeared miraculously in the eastern sky on the birth of Jesus Christ.
Many people are unaware of the religious significance of the candy cane. The white color of the candy symbolizes the purity of Jesus and the hardness of the candy symbolizes the rock or foundation of churches and the firmness of the promises. The "J" shape represents the name of Jesus and is in the shape of the staff carried by the shepherd.
Holly is associated with a symbol of good luck. It decorates the home at Christmas time, and is regarded as a symbol of delight and merriment that brings up thoughts of celebration and good cheer.
Christmas, through traditions and celebrations, continues to touch our hearts and give us hope for a better tomorrow.