The Magical Origins of Christmas
You may or may not be surprised to find that many of the routines and the decor of Christmas go back to traditions that were laid in long before the birth of Christ. Three hundred years after Christ’s resurrection the Roman emperor Constantine saw a vision of a cross superimposed upon a sun and he decided to convert to Christianity. He introduced the Edict of Toleration of 313 AD and changed the world, opening the way for Christianity to go mainstream.
It was Constantine who endorsed the first celebration of the birth of Christ and selected the date of 25th December, whereas the true birth date was unknown. That Christ was born was important,his new message of love was supremely important, not the particulars of the time and the date of when actually born. In other words what he stands for and his spiritual message transcends the birth.
In the play, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Tevye, the lead character says that if we abandon the security of our customs, we will be shaken and unstable like a Fiddler on the Roof.
Life for Christians before Constantine had not been pleasant with many slaughtered for their faith, held up to ridicule in places like the Coliseum where they were fed to the lions and tortured. You can be a purists and protest that some of our Christian traditions go back to pagan times, and think that this demeans our faith but then you would be missing what is important about Christianity. The soul of a religion lies not in its trimmings and trappings yet it is these trimmings and trappings that make us feel safe. Constantine understood and so he was able to change the world.
Besides Christianity there are other religions that celebrate at this time of the year. It is a time of love and it behooves us to extend tolerance and affinity honoring their traditions and celebrations even if we do things differently. It is amazing to see the commonality, that exists between different religions. Note how they all incorporate candles into their rituals.
This Jewish celebration begins at sunset on Tuesday, December 20th and ends at sunset December 28, 2011. It is the story of when the Jews evicted the Syrians-Greeks from Israel, and restored the temple. Apparently when the priests were ready to relight the temple menorah they could find only one jug of oil, enough for only one day. Miraculously the oil burned for seven full days by which time they had processed the necessary pure oil which took seven days to make.
This Jewish story also honors Hannah and her sons who were loyal to HaShem. They refused to pray to Zeus and were all three beheaded; not a way to win historically. Her and the son’s integrity is to be commended.
This is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar which lasts 29 or 30 days and this is when participating Muslims refrain from eating. There is much celebrating when they finally break the fast.
Fasting is embraced as a cleansing nutritional action in many early religions, and has been adopted in America by the Wellness Movement.
This tradition from Africa goes from Christmas for seven days through to the New Year. I like this tradition and am comfortable with it for it comes out of Africa where I was born.
The celebration continues for seven days each day a spiritual truth being emphasized.
- Unity – (Umoja) To strive for unity in family, race community and nation. (First day and so on)
- Self-Determinism – (Kujichagulia) – Rise to a point of cause in your life, and name yourself, speak for yourself, and create for yourself.
- Responsibility – (Ujima) Maintain affinity and understanding and peace within your sphere of influence.
- Co-operative Community – (Ujaama) Give help to others, and make the problems of your brothers and sisters your own and give them help.
- Purpose – (Nia) Support a single group or nation and work to restore its greatness.
- Creativity – (Kuumba) Leave everything around you more beautiful and beneficial than before you came along.
- Faith – (Imani) Believe in the higher power.
Quote for the Month
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
~ Hamilton Wright Mable ~