Aya Fubara Eneli, MA. JD
“Tis the most wonderful time of the year.” Whether you agree with the sentiments of the song or not, there is no denying that December brings with it more than its fair share of parties, nice dresses and suits, decadent food, drinks and lots of bling bling. The airwaves are saturated with the sounds of Christmas, but is there still room for Christ in Christmas?
I believe we can all agree that the notion of Christmas was intended as a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ. Over the last two millennia, Christmas celebrations have evolved and now feature many pre-Christian, Christian, secular and pagan traditions. Traditions vary to some degree across the world, but increasingly the “Christmas Tree” seems to take center stage.
The history of the “Christmas Tree” has its roots in pagan festivities. It is recorded that many ancient civilizations believed that the sun was a god and that winter was an indication that the sun god had been weakened. The winter solstice was celebrated because it meant that the sun god would be on the mend. Homes and temples were decorated with Evergreen boughs to remind all of the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.
“Ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.”
Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It is recorded that in the 16th century, devout German Christians brought decorated trees into their homes as a carryover from Saturnalia. Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, is widely credited for adding the first lighted candles to a tree.
Interestingly, the majority of 19th-century Americans did not embrace the Christmas tree. German settlers of Pennsylvania introduced the trees to America in the 1830s. As late as the 1840s, Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans. Today, we know that the Christmas tree has largely become the symbol for Christmas in many parts of the world. Trees are lavishly decorated with all variety of themes and increasingly the world is embracing Christmas as a time for family and friends to gather around the tree and exchange gifts, lots of gifts.
Other symbols that continue to gain in popularity as Christmas symbols include Santa Claus, Elves on Shelves, Christmas lights and wreaths. In the midst of all this evolution, I have to ask, “Is there still room for Christ in Christmas?” A cursory glance at the “top 40” Christmas songs in the USA, indicate that over 80% of the songs deal more with Santa Claus, Christmas Tree, snow and merriment, than with the actual birth of or significance of the birth of Jesus. Rather than calling this Christmas time, we now use such innocuous terms as Holiday, Winter, and so on.
Many celebrations, parties and festivities held in the name of Christmas actually prohibit the mention of the real and only reason for the season, Jesus himself. As a Christian, I think this is a good time to pause and to ensure that we are being mindful to keep Christ at the center of all we do. The question I posed to my children this year, as they began to ask for things they want for Christmas was simply, “What are you doing to ensure Christ is the center of your Christmas?”
Many friends have shared what they do to keep Christ in their Christmas. Old and new traditions include attending Christmas Eve services, putting up Advent trees with special ornaments throughout Advent, the Sparkle Box, celebrating “Dia de la Candelaria” (Day of Candles or Candlesmas) and Dia de los Reyes, setting up nativity scenes, reading the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible, having family devotions each day in December from 1st-25th following the Jesse Tree format, making a cake for baby Jesus, Advent wreath and lighting a candle each Sunday and the White Christ candle on Christmas Eve, reading children’s books like the Crippled Lamb, the Tale of the Candy Cane & the Tale of Three Trees and The Donkey in the Living Room, re-visiting the “real meaning of the 12 days of Christmas.”
So, what are your family or personal traditions? Is there room for Christ in your Christmas? How much room? Is he still relegated to the barn or is he at the center of your celebration? Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to you and all humankind.
Aya Fubara Eneli is the CEO of Aya Eneli International, a best-selling author, certified Christian Life Coach and a sought after speaker. She, her husband and their five children reside in Central Texas. Visit her website www.ayaeneli.com to sign up for a complimentary coaching session or follow her on Twitter @ayaeneli, like her at facebook.com/ayaeneli or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.