I have many friends who adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ - derived from the Holy Bible. I grew up with the understanding that 25th December is the day Jesus Christ was born. I also share a common knowledge regarding the significance of Easter Day.
As a person who believes in continuous learning, I have developed a keen interest in educating myself through experience, communication and extensive research. I am not a Muslim scholar nor am I a scholar of the biblical scriptures. However, the study of other religions has always interest me.
Recently, I began to ask myself as to why would an obese Saint force himself down a narrow chimney for the sake of giving presents? And why did Saint Nicholas wear red costumes if he had wanted to help people discreetly?
The answers to my questions were simple - The effects of commercialisation.
Contrary to what most Christians believe, 25 December is not the exact birthday of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Back in the 4th century, the Romans celebrated the birthday of their Sun-God Mithras on every 25 December - which is considered as a pagan ritual by the orthodox churches of that time.
At the same time, the church leaders were very aggressive in spreading Christianity throughout Europe. Although it is considered improper by the Christians to celebrate one’s birthday in those days, and for the fact that exact birthday of Jesus Christ was unknown, the church leaders made a bold proclamation and officiate 25 December as the birthday of their beloved Jesus. It was not known as to why the staunch Christians would resort to compromising their earlier regulations on birthdays, but the common reasons given were that the solemnisation of Jesus Christ’s birthday would allow them to compete with the rival pagan celebrations and gain more followers.
The early colonists of America considered Christmas as a pagan ritual and banned the celebration in the state of Massachusetts. However, as time goes by, Christmas has been gradually accepted by many western nations through commercialisation.
An example of commercialisation would be the famous Saint Nicholas. The devoted Christian was noted for his generosity and love for children. He was also believed to be one of the delegates to the Council of Nicea in the 4th century.
In 1822, Clement C. Moore gave Saint Nicholas a whole new image in his poem “A Visit from St. Nick.” Since then, the saint has always been portrayed as a generous obese man in a red suit.
The Christmas tree was never part of the original Christmas celebration as well. In the 16th century, a protestant reformer, Martin Luther, was believed to be the first person to light up a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree tradition started gaining its popularity in the early 19th century.
In the earlier days, the use of mistletoe to decorate the house during Christmas festival was not accepted by the church. The practice of kissing under the mistletoe is believed to derive from the Scandinavians, who associate this plant with their Goddess of Love, Frigga. Thus, the earlier staunch Christians had condemned the plant for its pagan origins.
Perhaps, of all the Christmas commercialised products, the candy cane is the only one that has hidden meanings to Christianity. The white stripes on the cane symbolise a pure and sinless Jesus, whereas the red stripes represent the pain that he has gone through before his death. The shape of the candy is to remind the Christians that Jesus Christ is the shepherd of men. Practically, if the cane is rotated 180 degrees, you will notice that it looks like the letter “J”.