Monday, December 09, 2019

Christmas Tree - A Christian Tradition

Is the Christmas Tree a Christian tradition?

Well, yes - and no!

First the "No"

The use of greens, especially evergreens, to celebrate the Winter solstice, dates back to the ancient Egyptians. At the solstice, the days would again start to become longer - and since they worshipped the Sun god, Ra, they would decorate their homes with green palm branches as a symbol of life being victorious over death - as the Sun was growing "weaker and weaker" culminating on the shortest day of daylight (December 21st or 22nd), after the solstice the days were getting longer again and soon would come Spring and Summer when nature came back to life again.

The Romans also celebrated the solstice for similar reasons as the Egyptians before them. They knew that soon would come the Spring and farms and orchards would come back to life again. The Romans would decorate their homes and temples with evergreen boughs to celebrate the lengthening of days.

Similarly, the ancient Druids/Celts decorated their temples with evergreen boughs, again symbolizing not just new life, but everlasting life. The Vikings also believed evergreens were a special gift of the Sun god, Balder.

And now the "Yes"

Christmas Trees, as we have come to know them now, started in Germany in the 16th century. Most credit Martin Luther with being the first to tie candles to the branches with wire and lighting the tree. It is said that Luther was on a walk one Winter evening and was inspired by the stars shining  among the evergreens. He used an evergreen tree in his home to show his family what he experienced on his walk.The evergreen being a symbol of everlasting life, the eternal life in heaven; the candles represent Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. He also put red decorations on the tree to represent the blood of Christ - keeping in mind that while they were celebrating Christmas, Jesus came to earth to be sacrificed on the Cross.

Christmas Trees in the United States were basically unheard of until the 19th century when German settlers to America brought with them the tradition of the Christmas Tree.

Did Christians Celebrate Christmas Based Upon the Solstice?

The answer here is NO! Many modernists believe Christians "wanted a holiday" to coincide with the pagan's celebrating the Winter Solstice - but this is simply not true. The date of Christmas actually has its roots with the death of Jesus! In the early days of the Church it was thought that one's death day was the same date as the day they were conceived. The death of Jesus Christ, based upon the Jewish lunar calendar and Passover, which was on the 14th of Nisan - and in 33 AD that equates to March 25th on the Gregorian calendar. So, believing Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost on March 25th, nine months later is December 25th. No pagan ritual involved, just coincidence.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In 2019 the Second Sunday of Advent (December 8th) is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (IC). The celebration of the IC supersedes the Second Sunday of Advent in the Mass for this day. It still IS the Second Sunday in Advent and the week following is still the second week of the Advent Season (again, this is NOT the Christmas Season... yet).
Theotokos with her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna.

Many still think the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus' conception (which is actually celebrated on March 25th) but this is the day we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Mary, according to the dogmatic definition (no faithful Catholic can deny this) was, from the very moment of her conception, preserved from the stain of Original Sin. The wording from Ineffabilis Deus:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

There is a stern warning to any Catholic who would deny this teaching:
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart. (ibid)

Again, this still IS the Second Sunday in Advent - so don't forget to light that second violet candle!

Blessed Advent, my friends!

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Blessed Advent - not Merry Christmas...yet

I like to remind people that this is NOT the Christmas Season... right now it is the Advent Season. Christmastide starts with Christmas Day and, depending on the tradition lasts 12 Days - till Epiphany (January 6th) - or all the way to Candlemas, which is on February 2nd. Some like to observe all the way till the start of Lent. Regardless, THIS season is Advent, O Come, O Come, Emanuel... and... Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

When someone wishes you a Merry Christmas during Advent, you could respond "And a blessed Advent to you!"  Just a thought, and maybe an ice-breaker to start a discussion on your faith. 

(The image above, if you click on it to make it full-size, the right-click and save image as to your computer, makes a nice Facebook cover image!) 

Please share!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Celebrate St. Nicholas Day!  


Give a gift to your children and/or grandchildren

And tell them the story of St. Nicholas of Myra!

December 6th

The Feast of St. Nicholas!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Santa or St Nick

Often, as we begin the Advent Season today (it's NOT the Christmas Season - yet!) the subject of Santa Claus v. Saint Nicholas comes up. Is Santa a representation of St. Nicholas? Let's take a closer look.
Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus?

St. Nicholas of Myra was born on March 15, 270 AD and died on December 6, 343 AD. It is on December 6th each year that we honor St. Nicholas with a feast day in memory of him. St. Nicholas was in attendance at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, where the council fathers sought to end the heresy of Arianism defining "homoousios" (Greek for "of one substance") teaching that Jesus Christ was fully divine and fully human.

So where does "Santa" come from? It is actually from a Dutch tradition of "SinterKlaas" and the Dutch are actually referring to St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra! Little is known of the actual life of St. Nicholas, but traditions and legends say he loved children. In the Dutch tradition, SinterKlaas rides through town on a white steed, giving presents to the "good" children and switches to the "bad" children. There are also stories of SinterKlaas going from rooftop to rooftop and dropping presents down the chimney for the children (no word on how he got there though).

The story of Santa's reindeer was unheard of until 1823 when the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was penned. Authorship of the poem is a bit disputed, some say it was Clement Clarke Moore, others say it was Henry Livingston, Jr. Regardless, before this poem it is unclear if completely unknown about Santa's reindeer.

The story I told my children, when they were old enough to start questioning Santa Claus, is that Santa was indeed a real person and the legend has it that he gave presents to the good children and switches (or lumps of coal) to the bad children. Santa Claus was originally known as Saint Nicholas, who was indeed the Bishop of Myra (in today's Turkey). The spirit of giving at Christmas is keeping the tradition of St. Nicholas alive and well. So you CAN believe in Santa Claus, but he wasn't (or isn't) the commercialized (largely by the Coca Cola Company in the early 20th century), but he did exist and many stories and legends have come about due to Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. We also celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th by giving them a little present that day too - though the day of the ultimate gift to mankind, celebrated on December 25th, the Christ Mass (Christmas) overshadows St. Nicholas - as it should.

Links supporting Santa Claus:

And his reindeer:

Link not favoring St. Nick to Santa Claus:

Happy New Year!

With Sunday, December 2nd - the First Day of Advent - we welcome in the New Year - the liturgical new year, that is!  Wish your friends a Happy New Year!  When they look at you funny, there is your opportunity to share a bit of Jesus Christ and His Church with them.