I hear a lot of talk this time of year of how Christmas is actually a pagan holiday, has only been celebrated in the last few centuries, has no roots with the first Christians, etc. If found the following article at Christianity Today to be especially informative as to the real origins of the holiday.
It seems that from the beginning, the early Christians made every attempt to positively affect the culture they were living in. This included taking originally pagan holidays and re-vamping them with Christian meaning. The second, and perhaps most important reason for this was that Christians were being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. They could not publically celebrate a "Christian" holiday, so to celebrate at all they just coincided the dates with existing pagan holidays. Thus, their celebrations went unnoticed by those who would do them harm.
In the beginning, not all early Christians wanted to celebrate Christ's birth, or any birth for that matter. But by about the year 273 a regular annual celebration of the birth of Christ had taken hold.
While many of the customs of Christmas that we see now have pagan origins, in a holiday so rooted in spiruality it seems to me it's all about what's in your heart. If I see the giving of gifts as a symbol of my love for Christ and His being the Ultimate Gift to us from God, then that's what it means to me despite what it meant to some pagan thousands of years ago. Same goes for any other Christmas customs that my family observes. Our kids will gleafully look for signs that Santa has "been here" on Christmas morning, and they know that Santa does this because of his love for Jesus Christ and his wanting to celebrate His birth by giving to children.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the meaning of Christmas in your family and how you stay focused during this holiday season....
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