In the Beginning
Just over two millennia ago, a very special woman, Mary, was approached by the angel, Gabriel, with a message. He was sent from the heavens to gift the Blessed Mary with news of her upcoming birth to Jesus, the son of God and our Savior. Angels also visited Joseph and many shepherds to spread the glorious news of the birth of Christ.
During her pregnancy, Joseph took Mary to his hometown of Bethlehem in compliance with King Herod's creation of a census. Unable to find a traditional place to stay, they were offered a warm stable and Jesus, the Savior, was born. High in the night sky of Bethlehem, a bright star rose proclaiming the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Three Kings of the Orient became inspired by the appearance of the star and traveled across lands to visit the new King and offer their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. The day of the Kings arrival in Bethlahem is known as the Epiphany, on January 6th.
Knowing of the three Wise Men's visit, King Herod tasked them with sending Jesus back to him, keeping quiet a plan of death. God stepped in and sent angels separately to the Wise Men and Joseph with warnings of the deceit, allowing safe travel home for the Wise Men and for Mary and Joseph with Jesus, to take refuge in Egypt where they stayed until safe to return to Nazareth.
No one really knows the exact day on which Jesus was born. During the first few centuries after, celebrating Christmas was usually joined with the Epiphany on January 6th, believed to be twelve days after his birth and the arrival of the three Wise Men. Around 273 A.D., Christians began considering December 25th as the perfect day feeling it was appropriate during Winter Solstice celebrations as well as this day already shared festivities with natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness.” It was not until 336 A.D. that Christians permanently rooted Christmas on December 25th. The beginning of His extraordinary life had begun and for Christians, celebrating Jesus' this life was then and still remains the most precious aspect of Christmas. The ‘mas' in Christmas actually means the “Mass of Christ", mass being an activity of worship honoring and praising Jesus' life and His sacrifice for us. How can you have Christmas if you take the Christ out of it?
Some people become offended when they see X-mas to represent this holiday's name. Do not be hasty in feeling offended as even the 'x' in X-mas has a Christmas foundation. First, the X actually means Christ. The New Testament language is Greek. In the Greek language, Christos (Christ) begins with the Greek letter, Χ, which is Chi. The full greek word for Christ is Χριστός. The first evidence of X replacing Christ in Christmas is noted from 1021 A. D. when a scribe actually wrote XPmas to save space. Eventually, the "P" was dropped and X-mas continued on .
So, with understanding the establishment of Christmas and purpose for celebrating it, why would any other day be worthy?
The first references to Christmas in July began as early as 1892 via French opera where it is briefly mentioned in song. Probably no one even considered the movement that would commence from a few words in theater. Eventually ideas did begin to form and, closer to home in the USA and only 84 years ago in July of 1933, Fannie Holt, co-founder of a girls’ camp called Keystone in Brevard, North Carolina decorated for Christmas in July on the 25th.
Her creativity first celebrated with carolers, a Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, presents, and fake snow made of cotton. The new holiday evolved with laundry bags as stockings hanging outside their cabins to be stuffed with sweet treats. Eventually elves, reindeer, and Mrs. Claus joined, along with a camp-wide gift exchange. What an amazing extension of such a beautiful time!
There are many theories about the original meaning and purpose for Christmas in July and they vary quite a bit depending on your location. Some include convenient travel time for families, Australia's desire to celebrate during their own snowy winter, and allowing ample mailing time to service men and missions overseas. Europe may also pine the yule festivities in summer months as the weather becomes increasingly warm and many people crave Winter’s cool temperatures with the gift-giving and joyful spirit of Christmastime. These are all for admirable reason's now, wouldn't you say?!
Again in the USA, all across the country there are divisions created in Christmas as some uphold the traditions of the birth of Jesus Christ and vow to keep religion at the core of the celebration. While others may not care so much about origin, history or tradition. Challenges are placed openly in politics as the Democrats appear to side with many attempting to eradicate Christmas, the celebration or Jesus' birth, and Christianity itself. Many, strongly supported within the Republican party, are coming together to do everything they can to keep Christ in Christmas. To each their own but, if I did not know anything about politics I would have to choose Republican just because I love the traditional observances of Christmas and why the Three Wise Men traveled so far.
Today's carolers and spreaders of cheer also have a huge battle to win when it comes to keeping Christmas focused on Christ as there is a huge push to inundate the Christmas in July festivities with the all too familiar sales and marketing tactics. Organizations have been solely structured around celebrating Christmas in July and boycotting sales. Marketing influences for profit are inevitable and continue to have opposition in both December and July. Do you give gifts because of pressures? You are a victim of those gimmicks to suffocate the true meaning of Christmas and force purchases and sales for money rather than the joy of giving.
A very symbolic ingredient, yet openly defiant point of contention for the holiday season, is what should be an uncomplicated exclamation of the phrase, “Merry Christmas!” This simple phrase has initiated and inflamed the greatest dispute to ever obstruct and stifle, what is perhaps the greatest tradition shared across the world!
I believe everything has a reason which initiated its purpose and making changes on turns it into something else. I believe in Christmas and I will continue to celebrate it as the birth of Christ always. I would be thrilled to have others share their holiday with me by saying, "Happy Kwanzaa!" or "Happy Hanukkah!" just as I hope they would welcome, "Merry Christmas" from me as I share mine!