The real meaning of Christmas from across the pond

It is an accepted fact that the Christmas tree tradition is one that was
brought to the shores of America by German immigrants who continued a practice
that was popular in their former homeland. Today, a Christmas tree, even a
miniature one, is present in just about every home at Christmas. It is therefore
interesting to note some little-know facts about the Christmas Tree and other
traditions related to Christmas.
The first interesting fact is the source of real Christmas Trees for some
Americans. These can be bought at a Christmas Tree Farm or at many local stores
and other places of business in just about every town and city across the
country around Christmas time. But according to the National Christmas Tree
Association, Americans buy about 330,000 Christmas trees that are real through
e-commerce or from a catalogue and have them shipped by mail-order.
The scent of real Christmas trees is the reason they are so popular. But as they
stand silently in their decorative wonder, they also are providing another
benefit. The Christmas Tree Association says the amount of oxygen produced on a
daily basis by one acre of Christmas tree is enough to provide enough oxygen for
18 people. And during the first week, a Christmas Tree at home will use up to
one quart of water each day to help retain its longevity for the many days of
Christmas.
Since Christmas celebrations gained popularity in America, the Christmas Tree
has always been a big tradition. During the 1950s however, artificial Christmas
trees were not always green. It was very popular during those times to have
artificial trees with other colors such as silver, pink and aqua. The appeal in
having these colored Christmas trees may have been due to the fact that they
looked shiny and bright and appeared like tinsel instead of green foliage.
An important ceremony related to the Christmas tree that gains national
attention during the Christmas season is the lighting of the National Christmas
Tree at the White House. This tradition can be credited to President Calvin
Coolidge who lit the first decorated Christmas tree outside at the White House
in 1923.
The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has also been used to convey some
symbolic meaning not related to Christmas. It was not lighted until Dec. 22 in
1963 because of a national mourning period of 30 days for the assassination of
President Kennedy. And while Teddy Roosevelt was President he gave an order that
banned the Christmas tree from the White House, not for the assassination of
President McKinley in 1901, which caused him to become president, but for
reasons related to the environment.
Also of note is that when the National Christmas Tree was lighted on Dec. 13 in
1984, temperatures were in the 70s during an unusually warm December.
Christmas has been celebrated in the United States since the 1600s although it
wasn’t always very popular. It took more than two centuries into the mid-late
1860s for Christmas to become a popular holiday season all across America. So
maybe the rest of the country owes the holiday of Christmas Day to the state of
Alabama, which in 1836 became the first state to declare Dec. 25 a legal
holiday.
It is interesting to note that on Christmas Day of 1789 Congress was in session.
And to show how far ahead of the game Alabama was, it wasn’t until June 26, 1870
that the federal government declared Christmas as a federal holiday.
Although Christmas is based on the Christian religion, not all Christian groups
celebrate the season. Among the Christian groups who do not celebrate Christmas
and related traditions such as sending greeting cards are Jehovah Witnesses.
Jehovah Witnesses and other non-participating Christian groups say Christmas
isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible as a time or reason to celebrate and
since they strictly adhere to the word of the Bible, they refuse to celebrate
Christmas.

That is a preference for some although accepting gifts from others at Xmas is not considered an act synonymous from disobeying their beliefs.

So is the 12 days about Christs birth? Christmas is argued to come first from a Roman pagan fertility and winter solstice ritual that was accepted as a ‘compromise’ by the 12 twelve tribes of Israel. Living under 4 centuries of Roman occupation of Jerusalem the Christmas celebration was down to the acquiescence of Hebrew compliance under martial law, to placate the Jewish & Gentile contingents, to ‘have the best of both worlds’ many years after their messiah been crucified. To the Caesars keeping the peace it would appear that Christmas is more about ethnic and religious tolerance than a specific date for an immaculate conception shared by many faiths around the world over many generations this time of year.

Of course, both non-christians and christians have a commonality at Xmas. That is…

Spreading Goodwill at Christmas
The real meaning of Christmas, the season of good cheer, is about giving
especially to provide some assistance to those who need help for their daily
survival and who therefore don’t have the material resources to enjoy the
Christmas season. The importance of giving to those in need during Christmas is
embodied in the story of Jesus’ birth, which is the reason Christmas is
celebrated.
For Christians, Jesus was born to save mankind from sin by giving
everlasting Salvation to all who believe in the Word of God and chose to follow
the principles for living in the Bible. Jesus therefore gave in the ultimate way
– he offered himself as a sacrifice for every living person. Christians
therefore believe that Christmas should be about following the example of Jesus
by giving of oneself to others, especially to those who are in need.
The Christmas season should therefore be about spreading goodwill and good
cheer. This purpose of Christmas is very significant because research by social
service organizations has shown that Christmas happens to be a high time for
depression among the have-nots, among people with problems and others who just
don’t have the means and resources to enjoy the merriment of the holidays.
The hundreds of Santa letters written by children are often a sad
testament to the many unmet needs of families and individuals during the festive
Christmas and holiday times. Just about every child is told the story of Santa
Claus, or hears about him because his presence is everywhere at Christmas. And
up to the age of 7 to 8 years, most children believe the story about Santa Claus
bringing toys and other gifts. That’s the reason why so many young children
often write letters to Santa at Christmas time in which the innocently plead for
toys and other gifts because they their parents or other relatives will not be
able to give them those Christmas toys or Christmas gifts that they want.
Thankfully there are many volunteer and charitable efforts carried out by
groups and corporations that seek to fulfill the needs of children and also of
adults during the Christmas season. One of the most notable organizations that
do such charitable work is the Salvation Army, which has a history of giving
service to those in need.
According to The Salvation Army’s website, the organization as known today was
started in 1865 by a Methodist minister, William Booth and his wife Catherine.
They formed a group that preached, provided food and shelter to the homeless,
the hungry and to alcoholics in need of recovery services. The services were
provided in London’s East End. Booth and his followers, first known as ‘The
Christian Mission,’ started to use The Salvation Army name in 1878.
The Salvation Army is now uniquely associated with the Christmas season through
its many representatives who dress up as Santa Claus and stand outside retail
establishments ringing their bells while they kindly seek donations from
shoppers to help the poor at Christmas.
Individuals also play Santa Claus at Christmas time and help out those in need
by donating toys and gifts through their companies, other business enterprises
such as banks or through their local municipality. These groups usually all have
a box or an area where new toys or clothing can be dropped off and the items are
then donated to families in need or to social service providers for distribution
to the needy during the Christmas season.
Along with much charitable giving at Christmas time, other public interest
groups also work hard to inform and educate consumers about avoiding the after
Christmas blues. This is often experienced in January when the bills and debts
are due as a result of all the spending, much of it on credit, that is done for
the holidays.
These groups try to spread goodwill and cheer in a different way. They try to
provide educational information on spending responsibly during the Christmas
season with the hope that the happiness and good feeling enjoyed during the
season can also carry over after Christmas and not be spoiled by the burden of
having huge bills to pay.

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